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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, from her debut extended play, The Love Club EP (2012). It was later included on her debut studio album, Pure Heroine (2013) and released through Universal Music. 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 and grime music and influences of alternative music, R&B and indie pop. Its lyrics detail the disapproval of the luxurious lifestyle of contemporary artists.

Contemporary critics received "Royals" with widespread acclaim and praised its musical style, lyrics and Lorde's vocal delivery. Several sites ranked it as one of the best songs of the year, with Slant and Consequence of Sound placing it in the top spot of their respective lists. The single garnered success on charts internationally, reaching the number one spot for nine consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, and simultaneously broke several records. It also peaked atop the record charts in other markets, including Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. "Royals" sold 10 million units worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all-time.

Joel Kefali directed the accompanying music video for "Royals" which premiered on Lorde's YouTube channel on 12 May 2013. It consists mostly of scenes of normal teenagers doing unexceptional things shot in slow motion. "Royals" won awards for Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards as well as the APRA Silver Scroll Award. A live mashup with Disclosure and AlunaGeorge's song "White Noise" at the Brit Awards was released as a charity single in 2014. In the media, the song has been credited for inspiring some artists to adopt its minimalist sound, and has been called an anthem for the millennials.

Background and writing[edit]

Lorde was born in 1996.[1] A&R representative Scott MacLachlan of Universal Music Group discovered her at age 12, when he saw footage of her performing at a school talent show in Auckland, New Zealand. At age 13, she began writing songs. MacLachlan tried unsuccessfully to set her up with several songwriters and producers to help her with production.[2] When she turned 15, he paired Lorde with Joel Little in December 2011. Her vocal performance and songwriting abilities impressed him, and he composed songs with musical structures based on her 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 "Royals'" lyrics in half an hour at her home in July 2012.[5][6] The pair recorded songs at Little's Golden Age Studios in Morningside, Auckland.[7] Within a week during a school break Lorde finished recording "Royals".[8] She thought of writing a song about the symbols of luxury displayed by some 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 (Royals) emblazoned across his shirt, she had its title.[9] She recalled during a 3 September 2013 VH1 interview, "It was just that word. It's really cool."

More broadly, historic aristocrats also inspired the song.[10] She 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 also said 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]

The songs she listened to while writing the song also influenced her. "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, Lorde said 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, she realised those songs had too many references to luxurious lifestyles which did not represent her reality, and was another 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 whatever, and at the time, me and my friends were at some house party worrying how to get home because we couldn't afford a cab. This is our reality! If I write songs about anything else then I'm not writing anything that's real."[13][15]

Release[edit]

Lorde made "Royals" available free of charge on the SoundCloud platform in November 2012, with The Love Club EP which contains four other songs.[16][17] The singer commented on the decision to release the free EP saying it was inconvenient for people her age to pay for her music since they are less likely to have access to a credit card. Reaction to the song on social media was immediate, and by December "Royals" was broadcast for the first time on New Zealand radio station George FM. After many downloads it was removed from SoundCloud.

On 8 March 2013, "Royals" was sent to online stores in New Zealand and Australia. Jason Flom, president of Lava Records, had heard the song on SoundCloud and immediately signed a contract with Lorde.[18] Flom began promoting Lorde and her song in the United States in March. 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 available on US online stores, but received little publicity.

According to Flom a key step to popularising the song internationally was the addition of "Royals" to Sean Parker's playlist at Spotify on 2 April.[20] The song subsequently debuted on Spotify's Viral Chart, which lists the most popular songs among the service's users. It reached the top in May 2013, and in the same month online sales increased in 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 available in August. In Austria and Finland, the track was digitally released on 2 August.[23][24] It was released on 5 August in France, Luxembourg and Portugal, and 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 The Weeknd, Rick Ross, Wale, Magazeen, and T-Pain, who was criticised for making changes to the lyrics and, according to MTV, turning the "original's anti-bling sentiments into a celebration of the extravagant life".[29][30][31][32][33]

Composition and lyrical interpretation[edit]

"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] Its instrumentation consists of finger snaps[38][39] bass[40] and percussion, and a "strong and merciless" hip hop beat as well as some electronic effects. Its low-fidelity production[41] is enhanced by synthesizers and Pro Tools software.[42] "Royals" minimalist instrumentation has been compared to Grimes,[43] Animal Collective and James Blake.[44] Its "synth-heavy production" was likened to that of Purity Ring and Noah "40" Shebib.[45] 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).[46] On the song, Lorde performs with a mezzo-soprano vocal range,[47] spanning F3 to F5.[46]

Lorde's husky vocals were compared to those of Amy Winehouse, Lana Del Rey and Florence Welch, for their low-pitch[48][49]—a hybrid between Adele and Ellie Goulding.[50] Chris Coplan of Consequence of Sound described them as "romantic and playful",[51][52] while Duncan Greive of The Guardian felt they were "simultaneously vulnerable and imperious".[53] NPR's Ann Powers found that Lorde's sultry voice, "intriguingly sleepy beats and lyrics [...] captured the exquisite ennui of a precocious teenager".[54]

