Royals (song)

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"Royals"
Lorde - Royals.png
Single by Lorde
from the album The Love Club EP and Pure Heroine
B-side
Released 3 June 2013 (2013-06-03)
Format
Recorded 2012
Studio Golden Age, Morningside, Auckland
Genre
Length 3:10
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s) Joel Little
Lorde singles chronology
"Royals"
(2013)
"Tennis Court"
(2013)
"Royals"
(2013)
"Tennis Court"
(2013)
Music video
"Royals" on YouTube

"Royals" is a song by New Zealand singer Lorde released on 3 June 2013 by Universal Music Group (UMG) as the lead single from her debut extended play, The Love Club EP (2012). It was later included on her debut studio album, Pure Heroine (2013). Lorde co-wrote the song with her producer Joel Little after the two were paired by her A&R representative Scott MacLachlan. "Royals" was described as an art pop and electropop song with elements of electronic music and grime style and influences of alternative music, R&B and indie pop. Its lyrics disapproves of the luxurious lifestyle of contemporary artists.

"Royals" received acclaim from music critics, who praised its minimal production and lyrics. The song appeared on numerous critics year-end lists, including Rolling Stone, Time and Spin. After earning success in Australia and New Zealand, the song was promoted in the United States, where it rose to the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. In doing so, Lorde became the first New Zealand solo act to top the Hot 100, as well as the youngest artist to achieve a number-one single since 1987. It also peaked atop the record charts of many countries including Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. As of December 2017, the single has sold 10 million copies worldwide and was certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Lorde performed "Royals" on numerous television shows, including Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards. Two music videos for "Royals" were directed by Joel Kefali: an international version and a United States version. "Royals" also won numerous awards, including the Grammy Award for Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance and the APRA Silver Scroll Award. A live mashup with Disclosure and AlunaGeorge's song "White Noise" at the 2014 BRIT Awards was released as a charity single in 2014. In the media, the song has been credited for inspiring numerous artists to adopt its minimalist sound as has been called an anthem for the Millennial generation.

Background and writing

Born in 1996,[1] Lorde was discovered by A&R representative Scott MacLachlan of Universal Music Group (UMG) at the age of 12, when MacLachlan saw footage of Lorde performing at a school talent show in Auckland, New Zealand. At the age of 13, Lorde started writing songs herself. MacLachlan unsuccessfully tried to set up Lorde with several songwriters and producers to help her with production.[2] Ultimately, he paired Lorde with Joel Little in December 2011, when she had just turned 15. Little was impressed by Lorde's vocal performance and songwriting abilities, and he built songs with musical structures based on Lorde's lyrics.[3]

External image
The 1976 photograph of baseball player George Brett by photographer Ted Spiegel that inspired Lorde to write "Royals".[4]

Lorde wrote the lyrics to "Royals" in July 2012 at her house, taking half an hour.[5][6] The pair recorded songs at Little's Golden Age Studios in Morningside, Auckland.[7] Within a week, Lorde had finished recording "Royals" during a school break.[8] Lorde had thought of writing a song about the luxury of pop musicians after seeing an image by photographer Ted Spiegel in the July 1976 edition of National Geographic showing Kansas City Royals baseball player George Brett signing baseballs, with his team's name emblazoned across his shirt.[9] Lorde recalled during a 3 September 2013 VH1 interview, "It was just that word. It's really cool." More broadly, historic aristocrats were also an inspiration for the song.[10] She also explained the lyric "We're driving Cadillacs in our dreams" was something she read in a diary she received at the age of 12.[9] Lorde further revealed that she took inspiration from hip hop-influenced artists during the writing process, yet criticised their "bullshit" references to "expensive" alcohol and cars.[11]

I was definitely poking fun at a lot of things that people take to be normal. I was listening to a lot of hip hop and I kind of started to realise that to be cool in hip hop, you have to have that sort of car and drink that sort of vodka and have that sort of watch, and I was like, "I've literally never seen one of those watches in my entire life."[9]

According to Lorde, another inspiration for "Royals" were the songs she was listening to during the song's composition. "When I wrote 'Royals', I was listening to a lot of rap, but also a lot of Lana Del Rey tracks, not least because she's obviously very influenced by the hip hop genre, but by noticing all those references to expensive drinks, beautiful clothes and beautiful cars, I thought 'This is very opulent, but it's also silly.'[12] In addition to Del Rey, the performer also revealed that she had heard the album Watch the Throne (2011), a collaboration between rappers Kanye West and Jay-Z, and the work of ASAP Rocky.[13][14] However, the artist realized that those songs had too many references to luxurious lifestyles, who did not represent her reality, and according to her, was the reason she wrote the song: "It's about all this ridiculous and fanciful opulence that's everywhere [in the music market]." Lana Del Rey is always singing about being in the Hamptons, or driving her Bugatti Veyron, or anything like that, and at that moment, my friends and I were at a party concerned about how we were going to go home because we could not afford a taxi. This is our reality. If I write about anything else, I will not be speaking the truth."[13][15]

