Lorde’s “Royals” Lyrics Meaning
You probably don’t need us to tell you that opulence, i.e. vocalists bragging about their vast wealth and lavish lifestyles, whether real or fictional, has become a mainstay as far as popular music is concerned for the last two decades or so.
Well such messages are not always received as idealized, i.e. with the listener envying or admiring said artist. Sometimes there is a sentimental backlash if you will, i.e. an audience member comparing their own less-than-rich existence to that which such a musician is promoting and feeling a sense of discomfort, for lack of a better word, as a result.
And that is actually the background behind “Royals”. Lorde is detailing the type of humble surroundings she was brought up in. But she is doing so in direct response to superstars like Jay-Z, Kanye West and Lana Del Rey who, during the time this track came out, were well known for promoting their own wealthy lifestyles.
The Lyrics of “Royals”
And overall Royals does speak to a basic truth that those who patronize such musicians, including the narrator herself, will most likely never experience what said artists are putting forth in song.
Or put differently, the music industry has become oversaturated with materialistic content. So on one hand, you will in fact have those listeners who admire the lyrical tales of the ultra-rich. But on the other you’ll also have those like Lorde and her homeys, who are simply disinterested in adopting mammonism as inspired by rappers, etc.
Or as the singer puts it, they “crave a different kind of buzz”, as the pursuit of wealth and what have you is not what appeals to them from an artistic/ideological standpoint. Or put alternatively yet again, they’re aware that they “will never be royals”, i.e. amongst the rich and famous. Nor is that what they are even aspiring for. So it’s almost as if Lorde is saying the abundance of music related to such topics actually irritates people like her.
Narrator Hates The Rich?
But beyond such a sentiment isn’t a disdain for upper classes, as some analysts have interpreted this piece. Rather what Lorde is putting forth, as metaphorically expounded on in the bridge for instance, is that she and her cohorts are in love with life in general.
That is to say that the acquisition of riches is not what floats their boat, nor do they need lofty material items to enjoy their time here on Earth. And apparently the narrator considers herself, in keeping within the overall motif of the song, the “queen” as far as practicing such a lifestyle.
So some individuals have adopted “Royals” as being centered on classist struggle or income inequality, etc. Such is indicative of the era in which it was released. But interpreting it in such a manner is more or less stretching its meaning.
In other words, the vocalist doesn’t seem to have beef with anyone richer or in a higher class than she is. Her ire is more directed towards the music industry itself – and perhaps we can postulate by extensive pop media in general – for vigorously promoting materialism.
And behind such a stance is her belief that life is intrinsically enjoyable, with happiness being achievable and realized even by those such as herself, who are in fact far from being rich.
Did Lorde write “Royals”?
Lorde wrote this song alongside its producer, Joel Little, who is one of the top behind-the-scenes’ musicians from her homeland. And said homeland would be New Zealand, where the songstress was born in the city of Auckland. In fact since coming out up until and beyond the writing of this post, Lorde is generally considered the most-popular Kiwi artist in the world.
According to the legend behind this song, Lorde herself penned the lyrics in just 30 minutes. Well she did so for the most part, as one particular line she wrote some years prior. And to note, being born in 1996, Lorde was 15 when she wrote “Royals” and 16 when it hit the global market.
One of her inspirations penning the tune actually came from a picture of Greg Brett. Some readers would recognize Greg as a legendary Major League Baseball player from the late 20th century. More specifically, he spent his entire 20 year career playing for the Kansas City Royals. And the aforementioned pic, which was taken circa 1976, was of him wearing his team’s jersey.
Additional inspiration also came from American-based hip-hop artists, most notably Jigga and Kanye’s 2011 Watch the Throne album. Also, as alluded to earlier, Lorde called out Lana Del Rey in that regard and more specifically Lana’s 2012 album, “Born to Die”.
As time evolves, Lorde may be coming more reliant on sexualized imagery to sell her music. But initially she burst on the scene as one of the most-trending musicians in the world without relying on such methods. For instance, the music video to Royals only features the songstress, who is the only female in the clip, sparsely and then primarily from the neck up.
