Music Review: Royal Treatment: Lorde/Royals



Having hated upon Lorde previously in the television column, and supplied the reasons why, I turn now to a critique of the song Royals. The editor of this blog has praised her and the hit single. This review is very much in contrast to that. If you feel you may get upset and not enjoy the experience of having the nation’s most popular recording artist being shat on then you need read no further. The lyrics prove the strength of the song is the melody – the arrangement – not the words; not her.

The tune is catchy, it has an entrancing schoolground jump-rope timing. The text – sung as it is by a white teenage schoolgirl in the whitest, wealthiest suburb in Auckland – is far from profound poetry (as many gushing critics have declared). Sung by Lorde in cool goth chic it is bubblegum pop for emos. Sung by Lilly Allen with her ska delivery as she walks down to the tube station with her mates it could have been a working class anthem (the parts with horrid references to “Queen bee” and the wish fulfillment of a spoiled girl that make the original so awful would best be rendered as being a sarcastic laugh with her girlfriends about being the leader of her gang). Lorde, like her illustrious hometown of Devonport – killer address – is the antithesis of working class. This is the underlying tension, or contradiction – in the song as it is performed by Lorde. She takes it so seriously, but what would she know?

The lyrics are peppered with subconscious admissions and preoccupations. Attempts to dispell these (such as “We don’t care”, and negatives like “we’ll never be”) are projections of insecurity – the person singing these lyrics is highly class conscious and hates on the excesses of American, esp. Afro-American music culture. A cultural sneer. And a conceit – a middle class imagination of what poor kids on the train might be like. There is reference to you/your and to we/us. We/us is her clique of wanky Indy/Alt friends. You and your refers to the American music industry or people supporting it, or in another context to her group of friends. But what it does not seem to mean is a boyfriend – she’s much too in love with herself for that distraction. Way too cool for that.

To illustrate and better explain my concerns with the lyrics I have taken the liberty of rewriting the words.


[Verse One]
I’ve never seen a black man in the flesh
I saw one once – serving at the movies
And it’s on account of my address
Devonport proud, postcode trendy

But my cliché is like: black guys, bad dudes, junky shit in the bathroom,
Gang-bangers, ill-mannered, trashing our taboo rule,
We don’t care, we’re living where the house prices are obscene
But my cliché is like: Cristal, Maybach – how can they afford that?
Jet planes, islands – I haven’t seen them
They aren’t here and we have it all and nothing to fear

And we’ll always be spoiled (spoiled)
It’s our European blood,
That kind of luck is just for us,
The kind you get being born a boss
I’m already your ruler (ruler)
Can you dig the hypocrisy?
Of a Devonport school girl, a rich girl, a white girl [see Alt]
Lecturing on sociology [see Alt]
[Alt last lines:
Of dissing American culture, culture, culture
And then getting a Grammy]

TDB Recommends

[Verse Two]
My friends all agree – I’m fucking awesome
After five years in development you’d hope so
And Universal owns us and we’re fine with this
We didn’t run from the money

[Chorus with Alt end lines]

Ohh ohh oh
And this is the little bit
Where Joel’s lyrics are quite shit
Ohh ohh oh
Life was great with an au pair
They’ve spent a fortune on my career

[Chorus – last half]


  1. You do realise Liley Allen comes from a very (very) well off family – she does a fine line in mockney and that is all

    Lorde doesn’t sing in goth chic – one might describe her dress style as that but

    oh I give up – you don’t understand pop music (and music trends), youth culture and young people at all do you

    • Yes, I love the comment to Lily Allen and how Lorde who comes from Devonport and must therefore be way more insulated than her.

      Yes, Lily Allen, who went to the same primary school as Prince Charles.

      Reversing grade.

      D. Please do some research next time, Tim.

      And I don’t even care for the song (and prefer Allen to Lorde). Just imagine for the fan groups would say.

    • Yeah, that’s what I reckon. A couple of questions for Tim….”What are your class credentials?” and “Were you Tim ever an impressionable young student whose radical ideas flew in the face of your own class background?”

      As to Lorde and her songs…if the purpose is to get airplay and to be famous then the marketing strategy with the lyrics is A+. Well done.
      And to Tim, perhaps the message transcends the person delivering it.

  2. I’d leave the satire to people like The Civilian and Imperator Fish.

    Also, the words don’t quite fit at times.

    C-. Should try harder. Pay more attention in class.

  3. I agree. The song is white bread Takapuna Grammar pap. She might sing it well, but it’s hardly a generational anthem. Or at least, I hope not.

  4. Please go back to doing journalism (as this piece is not journalism) or what ever it was you did before you drank that bitter tea.
    I have read your opinion pieces on her and still wonder why the flaming hostility towards her particularly as she is just one of many clones ? Its almost like her presence on earth is a personal attack on you.

    So joyfully proud of a hating and a shitting just like an resentful egocentric fecophile with diarrhea looking for a place to aim.

    Are you jealous of her success? Dislike Devonport so much (or just the whites that live there)? or is it her poppies have exceeded their permitted height for Nu Ziland, so chop the bitch down.

    Manufactured or not – rich or poor – Devonport or Panmure – who cares there are much more pressing issues FFS than a girl singing a song!

    If you like it enjoy it – here is a new idea – if you dont like it turn it off, walk away and occupy your mind with something else useful you do like, unless you do like to keep your mind full of banal stuff that inflames you.