Release

"Royals" was made available by Lorde for free on the SoundCloud platform in November 2012, along with The Love Club EP which contained four other songs.[16][17] The singer commented on the decision to release the EP free of charge stating that she did not find it convenient for people her age to pay for her music since they are less likely to have access to a credit card. However, public and media reaction to the song was immediate on social media, and by December of the same year, "Royals" was broadcast for the first time on a New Zealand radio station through George FM. It was then removed from circulation after recording a large number of downloads and on 8 March 2013, was sent to online stores in New Zealand and Australia. Jason Flom, president of Lava Records, however, had listened to the work still on the platform and immediately signed a contract with Lorde.[18] Flom began promoting the song and artist in the United States in March of that year. In an interview with Billboard, he commented, "I sent an email very shortly after signing [Lorde] to all the key people at iTunes, and I said, 'This really takes me back to when I signed Tori Amos. Flom believed the singer could have the same impact.[19] On the 19th of that month, the single was made available in the country's online stores, but received little publicity.

However, representing the key step in popularizing the song internationally, according to Jason, "Royals" was added to Sean Parker's playlist at Spotify on 2 April.[20] Subsequently, the song debuted on Spotify's Viral Chart, which lists the most popular songs among the service's users, where it managed to reach the top in May 2013 and in the same month recorded an increase in its online reproductions within its territory. Two months later, "Royals" was sent to alternative radio stations in the United States, and on 13 August it was sent to top 40 radio stations.[21][22] In other regions, "Royals" was also made available from August. In Austria and Finland, the track was digitally released on 2 August.[23][24] Three days later, it was marketed in the same format in France, Luxembourg and Portugal, while in the United Kingdom its launch took place on 20 October.[25][26][27][28] "Royals" was also promoted through remixes released in partnership with artists such as The Weeknd, Rick Ross, Wale, Magazeen, T-Pain, the latter of which was criticized for making changes to their lyrics and, according to MTV, turned the "original's anti-bling sentiments into a celebration of the extravagant life."[29][30][31][32][33]

Composition and lyrical interpretation

"Royals" was described as an art pop[34] and electropop[35] song that incorporates elements of electronic music and grime style and draws influences from alternative music, R&B[36] and indie pop.[37] The song is instrumented by electronic touches, finger snaps and bass.[38][39] Musically compared to Grimes' works, "Royals" features minimalist instrumentation,[40] consisting of only low bass[41] and percussion, and features a "strong and merciless" hip hop beat accompanied by crackling finger that repeat and echo, as well as some electronic effects. Its low-fidelity production[42] is enhanced by the work of synthesizers and Pro Tools[43] software and explores minimalist music techniques reminiscent of the works of Animal Collective and James Blake.[44] According to Ann Powers of NPR, the song is made up of a sultry voice, intriguingly sleepy beats and lyrics that captured the exquisite ennui of a precocious teenager.[45] Its "synth-heavy production was compared to that of Purity Ring and Noah "40" Shebib.[46] Lorde's vocals were compared to those of Amy Winehouse, Lana Del Rey and Florence Welch, for their low-pitch and husky vocals,[47][48] and described as a hybrid between Adele and Ellie Goulding.[49] Chris Coplan from Consequence of Sound, called Lorde's vocals "romantic and playful" and characterised the track as a minimal number,[50],[51] while Duncan Greive, from The Guardian, called them "simultaneously vulnerable and imperious."[52]

Described as an "anti-luxury" song, "Royals" expresses Lorde's displeasure at the sumptuous vivid style represented by pop artists in their songs.[45] The singer criticizes the consumer society and the magazine Spin, ridicules luxury items sported on such songs. Several excerpts from the song were noted as a satire on hip hop culture, more precisely those in which the singer expresses not being interested in "gold teeth, Maybachs and Cristal champagne" - valued by artists of the genre in their music videos and songs. Matthew Perpetua from BuzzFeed, said that the issue addressed in "Royals" is growing up in "New Zealand immersed in American cultural imperialism" and that the core of the song is the alienation of social classes.[53] Journalists from The New York Times shared a similar view, noting that in the verses of the track, Lorde " tells of growing up in drab reality amid a popular culture that flaunts luxury brands and celebrates wildly conspicuous consumption."[54] For The Guardian, "Royals" tries to understand the "push and pull" – why we love something which is inadequate of our own world.[52] Jonah Bromwich, of The Village Voice, however, remarked that "Royals" appears to celebrate the very things that she is criticizing.[55] Lorde explained that the concept was about the opulence one finds in various music videos and how it is "far from [her] reality." The song is an honest message to her criticisms of a materialistic society.[56]