"Royals" message was compared to Nirvana's 1991 single "Smells Like Teen Spirit", as it decries "the pop industry of which it became a part".[54] MTV's James Montgomery said that like "Teen Spirit", "Royals" could become Lorde's signature song.[55] According to Brad Wheeler of The Globe and Mail, the song expresses disapproval of the "bejewelled lifestyle" of hip hop artists: "But every song's like gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin' in the bathroom."[47] The Guardian's Paul Lester likened its theme to those of "Million Dollar Bills" (from The Love Club EP) and "Tennis Court" (from Pure Heroine).[56] Described as an "anti-luxury anthem", "Royals" expresses Lorde's displeasure at the sumptuous vivid style represented by some pop artists in their songs.[54] She criticizes consumer society, Spin magazine, and ridicules luxury items mentioned in some hip hop songs. Several excerpts from the song were described as a satire on hip hop culture, when the singer says she is not interested in "gold teeth, Maybachs and Cristal champagne" — valued by artists of the genre in their music videos and songs.[57] Other analysts noted thematic similarities—income inequality, or "unabashedly pop [songs] attacking unabashedly pop music"— with the songs: "Thrift Shop" (2012) by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, "Gangnam Style" (2012), "Primadonna" (2012) by Marina and the Diamonds, "The Fear" (2008) by Lily Allen, "Swimming Pools (Drank)" (2012) by Kendrick Lamar and "New Slaves" (2013) by Kanye West.[58][59]

Matthew Perpetua of BuzzFeed, felt 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.[57] The New York Times critic shared a similar view noting the track's verses describe "growing up in drab reality amid a popular culture that flaunts luxury brands and celebrates wildly conspicuous consumption".[60] The Guardian interprets "Royals" as a successful attempt to understand the "push and pull— why we love something which so often describes a world bearing scant resemblance to our own".[53] Jonah Bromwich of The Village Voice, however, remarked that "Royals" has the "potential to sound like a celebration" the very things" she is criticizing.[61] Lorde explained 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 criticism of a materialistic society.[62]

Critical reception[edit]

"Royals" received widespread acclaim from music critics. Digital Spy gave the song five out of five stars praising it and saying it has an "addictive hook that thrives on its simplicity" and suggesting "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 a positive review—specifically Lorde's vocal performance and the song's lyrical content. "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." He praised the song's "direct response" to excess and wealth.[53]

The lyrical appeal of the track was also appreciated by other analysts, like Rita Houston of National Public Radio. She described the song as a brilliant pop number with a brave underdog message, saying 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 "Royals" 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] The Observer's Kate Mossman called it "the 2013 song", continuing: "The formula was original: a playground chant, a cavernous hip-hop beat, harmonies that disappear upwards like wisps of smoke, and most importantly a message – a dry comment on the excesses of pop culture".[67]

Scott Interrante of PopMatters described "Royal"'s sound as "[d]istinct and cool, mixing hip-hop beats with Queen-style harmonies and sub-urban lyrics".[68] Billboard's Gary Trust called the single an "atmospheric song celebrating underdogs and spurning celebrity overkill".[69] Aziza Jackson of The Washington Times described it as "sheer genius in attempt and execution". "The soulful vocals, simple lyrics, and slow hypnotic beat make for a hit song packed with a powerful message."[70] 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."[71]

Recognition[edit]

Musicians like David Bowie,[72] Moby,[73] Dizzee Rascal[74] and Dave Grohl[75] praised "Royals".

"Royals" appeared on several year-end top songs lists. Many media sources, including Slant,[76] The Boston Herald[77] and Consequence of Sound named it the best song of 2013.[78] Other publications such as Rolling Stone[79] and The Guardian included "Royals" as the runner-up in their respective year-end lists.[80] A number of the publications, including Billboard,[81] NME,[82] The Huffington Post,[83] and Time included the song with-in the top ten of their year-end lists.[84] Other publications who placed "Royals" outside the top ten included Spin,[34] Paste,[85] PopMatters,[86] and Pretty Much Amazing.[87] It was also included at number 20 on another list from Time.[88] The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop annual critics' poll to find the best music of 2013 ranked "Royals" at number two after Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" (2013).[89]

"Royals" appeared on several all-time and decade year-end lists. The Daily Telegraph placed the song at number 77 on their list of the 100 greatest songs of all time,[90] while Rolling Stone ranked the song at number nine on their 21st century list.[91] Pitchfork placed the song at 66 on their decade end list, while NME placed the song at 30.[92][93] Billboard ranked the song at number eight in their "Top 20 Billboard Hits of the 2010s" list.[94] Treble magazine included "Royals" at number 33 on their decade list.[95]

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.[96][97] "Royals" was nominated for three awards for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance, winning in the last two categories.[98] Lorde became the youngest New Zealander to win a Grammy and became the third youngest act to do so.[99][100] "Royals" also won Single of the Year at the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards.[101] Listeners' votes put the song in second place on Australian radio station Triple J's Hottest 100 of 2013, after Vance Joy's "Riptide" (2013).[102]

Chart performance[edit]

North America[edit]

