In an age when the riches are overhyped and to an extent stereotyped, New Zealand based singer-songwriter Lorde’s hit song ‘Royals’ does a stunning job of pushing the boundaries of what it means to be ‘royal’ and renders a unique twist to it. The track arrived as Lorde’s breakthrough single and was included as part of her debut extended play The Love Club released in 2012 and, a year later, featured on her debut studio album Pure Heroine.
Hailing from New Zealand, Lorde (née, Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor) grew up listening to a variety of artists such as Billie Holiday, Cat Stevens, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, The Weeknd and more. Needless to say, influences and inspirations for her own music came in diverse forms and genres. The young singer rose to prominence with critics and audience acclaiming her for not only the musical aspect of the song ‘Royals’, which borders on the line between pop and hip-hop, but also for its lyrical significance. In addition to that, Lorde’s vocals give the song a very distinct sound, one which is in equal parts laid back as it is groovy.
Lorde wrote the song with producer Joel Little in 2012 and the title, ‘Royals’, came to her after she saw a photograph of Kansas City Royals baseball player George Brett signing baseballs with his team’s name ‘Royals’ emblazoned on his jersey.
The track’s lyrics pose a steadfast aversion to royalty or the way that it is shown off. At the same time, the singer uses contradictory lines such, “Let me be your ruler/ You can call me Queen Bee/ And baby, I’ll rule”. It is ironic how Lorde sings of feelings such as denouncing “royalty”, considering that her own stage name was inspired by her love for the aristocracy. The journey of realising that royalty isn’t in the riches but in the way that one chooses to lead one’s life is one of the more profound ideas this song highlights.
The minimal inclusion tuned instruments, the subtle use of the percussions, beat drops, the well-timed harmonies and Lorde’s voice, all contributed to making the song concrete, yet catchy.
Artists from Bruce Springsteen to Jason Derulo to Mike Geier have performed covers of the song and Lorde commented on how the latter’s rendition was her favourite cover of the song of all time. ‘Royals’ was also used in the television series Reign and Suburgatory and in the 2019 crime film Hustlers to further cement its impact on contemporary culture.
Lorde has bagged several awards for ‘Royals’ including the APRA Silver Screen Award before she went on to win the prestigious Song of the Year and Best Solo Performance in the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. At 16 years of age, Lorde became the youngest female artist in 26 years to top the Billboard Hot 100 and also the first New Zealand act to top the charts as a lead artist. ‘Royals’ debuted at number one on the New Zealand top 40 on March 15, 2013, and remained in the position for three weeks. By November ‘Royals’ had sold over 10 million copies worldwide and the status of one of poop music’s rising stars was confirmed.
Let’s see for ourselves if the song lives up to its name, shall we?