The message of "Royals" was compared to Nirvana's 1991 single "Smells Like Teen Spirit," for both decrying the pop industry of which became a part of.[45] MTV's James Montgomery, stated that, like the aforementioned song, "Royals" avoided the lyrical pitfalls of the pop scene, despite being influenced by styles present in the industry.[57] Other analysts noted similarities in the lyrics between the "Royals" and the songs: "Thrift Shop" (2012) by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, "Gangnam Style" (2012), "Primadonna" (2012) by Marina and the Diamonds, the "The Fear" (2008) by Lily Allen, "Swimming Pools (Drank)" (2012) by Kendrick Lamar and "New Slaves" (2013) by Kanye West.[58][59] Written in the key of D Mixolydian, it is followed by the chord progression I-vii-IV (D – c – G). The song has a moderate tempo of 85 beats per minute (Andante).[60] On the song, Lorde performs with a mezzo-soprano vocal range,[61] spanning from F♯3 to F#5.[60] The lyrics of "Royals" concern the luxurious lifestyle of contemporary artists. According to Brad Wheeler of The Globe and Mail, the song expresses disapproval of "bejewelled lifestyle" of hip hop artists: "But every song's like gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin' in the bathroom."[61] The Guardian's Paul Lester likened its theme to that of "Million Dollar Bills" (from The Love Club EP) and "Tennis Court" (from Pure Heroine).[62]

Critical reception

"Royals" received widespread acclaim from music critics. Digital Spy gave the song five out of five stars praising the song saying it has an "addictive hook that thrives on its simplicity" continuing to comment saying "Lorde's success is here to stay."[63] Other reactions were mixed, with The Singles Jukebox having ratings ranging from a three to an eight out of ten.[64] Duncan Greive of The Guardian gave the song positive reviews placing emphasis on Lorde's vocal performance and the song's lyrical content. He wrote, "The production is spare and haunting, and the vocals somehow simultaneously vulnerable and imperious, but it's Royals' words which have propelled its ascent to the top of the UK and US charts", continuing to praise the song's "direct response" to excess and wealth.[52]

The lyrical appeal of the track was also appreciated by several analysts, such as Rita Houston of National Public Radio, who described her as a brilliant pop number with a brave underdog message, stating that the "song's melody, Lorde's rhythmic vocal style and the heartfelt lyrics come together to form a polished little gem of a song".[65] Jon Pareles of The New York Times said that the play is smarter and deeper than the pop songs that dominate the music market, continuing: "['Royals'] is a class-conscious critique of pop-culture materialism that’s so irresistible it became a [number one] pop single."[66] Kate Mossman of the British newspaper The Observer called it "the 2013 song," continuing: "The formula was original - a child's song, a cavernous hip-hop rhythm, smoke-fading harmonies, and most importantly, a message: a cold commentary on pop culture".

Scott Interrante of PopMatters described the sound of "Royals" as "[d]istinct and cool, mixing hip-hop beats with Queen- style harmonies and sub-urban lyrics."[67] Gary Trust of Billboard called the single "atmospheric song celebrating underdogs and spurning celebrity overkill."[68] Aziza Jackson of The Washington Times described the song as incredible and purely genius, continuing: "soulful vocals, simple lyrics, and slow hypnotic beat make for a hit song packed with a powerful message."[69] Huw Woodward from Renowned for Sound, shared similar sentiments, giving the song a four and a half star out of five rating, declaring: "With a singer that goes far beyond for her young age and a glorious and subtle instrumentation, 'Royals' is an excellent example of how to create a catchy and satisfyingly danceable melody, without having to use' explosive."[70]

Recognition

"Royals" was praised by musicians such as David Bowie,[71] Moby,[72] Dizzee Rascal[73] and Dave Grohl.[74] It was also recognized as one of the best songs of 2013 by numerous critic publications. Spin listed the song at number 15 on its list of the 50 best songs of the year, commenting that "true artpop rarely announces itself as such".[34] Time's writer Douglas Wolk wrote "It's a pointed rejection of the aspirations that have been foisted on the victims of capitalism", placing "Royals" at number 10 on his list of top 10 songs of 2013.[75] It was also placed at number 20 in another list from the same publication.[76] Meanwhile, it was ranked as the best song of the year by Consequence of Sound[77] and the second best song of the year by Rolling Stone.[78] On 18 December 2013, Billboard editors Jason Lipshutz, Erika Ramirez and Brad Wete named "Royals" the third best song of the year.[79] It was ranked as the second best song of the year by editors of The Guardian,[80] while NME placed "Royals" at number nine on their list.[81] Joshua Ostroff of The Huffington Post placed it in eighth place calling its minimalist instrumentation and "anti-materialism" lyrics "startling".[82]

It was voted the biggest release of the year in the catalog "The 25 Best Singles of 2013" by Slant with Annie Galvin saying, "'Royals' exudes a youthful sense of defiance as well as the wisdom of an old soul, hovering suggestively between the poles of innocence and experience" that the singer is beginning to navigate.[83] The Boston Herald also placed it at the top spot in their year-end list.[84] Complex placed the song at number 50 in their best songs of the year list.[85] The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop annual critics' poll ranked "Royals" at number two to find the best music of 2013, after Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" (2013).[86] Pitchfork placed "Royals" at number 31 in their year-end list and at number 66 in their list for the "200 Best Tracks of the Decade (2010-2014)".[87][88] Billboard ranked the song at number eight in their "Top 20 Billboard Hits of the 2010s" list.[89]

On 15 October 2013, co-writers Ella Yelich-O'Connor and Joel Little won the APRA Silver Scroll award, which honours original New Zealand songwriting.[90][91] At the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, "Royals" was nominated for three awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. It won Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year.[92] With this, Lorde became the youngest New Zealander to win a Grammy and became the third youngest act to do so.[93][94] "Royals" also won Single of the Year at the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards.[95] The song was also voted into second place in Australian radio station Triple J's Hottest 100 of 2013, missing out on the #1 spot to Vance Joy's "Riptide".