And it was in fact this particular song, her debut single, which established Lorde in the aforementioned regard, as it was one of the most celebrated tracks of 2013.
Success of “Royals”
For example, this song reached number one in at least 12 countries. As expected this includes Lorde’s native New Zealand but also the likes of Israel and Canada. Even more notably, it accomplished this feat on the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart. And in terms of all the nations it charted in, they are over 30 in number.
When this song blew up, Lorde was only 16 years old. Thus when she did top the Billboard Hot 100, she was the youngest to do so since another female singer who was 16 at the time, Tiffany, accomplished the feat. Tiffany accomplished the said feat in 1987 with a track entitled “I Think We’re Alone Now”.
And also in terms of topping the Hot 100, Lorde became the youngest soloist ever to have not only performed but also written a track that reached number one.
Royals also topped three other US Billboard charts – the Adult Top 40, Mainstream Top 40 and Hot Rock & Alternative Songs. And in terms of that latter listing, it set a record for most weeks at number one by a female artist.
Even More Success
This song has also gone multi-platinum in almost 10 countries. That includes the United States. It should be noted that America perhaps has the most-stringent platinum-certification requirements in the world, as a million copies of a song must be sold just for it to go one-time platinum. But in the case of “Royals”, it has actually been certified diamond in the USA by 2017. What does that mean? It basically means this Lorde hit sold over 10,000,000 copies stateside, easily making America the country where the track was most-commercially successful.
And to note the song also achieved 1,000,000,000 global streams in 2021, about a decade after it was released.
A commercial success of this magnitude is also likely to take home quite a few powerful awards, which “Royals” did. For instance, in 2013 it achieved an accolade known as the APRA Silver Scroll, with APRA being the Australasian Performing Right Association.
Back in the States it also took home a couple of Grammys. And in that regard, in 2014 it won Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. The achievement made Lorde the youngest musician from New Zealand (and third youngest ever) to have earned a Grammy.
MTV News itself also dubbed “Royals” the best song released during 2013. That being said, such an acknowledgement doesn’t appear to be a formal award.
Notable Places where “Royals” Hit #1
Below are the most notable territories where this song rose to number 1:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- United States
The music video to this track achieved its own honors, winning Best Music Video at the New Zealand Music Award in 2013. It was also honored with an MTV VMA for Best Rock Video in 2014.
Joel Kefali directed the clip, and as noted earlier it does not feature Lorde at center stage. In fact according to certain sources, due to the storyline it is meant to convey, Lorde personally “felt her presence in the video was unnecessary”.
When was “Royals” released?
The official release date of this track was on 3 June 2013. And in that regard, it served as the lead single from two different projects. One was Lorde’s actual debut album, “The Love Club EP”, which came out in March of said year. And the other was her first studio album (i.e. full-length), “Pure Heroine”. “Pure Heroine” was also released later that year.
There are three primary labels behind this track –
- Republic Records
- Universal Music Group
- a partner of UMG’s, Lava Records
And to note the song was originally released, by Lorde herself, in late 2012. However, also to note, she had been working with UMG (or more specifically Universal Music New Zealand) since she was 13 years old.
Other artists, such as Bruce Springsteen, Selena Gomez and Jason Derulo, got in on the act also by covering “Royals”. Additionally it has made its way onto a couple of videogames, such as 2013’s Grand Theft Auto V (a cover as performed by Demarco).
And to note Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of New York City, used this song during his victory celebration in 2013. And “Royals” also hold other such distinctions. For example, it has been parodied by Weird Al Yankovic. Additionally it has been utilized in a Samsung commercial.
If you were to listen to “Royals” you would likely agree, especially compared to many other pop songs, that it does not rely heavily on instrumentation. This is considered to have started a trend where subsequent female vocalists, such as Halsey, Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo, have relied on a similar technique.
To note, Lorde’s moniker is actually pronounced Lord. And she chose such as her stage name, ironically enough considering the nature of “Royals”, as she has been fascinated by royalty even prior to the issuance of the tune.