    I used to really get something from your opinions – now I just get a sharp pain in the head after digestion of your latest thought spews.
    I will think twice before I read your future posts.

  5. You may attack Lorde for her social background. But her song speaks of liberation. The soaring chorus, speaks to all of us. “We will never be royals”.

    Better than this, we don’t want to be.

  6. Is this piece an example of NZs infamous “tall poppy syndrome”? Sure looks like it. Or is it that you are only allowed to be successful if you claw your way out of the gutter getting shit on all the way to the top? In that case. I’m guessing you like John Key better than Lorde, ‘cos he wasn’t like “born into it”?

  7. One has to wonder why she calls her self “Lorde” if she has no illusions of nobility, or is she just being sarcastic?
    Perhaps I’m showing my ignorance as I have had no interest in following her or her career, however, taking her to task just because she comes from Devonport seems a bit harsh, especially during all the hoopla over Metiria’s castles in the air and technically coloured dream coat.

  8. Nice one Tim – I think the words you are looking for to describe Lorde are “shallow” and “pretentious”

    I think the over-riding annoying thing about Lorde is not the singer herself. There’s a place for all musical types in the word. Anika Moa, for instance, can be self-involved, maudlin and pretentious at (most) times. But the way over-the-top fawning by New Zealand, a result of its ingrained inferiority complex (little nation punching above its weight and all that) is a bit annoying.

  9. Gee ya can’t think of anything else to criticize? At least she’s not making the message that unless you get your kit off and put on a virtual porn show, you ain’t going to make it.
    I’ll take that as my grandkids grow up, if it’s all the same.
    She may not be the greatest wordsmith yet, and may never be, but she is only 17 and often with this sort of thing it is the meter of the words as much as the meaning – go listen to I am the Walrus to understand that one.
    I prefer the song Team anyway as far as music goes.
    Yes, she does not compose the music, that could see her fall short if her and Little part ways at any time, but it’s her journey (hate that word) not yours
    Many singer songwriters have collaborated with others – Elton John and Bernie Taupin spring to mind

  10. Yeah, Nah, Tim. A bit unkind, I think. As others have said she is only 17. And aren’t there more important “targets” to get taken down than this young woman, who, I presume, at the heart of it all, just wants to make music, and be as good as she can be. And has unexpectedly succeeded. The subsequent treatment, the celeb status, is not really something she has a lot of control over. Its a cheap shot to rewrite the lyrics to support your criticism. You are better than this.

  11. Music like all art is subject to a person’s taste. The Lorde phenomenon isn’t my cup of tea nor is it many others and there’s nothing right or wrong with that. With all the media hype because a kiwi made on it the world stage, what is tiring is how many people in this country seem to attach some bizarre nationalistic fervour to it. Any criticism or difference of opinion however civil can be met with harsh emotive scorn. Consider Peter Jackson and the Hobbit for example. Recently reading a Herald column which the author suggests the success of Lorde is all the more reason New Zealand should change the flag, illustrates how over-the-top the hype is becoming.

    With regard to suggestions of a generational anthem, contrast this with the music of the late Pete Seeger who influenced many musicians; Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Don McLean, etc. I don’t think there’s any comparison, given their music served as part of the backdrop for a period of massive social change. Rodriguez is other excellent example of the power of music and his is an extraordinary story, a humble working class guy with a mixed Latino and Indian background whose music is youthful, hopeful, defiant, witty and gritty inspired those in South Africa to defy the unacceptable Apartheid regime. Generation Y is very silent by comparison and I can’t see the current catalogue of Lorde inspiring a movement for social justice.

    Then again she’s only 17, in my opinion the greatest music is composed by those at least in their twenties. Consider Cat Stevens who was a teen pop star in the Sixties producing largely typical pop music of the times. After excessive partying and a bout of tuberculosis there was his album Mona Bone Jakon with a trash-can on the cover. The marked difference in music style later developed into the timeless and profound songs he’s largely remembered for.

    Tim’s columns on Lorde may be harsh but amongst that harshness he raises an alternative perspective that seems refreshing compared to the rampant media hype and for that I respect him, although the level of harshness may be counterproductive in getting his message across. Anyway, I think the whole entire entertainment and media industry is phoney to one degree or the other.

  12. Lorde was slagging off Miley Cyrus and others only a few months ago and is now schmoozing with her and her like at L.A parties.

  13. Somehow, I don’t think a choir made up of Belmont school pupils will be singing before the Royal Couple during their upcoming tour.

    “Lorde resonated with people around the world because of the message in her music, not where she was from,”
    Neil Curry

    Neil Curry is a London-based executive editor visiting New Zealand for a series of stories for the global news channel, including a piece about Lorde’s roots.

    For the international media, even the British media, the tired old pomp and glory, the musty trappings of empire, are no longer where it’s at.

    John Key’s attempt at gaining popularity in an election year with a Royal Tour is about to back fire like an overloaded old British Leyland bus struggling up the Paekakariki hill.

  14. Tim you’re the only person to get that this song is slagging off (in a very mean way really) the ‘industry’ and it’s hoopla. Top marks. The person who wrote it must had been real pissed off for some reason yeah? What’s a Maybach, by the way? Oh, a classic opulent car manufactured by mercedes benz w fully reclining back seat- be just right after school prom .
    But this industry deserves derision with it’s fake narcissism, backstabbing, hypocrisy and incestuous self obsession. Bit like the cricket really.

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