Chart performance

North America

Since its release in the United States, "Royals" has broken many records. In its first seven days of distribution in the country, the music marketed 85,000 paid downloads and debuted at number 90 on the Billboard Hot 100.[96] In a subsequent interview, Lorde stated, "I had a sneaking suspicion that it might do all right."[97] By August, Lorde became the first solo female artist to top the Billboard Alternative Songs chart since Tracy Bonham in 1996.[98] The song also holds the record for longest run by a woman atop the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, surpassing Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" (1995), which spent five weeks at number one.[99] On 24 August, "Royals" jumped from leaped 39-24, driven by a 35% increase in sales compared to the previous week.[100] On the 31st of the same month, "Royals" presented another 39% increase in its distributions and moved up to number 17, becoming her first top 20 entry in the United States. It also marked her second week with the "Digital Gainer" recognition.[101] Seven days later, the song had a further increase in its sales, at 35%, selling 145,000 units, and accumulated 598,000 sales distributed since its debut.[102] During these three weeks, "Royals" was the single that had the largest increase in digital sales, a feat that had previously only been reached by the end of 2012 and early 2013 with "I Knew You Were Trouble" by Taylor Swift.[102] In the following edition, the single jumped to number eight due to sales of more than 167,000 copies (up 16%), 2.8 million streams (up 14%) and 57 million plays (up 40%) on radio.[103] On 28 September, the song reached top spot of the Digital Songs chart. With sales of 307,000 copies (up 17%), "Royals" became the fourth release of an up-and-coming singer to reach the top of the chart, and in all, achieved the highest number of digital downloads for five non-consecutive weeks.[104][105] The success of "Royals" has been credited for its strong airplay in on a variety of different genre stations including triple A, modern rock, adult contemporary, rhythmic contemporary, urban contemporary and contemporary hit radio which later became a crossover hit.[106]

During the 12 October issue, "Royals" topped the charts, replacing "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus, who had been at the top for two straight weeks. Aly Weisman of Business Insider noted that Lorde's performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon a few days before the charts were updated helped spread the song among the public.[107] The song's rise to the top spot was attributed to 294,000 downloads made that week, to 6.1 million streams (up 12%), and an airplay audience of 128 million (up 22%) across all genres, earning her the highest airplay gainer for the week.[108] This made Lorde, sixteen years and eleven months old at the time of the chart release, the youngest female artist to be at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 since the American singer Tiffany who, at the age of sixteen, topped the chart with "I Think We're Alone Now" in 1987.[108][109] With "Royals", Lorde became the first New Zealand act to have achieved a Billboard Hot 100 number one as a lead artist and the youngest musician to top the chart with a song written by the performer, surpassing Soulja Boy, who achieved this with "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" in 2007, at the age of seventeen.[68][110] The song would eventually top the charts for nine consecutive weeks and consequently established the longest period of a singer at the top of the chart since Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" in 2012, the second longest running single and the first for a female artist in 2013.[111] In addition, it became the fourth single with the longest running number one in the 2010s decade and with 23 weeks in the top ten of the Hot 100, became the third track with the third highest number of appearances in the top ten sharing the distinction with Rihanna's "We Found Love," (2011) and "Call Me Maybe."[112][113] Lorde also became the youngest artist to stay eight weeks or more at the number one position, a feat that was previously achieved by the hip hop duo Kris Kross with their song "Jump", in 1992, when they were thirteen years old. It also made Lorde the youngest solo artist to reach that mark since Mario who, at eighteen years old in 2005, topped the chart with "Let Me Love You".[114] The song made Lorde the fifth female solo singer, along with Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Kesha, who also managed to lead the top spot with their debut single. It became the fifth best-selling song in the US with 4,415,000 downloads sold in 2013, and was the top selling song of the year by a female artist.[115] As of December 2014, the song has sold 5.9 million copies in the US.[116] In November 2014, Billboard voted "Royals" the eighth most successful single on radio stations and online stores of the 2010s.

In Canada, "Royals" debuted at number 58 on the Canadian Hot 100 and in the following weeks experienced steady rise in the chart. In its twelfth week, the song reached the top of the chart with more than 29,000 copies sold in the 12 October issue, where it remained for six consecutive weeks before being replaced by Eminem and Rihanna's collaboration "The Monster" (2014), on 16 November.[117][118] However, "Royals" returned to the top of the chart on the 23rd of that month, with a total of seven non-consecutive weeks remaining in the placement.[119] Throughout 2013, the single sold more than 429,000 copies in the country and ended the year as the sixth best-selling. The song was later awarded six platinum albums by Music Canada in return for more than 480,000 copies distributed throughout the nation.

