OK, In some ways putting this in the pure pop week (or whatever it is I’m calling this) is a bit of a cheat. Royals is not just a huge hit single by a modern era female pop artist. It’s also a bit of an alternative banger. It’s basically something akin to the Gen Z national anthem.
So affecting and effective is that languid finger clicking and low throb intro, it barely registers as music at first. It’s a whole mood (as I’m assured the youngsters say) The lyrics are entirely fitting for the under 30’s of this day and age and yet I think any old fart with a spoonful of empathy in their bloated dying heart can identify these words are hymnal for them, empathetic for us, universal in truth.
“I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh, I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies”
Unless you were to the manor born I’m pretty sure you know what Lorde is driving at with this mis-en-scene. This is the common modern youthful experience. Beautifully bleak in contrast to the standards set by the generations still holding all the cards in this particular game.
“And I’m not proud of my address, In a torn up town, no postcode envy”
After the strength of the first lyric comes the impressive strength of that voice. This one can wail. She’s almost Janis Joplin or Poly Styrene in her raw delivery. Except… Smooth. Like mainstream pop.
There’s a tempo change right up front that shows this isn’t just an old blues dame with a modern production. It comes in quick.
“But every song’s like, Gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin’ in the bathroom, bloodstains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room, we don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams”
We’re 40 seconds in and you have never heard a record like this one. Utterly modern but showing us nothing. Maybe she is holding a trump card and playing a very cool poker face. It’s Hip Hop sung diva style by a white girl with nothing but snaps and low end as instrumentation. Beguiling.
The Wub Wubs on the second verse let it build to more than just clicks and hisses. All the while that hypnotic clack of uncanny fingers act like a metronome for a beautiful voice to whisk away old values and replace them with something more immediate.
“And we’ll never be royals (royals)”
That invincible simple chorus is genius the same way an advertising slogan is forever lodged in the brain (remember the gum commercial in Pixar’s Inside Out? We covered this yesterday Keep up!)
I’m not sure if it’s an important measure or not in this kind of thing (I’m really not qualified to talk about any of this in any capacity other than the casual observer) but the memeability of Royals that undermines so much, might be the tipping point where Gen X and The Millennials became old farts and grown ups respectively and Generation Z said “Look at Me, I’m in charge of what’s cool now”.
“It don’t run in our blood, that kind of luxe just ain’t for us, we crave a different kind of buzz”
In a world (We doing the movie trailer voice over? OK)… In a world where the 60’s generation mocked little boxes made of ticky tack, the 70’s wanted to buy the world a Coke and the 80’s was full of Material girls. What is left for the youth of today?
The 90’s got what they gave and the noughties were all about the Hollaback Girls, At last! It’s time for the new generation to take the throne.
“Let me be your ruler (ruler), you can call me queen bee”
A generation robbed of the opportunistic ambition of the Boomers have literally reset their values, and thus our values. They care more about each other, the places we live, a life well lived and a clear conscience than any Big House, Fast Car, Trophy Life. These are the folks who will be looking after me in my dotage (if we all make it that long). I’m OK with that.
All this and I’m not even sure still how to pronounce or spell her name. Mix up Lord, Lorde and Lordi and you’ll get very variable results. Even the album cover resets expectations.
This song will be remembered as The Times They Are A Changin’ of the decade, Mark my words. No don’t do that. Mark hers.
“And baby, I’ll rule (I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule), Let me live that fantasy”
Incredible Christmas 2020 update, quoth the NME:
Lorde has revived the Instagram account where she reviews onion rings
“It occurred to me that some things are too good to let the internet spoil”