Europe and Oceania

The song debuted at number three on the Irish Charts on 3 October 2013, before climbing to number one the following week. On the week dated 9 October 2013, the song retained its number one spot, selling a further 309,000 copies.[120][121] On 28 October "Royals" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart; in doing so, Lorde became the youngest solo artist to score a UK number one single since Billie Piper's 1998 song "Because We Want To".[122] In other regions of Europe, "Royals" also experienced commercial success, reaching the top position of Euro Digital Songs and landing within the top ten in countries such as Germany, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Portugal, among others.[123][124] In Belgium, the single entered the Wallonia chart at number 41 on 19 October and reached the top spot on 9 November, where it remained for five consecutive updates, while in the Flanders chart, the song remained at the top spot for only one week.[125][126] In France, "Royals" charted at number 46 on the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (SNEP) and, in the eighth week, charted in the top 20.[127] The single leaped from 22-12 on 9 November, as a result of a 67% increase in its distributions compared to the previous week, which reached more than 4,000 sales.[128] The following week, "Royals" sold another 4,300 and moved 12-7, until then his highest rating on the table.[129] Between December 2013 and early 2014, "Royals" charted within the top twenty of the chart, until February 2014 where it jumped from 16th place to fifth due to a 61% increase in its sales, which totaled 4,200 units.[130] The song reacked a peak at number four on the 8th of the same month.[127] On March 2014, "Royals" had sold more than 80,000 units in France.[131] In Ireland, "Royals" charted at number three in the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) chart on 3 October.[132] The following week, it rose to the top spot, but it was replaced by Birdy's "Wings" seven days later.[133] In the United Kingdom, "Royals" competed for the first spot with James Arthur's "You're Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You", taking the top spot with a difference of 7,000 copies.[134] On 27 October, the Official Charts Company (OCC) confirmed the song's entry as the UK Singles Charts lead with sales of 82,551 units.[135] Consequently, Lord became the youngest female artist to culminate the British chart since Billie Piper, who achieved the feat with "Because We Want To" in 1998 at the age of fifteen.[136] Surprised by the news, Lorde commented: "I'm so incredibly excited to be in first place this week and very grateful to all fans in the UK who bought 'Royals'!"[137] The single fell to second place in its second week, selling another 59,903 copies, and by April 2014 had shipped more than 470,000 copies in British territory.[138] In August, it was awarded the platinum certificate of the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), for more than 600,000 copies distributed in the country.

In Asia, the material performed moderately. It charted at number 37 in the Gaon International Singles Chart in South Korea, with initial sales of 4,331 copies.[139] In its second week, it fell to number 64, selling 2,777 copies.[140] The following week, it recorded 3,056 units and climbed to number 56, leaving the table the following week.[141] In Japan, the song peaked at number 16.[142] "Royals" debuted at number one on the New Zealand Top 40 on 15 March 2013 and remained in the top position for three weeks.[143] In Australia, "Royals" was released simultaneously with "The Love Club" and was classified as a single for charting purposes and spent two weeks at its peak position of number two on the ARIA Singles Chart; sales of tracks on the album counted toward the EP, and therefore could not chart separately.[144] It has been certified six-times Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipping 420,000 units.[145] The nation's fifth best selling single of the year, the work was subsequently awarded seven platinum discs by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for selling more than 490,000 units. In addition, "Royals" was the most executed on the Internet through streaming services in 2013. As of November 2014, "Royals" has sold over 10 million copies worldwide.[146]

Music videos

The musical video of "Royals" shows the daily life of four young people in an ordinary day. According to Lorde, this is a picture of the restricted and mundane life that some New Zealand teenagers have because they can not direct or perform other actions when they are underage in the country.

Original version

Background

The official video for "Royals" was directed by Joel Kefali[147] and released on Lorde's official YouTube channel on 12 May 2013.[148] In line with the subject of the song, the video for "Royals" mostly consists of normal teenagers doing unexceptional things in slow motion. The actors in the music video are Lorde's schoolmates.

However, during the video, the singer rarely appears, mainly because the focus is on the actors present in the production. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Lorde said the main reason for her absence was that many artists in the pop industry are well-documented. She says she thinks the public enjoys having "a little mystery" about her. Her decision to include an illustration in the cover art for The Love Club EP inspired her to be more "selective" on the visual content of her works. That was one of the influences behind the video. According to the singer, she intended to create a piece of art with the video concept of "Royals" that felt cinematic. The video only has three takes of the singer which happen at the start and conclusion of the visual with thirty seconds of filming with Lorde singing. She said that the video response over her paced appearances made some people uncomfortable but stated that she was "in the right track" in doing so.[149]

Synopsis

With a duration of more than four minutes, the video starts off in a still of a bed, with a snippet of the singer's song "Biting Down". The visual portrays the lives of four boys in an ordinary day, showing scenes of them performing daily actions in slow motion, such as watching television, bathing, waking up, eating at breakfast and at venues such as a sports training center, with some of them practicing basketball and swimming, in an arcade, in a train wagon, in addition to presenting two of the young men in a house cutting their hair and training boxing strokes. Towards the end, the four individuals gather on a bench by night. All these scenes are interspersed with those of Lord singing and with taking of environments of a residence and of a street. The plot ends in a tennis court, where an instrumental piece of the song "Tennis Court" is played, another song from the singer, also included in the album Pure Heroine.

Reception

The "Royals" music visual won Lorde the award for Best Rock Video at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. Lorde's win divided critics over its placement in the "rock" category. Ethan Sacks of the New York Daily News published a story in which he wrote that the singer's win in the rock category "over actual rock bands," and stressed that the artist was as surprised by his victory as anyone else.[150] Alex Young from Consequence of Sound, however, explained that the reason for Lorde winning in the rock category was due to the absence of male artists that night. Young stated that out of the other nominated pop acts, such as Ariana Grande, Beyoncé or Miley Cyrus, Lorde was the "easiest to justify as a "rock" artist due to her goth-punk persona."[151] Mathew Coyte, the editor-in-chief of the Rolling Stone Australia was unhappy with the artist's victory stating that 'Royals' was by "no means a rock song by anyone's definition, it's an electronic track". Coyte found it strange that the song was not nominated in the pop category.[152] Slant placed the visuals at number three on their best music videos of 2013 list, noting that her absence "speaks to both the 16-year-old’s “postcode” shame and her friends’ suburban-teen ennui."[153]

Other versions

A US version of the song was released using the same clips as the international; however, it intersperses more clips of Lorde singing. It also omits scenes from the beginning and the end, which made reference to two of Lorde's other songs. This cut the running time from 4:02 to 3:21. As of January 2018 the video has amassed over 690 million views. Months after the release of the video, Lorde and her manager Scott Maclachlan both expressed regret over "pandering" to the American audience. In his words, the new version tainted the concept of the original.[154] It won best music video at the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards.[155] For the Japanese release of Pure Heroine in February 2014, Lorde collaborated with Japanese illustrator and musician Akiakane to create an animated music video for "Royals".[156]

Live performances

Lorde performing at the Decibel Festival in Seattle, September 2013

On 13 August 2013, a rendition of "Royals" was recorded live for KCRW's radio programme Morning Becomes Eclectic.[157] In New Zealand, she made her stage debut at a small venue in Auckland for a reserved audience.[158] On 18 September, the performer made her television debut on New Zealander 3rd Degree, and on the same day was granted an interview with journalist Samantha Hayes. Later, the singer made her debut in the United Kingdom in the program Later... with Jools Holland from the BBC network; Lorde also played the song in house shows Madame Jojo's in London that day.[159][160]

Lorde made her television debut in the United States by singing "Royals" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on 1 October 2013, wearing a white dress, and backed by a keyboardist and a drummer. "White Teeth Teens" was also performed on the show, but was only shown online.[161][162] Lorde's performance was met with positive reviews; she was praised by the media for her "impressive stage presence for a sixteen-year-old girl."[163] She later sang the song on VH1 television show Big Morning Buzz Live on 4 October 2013, dressed in a black turtleneck and skirt.[164][165] Lorde performed "Royals" on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on 9 October 2013.[166] She opened the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards with "Royals".[167] She later performed at Studio Q, in Canada, where Lorde also performed "Buzzcut Season".[168] Days later, the singer held a performance on the Late Show with David Letterman, and introduced "Royals", "Team", and other tracks from The Love Club EP and Pure Heroine.[169]

In early 2014, the performer was in the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. With a look described as "obscure," the musician wore a white sleeveless T-shirt, black pants, smoothed hair and nails painted black to mid-fingers, and dark lipstick.[170] Lorde again sang "Royals" during the ceremony, but with some changes in its instrumentation. The presentation, which featured projections of statues behind the singer, was also praised by the media and personalities such as Mac Miller and model Chrissy Teigen and made Lorde the most talked about artist in the social networks during the ceremony.[171][172][173] At the 2014 BRIT Awards, Lorde performed an electro version of "Royals" with Disclosure, which transitioned into "White Noise" by Disclosure featuring AlunaGeorge.[174][175] The "Royals/White Noise" performance was released at iTunes Stores by the BRIT Awards on 19 February 2014;[176] proceeds from its sales went to the charity War Child.[177] It debuted at number 72 on the UK Singles Chart.[178] In April, Lorde presented herself for the first time in Brazil, at the Lollapalooza festival, and also included "Royals" in her set list.[179] G1 portal held a poll days later with festival participants and readers of the site, in which her "Royals" performance was voted "the 2014 festival success", with 37% approval of respondents.[180] The song was also added to the repertoire of the album's promotional tour.[181]

Covers and media usage

A black and white photo Bruce Springsteen performing with a guitar on state
Jack White performing with a white guitar
Bruce Springsteen and Jack White (from The White Stripes) were some of many musicians who covered "Royals"

The track also received attention from other artists, who made their own version. In August 2013, Selena Gomez performed a cover of "Royals" at a concert held during her Stars Dance Tour in Vancouver, Canada.[182] Mayer Hawthorne also covered "Royals" on Vevo's Unexpected Covers series and incorporated a larger use of electric guitar and heavy percussion into the work.[183] Pentatonix, also re-recorded the song in a cappella style, as well as the girl group Cimorelli; both uploaded to YouTube.[183] American girl group Fifth Harmony included the song in the set list of Cher Lloyd's I Wish Tour.[184] The band Saints Of Valory, incorporated a "country-tinged, rocker twist" on their cover.[185] American singer Jason Derulo interpreted the theme in an R&B style version at the BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge in December 2013.[186] On 6 October 2013, American band Paper Route released a cover version of the song as a single.[187] Postmodern Jukebox also covered the song in October 2013, featuring Puddles Pity Party on vocals.[188]

A cover of "Royals" was also performed by singer Bruce Springsteen in April 2014 in Auckland, New Zealand for his High Hopes Tour. Springsteen performed an acoustic version and served as the opening track for his concert. Critics of Rolling Stone said that Springsteen made the cover sound like it was "originally cut during the Nebraska sessions."[189] Lorde responded to his cover, commenting: "It's so exciting, it's a great honor, Springsteen is a fantastic songwriter, I was a little touched, it's really cool, it's crazy when someone like him is playing your song".[190] American spoof-folk duo Black Simon & Garfunkel performed a cover of the song on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Writers from Esquire considered it the best cover of the song made by any artist.[191] On 12 March, Krist Novoselic, former member of Nirvana, performed an instrumental version of "Royals" with one accordion at Republic in Takoma Park in Maryland.[192] Jack White, former member of the alternative rock band The White Stripes also performed a "surprise strand" of the song at a concert he held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[193] "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded a parody of the song titled "Foil" for his album Mandatory Fun.[194] The song's music video was released online on 16 July 2014.[195] Capital FM described the work "equally strange and brilliant".[196]

"Royals" was also played by Taylor John Williams in the seventh season of The Voice.[197] The cover was later made available on iTunes.[198] Sophie May Williams performed the song during an episode of the British edition of the same program, which was broadcast on BBC One on 29 March.[199] Others artists who have covered their own version of "Royals" include British group The Beef Seeds, who performed a bluegrass rendition, Canadian indie rock band Walk off the Earth, who added ukuleles to their instrumentation, artists Lionel Reekie, Bella Kalolo and Phillip Fan, who added melodies on the piano, and the female group AcaBelles, from the Florida State University in a cappella version produced by The Vocal Company.[200][201] The cover has over 9 million views on YouTube and has been mentioned by Lorde herself on her Twitter account. British girl-group, Mutya Keisha Siobhan covered the song for Reload Sessions on Google+ on 10 October 2013.[202] Post-hardcore group Closer to Closure covered the song in October 2013 and released the music video on their YouTube channel.[203] Meanwhile, The Rekkids,[204] Death By Bacon[205]and hundreds of lesser known artists have uploaded their covers of the song on YouTube.[206] Pomplamoose recorded, using their own vocals and instrumentation, a mashup of "Royals", mixed with Beck's 1993 song "Loser" and 2Pac's 1995 song "California Love.[207]The girl-group Gap5 covered the song in week two of The X Factor (New Zealand series 1),[208] young Italian singer Violetta Zironi covered the song in season 7 of the Italian version of the TV show.[209] Otep covered the song on their 2016 album Generation Doom.

In addition, "Royals" was also used by the media on several occasions. Current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio used the song in his victory speech in Brooklyn in November 2013. According to The New York Times, the choice of song was made primarily by John Del Cecato, Blasio campaign media, and Rebecca Katz, a spokeswoman for the candidate, for the song dealing with social class inequality, one of the main themes discussed by Bill in his campaign.[210] The track was also used in a commercial by the Samsung for Galaxy Note 3, in which the song is played by children in a low-class neighborhood of Barcelona.[211][212] "Royals" was used as the basis of a parody on the Canadian Senate expenses scandal by the satirical CBC TV programme This Hour Has 22 Minutes.[213] A group of law students from the University of Auckland, who had previously parodied Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines", released a spoof of "Royals" titled "Lawyers" in October 2013.[214] The song was used in the first episode of the fifth season of The CW television series The Vampire Diaries, the third episode of the third season of Revenge, and in the season three premiere of Suburgatory.[215]The song was used, in a more classical rendition, in a scene of episode 18 of the TV series Reign.[216] In 2014, "Royals" was featured in the rhythm game Fantasia: Music Evolved.[217] "Royals" was also featured in The Crew, played on the fictional 8-Radio. A remix of the song with new lyrics called "Loyal", performed by Demarco, is in the re-released version of Grand Theft Auto V.[218]

Impact

Industry attempts to construct another Taylor Swift generally fizzled, but that’s no obstacle to attempts to build another Lorde. And so unsurprisingly, a wave of female rebellion is swelling anew, most notably in the pseudo-goth pop of Halsey and the shy soul of Alessia Cara, but also among teen and just-post-teen singers finding glossy ways to express unglossy feelings.
– Jon Caramanica of The New York Times on how Lorde's song "Royals" influenced a slew of other sound-alikes in mainstream pop music[219]

"Royals" has been credited with changing the pop music landscape due to its take on common modern pop themes. Neil McCormick from The Daily Telegraph, stated that "Royals" contained a "solid letter between expressionless cynicism and pleasure in its own disenchantment", which serves as a a riposte to hip-hop's lyrical clichés, elegantly skewering the long prevailing culture of bling, ego and excess", dismissing them all with the punchline: "We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair",[220] According to McCormick, Lorde clearly expresses no interest in "luxury products and empty lifestyle cliches" and makes the pop music genre sound "ridiculous", but credits its strong public appeal to the singer's use of "we" in the lyrics. McCormick further states that Lorde thus addresses her message to a generation that does not take "such luxurious objects seriously". He concluded by saying, "Lorde is the pin-up of self-generation."[220] Various other journalists echoed McCormick opinion, describing the song as an anthem for the "Millennial generation".[221][222][223]

The commercial success of "Royals" was responsible for a strong impact on the pop music scene, with Lorde being considered one of the most popular personalities of 2013. Many analysts emphasized the acclaim obtained by the song and the minimal promotion it received when it started to gain an audience initially. The fact that the song came from an unknown artist at the time at sixteen years of age, but to present a critical view of the songs that led the market mainstream and obtaining international acclaim has also been widely commented on by various publications.[224][225] Her lyrics, therefore, were described as "anti-luxury" and Lorde as a "counterculture" artist.[226] "Royals" is also credited with inspiring other artists to capitalize its sound. The melodic styles and lyrics of artists such as Halsey, Tove Lo, Meg Myers, Bea Miller and Alessia Cara have all been compared to Lorde.[227][219] Forbes writer Nick Messitte said that "Royals" inspired Lo's song "Habits (Stay High)" to become a top five hit in the United States. He noted that her re-release of the song became a hit a year after Lorde's success. Messitte further mentions that "the marketplace [was] primed and ready for a record like this to take hold of our earbuds." The success of "Royals" indicated that "the smart money [would be] on change" to find a new sound in the pop landscape.[228] Messitte also stated he felt that Lorde changed the way music pop contemporary is seen, while David Bowie called her "the future of music",[71] and Dave Grohl, lead singer of Foo Fighters, described "Royals" as revolutionary.[74]

Matthew Perpetua from BuzzFeed noted that the lyrics of "Royals" are based on growing up in a society with cultural imperialism. According to Matthew, the singer is "openly defiant when it comes to class and this sort of imperialism. It may well be the most leftist song to become a major hit in years, at least in that it's focused on rejecting wealth and privilege, and questioning capitalist ideas that encourage people from lower classes to buy into a system that is mostly rigged against them." The editor concluded saying that the singer has pride in "not coming from money, and asks the listener to give some thought to why they want to buy into a glamorous fantasy". Newsweek noted how her Grammy wins "marked a cultural turning point in a society exhausted by consumerism." The publication stated that Lorde said what "millions of adults could not." It further commented on how the singer's songs are "not worshipful of the dollar" the way many songs at the turn of the millennium are. Despite other singers tackling this social topic, such as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop" (2012), Lorde's voice has been the "loudest, and clearest." It is "above the rising din that extols status symbols" even as millions struggle to find jobs. Writing for The Guardian, Duncan Greive stated that he found it "fascinating" that the song's success in "vast, sophisticated markets" was a direct response to the sensation of being overwhelmed by overseas culture, particularly that which glories in excess and wealth."[229][52]

Track listings

Charts

Certifications

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Belgium (BEA)[317] Gold 15,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[318] 7× Platinum 560,000^
Germany (BVMI)[319] Gold 150,000^
Italy (FIMI)[320] 2× Platinum 60,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[321] 6× Platinum 0*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[322] 5× Platinum 50,000*
Sweden (GLF)[323] 4× Platinum 160,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[324] Gold 15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[325] Platinum 600,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[326] Diamond 5,900,000dagger[116]
Venezuela (APFV)[327] Platinum 10,000^
Streaming
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[328] Platinum 2,600,000^
Summaries
Worldwide (IFPI 10,000,000[329]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

dagger Since May 2013, RIAA certifications for digital singles include on-demand audio and/or video song streams in addition to downloads.[330]

Release history

Country Date Format Label Catalogue no.
United States[331] 3 June 2013 Adult album alternative None
Austria[230] 2 August 2013 Digital download Universal
Belgium[332]
Denmark[333]
Finland[334]
Greece[335]
Indonesia[336]
Ireland[337]
Japan[338]
Norway[339]
France[340] 5 August 2013
Italy[341]
Luxembourg[342]
Portugal[343]
Singapore[344]
Spain[345]
United States[346][347] 13 August 2013 Contemporary hit radio
  • Lava
  • Republic
3 September 2013 Rhythmic contemporary
Germany[233] 13 September 2013 Digital download Universal
Italy[348] 20 September 2013 Contemporary hit radio
Germany[349] 10 December 2013 CD single 0602537693191
United Kingdom[350] 16 February 2014 Digital download Virgin None
Worldwide[176] 19 February 2014 "Royals/White Noise" download Brit Awards
New Zealand[231][232] 4 April 2014 "Royals" / "400 Lux" download Universal
"Royals" / "Tennis Court" download

See also

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External links

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