In its first seven days on sale, "Royals" sold 85,000 downloads and debuted at number 90 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending 7 July 2013.[103] In a subsequent interview, Lorde said, "I had a sneaking suspicion that it might do all right."[104] On 31 August "Royals" moved up to number 17 on the Hot 100, becoming Lorde's first top 20 entry in the United States.[105] Between 24 August and 7 September "Royals" had the largest increase in digital sales, a feat that had previously been accomplished by Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" in 2012.[106] With sales of 307,000 copies (up 17%), "Royals" became the fourth release by an up-and-coming singer to reach the top spot of the Digital Songs chart. The song had the highest number of digital downloads for five non-consecutive weeks.[107][108]

On the 12 October chart, "Royals" replaced "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus, who had been at the top for two straight weeks, as the number one song in the United States. 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 make it known to a wider audience.[109] The song's rise to the top spot was attributed to 294,000 downloads made that week, 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.[110] The song would eventually top the charts for nine consecutive weeks—the longest period for a female singer 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] The song 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] It also 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.[114] As of December 2014, the song has sold 5.9 million copies in the US.[115]

Since its release in the United States, "Royals" has broken many records. Many of these records were a result of Lorde's young age. At sixteen years and eleven months old, Lorde became the youngest female artist to be at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 since American singer Tiffany who, at the age of sixteen, topped the chart with "I Think We're Alone Now" in 1987.[110][116] 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 at age seventeen with "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" in 2007.[69][117] Lorde became the youngest artist whose song stayed more than eight weeks in the number one position, a feat that was previously achieved by 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".[118]

"Royals" set many records in alternative radio stations. On August 2013, Lorde became the first solo female artist to top the Billboard Alternative Songs chart since Tracy Bonham in 1996.[119] The song 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.[120] "Royals"'s success has been credited to heavy airplay on stations playing different genres of music including modern rock, adult contemporary, rhythmic contemporary and urban contemporary.[121]

In Canada, "Royals" debuted at number 58 on the Canadian Hot 100 and in the following weeks experienced a steady rise on 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.[122][123] However, "Royals" returned to the top of the chart on the 23rd of that month, for a total of seven non-consecutive weeks at number one.[124] Throughout 2013, the single sold more than 429,000 copies in the country and ended the year as the sixth best-selling song. It was later awarded seven platinum plaques by Music Canada in return for more than 560,000 copies distributed throughout the nation.

Europe and Oceania[edit]

The song debuted at number three on the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) Chart on 3 October 2013,[125] before climbing to number one the following week selling a further 309,000 copies.[126][127] Birdy's "Wings" replaced it seven days later.[128]

On 28 October, the Official Charts Company (OCC) confirmed the song would enter the UK Singles Charts with sales of 82,551 units.[129] On 28 October "Royals" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart. Lorde became the youngest solo artist to score a UK number one single since Billie Piper's 1998 song "Because We Want To" at the age of fifteen.[130][131] It competed for the top spot with James Arthur's "You're Nobody 'til Somebody Loves You", taking it with a sales difference of 7,000 copies.[132] The song sold 82,551 units.[129] 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'!"[133] 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 the British territory.[134] 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 other regions of Europe, "Royals" also experienced commercial success, reaching the top position on the Euro Digital Songs chart and landing within the top ten in countries Germany, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Portugal, among others.[135][136]

In Asia, the song performed moderately. It peaked at number 37 on the Gaon International Singles Chart in South Korea, with initial sales of 4,331 copies.[137] In Japan, the song peaked at number 16.[138] "Royals" debuted at number one on the New Zealand Top 40 on 15 March 2013 and remained in the top position for three weeks.[139] In Australia, "Royals" was released simultaneously with "The Love Club" and was classified as a single for charting purposes. It 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.[140] The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) has certified it six-times Platinum for shipping 420,000 units.[141] The nation's fifth best-selling single of the year, the song was awarded a total of seven Platinum discs by ARIA for selling more than 490,000 units. "Royals" was the most executed on the Internet through streaming services in 2013. As of November 2014, "Royals" had sold over 10 million copies worldwide.[142]

Music videos[edit]

Original version[edit]

Background[edit]

The accompanying music video for "Royals" was directed by Joel Kefali, and shot near the singer's native country of New Zealand.[143] It was released on Lorde's YouTube channel on 12 May 2013.[144] Andrew Stroud was in charge of the photographic direction while Amber Easby handled production for the video. The video consists mostly of scenes of normal teenagers doing unexceptional things shot in slow motion. The actors, credited in the video as Robbie, Callum, Hadley and Abraham, are Lorde's schoolmates.[144]

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Lorde revealed that the concept of the video was to show how teenage life can be "so mundane and so boring." She compared the feeling to the "waiting period of your life" where you cannot get into bars, drive, etc.[145] In another interview with the publication, Lorde revealed that she wanted to create a cinematic work of art that viewers could immerse themselves in. She felt her presence in the video was largely unnecessary. She opens and closes the video, which includes 30 seconds of her performing the song. This structure made some viewers uncomfortable prompting her to say: "If I can get that kind of response from people, then I think I'm doing something right."[146] Lorde also explained the reason for her absence in the video, saying:

With pop music and pop musicians, you know everything about everyone all the time, particularly their physical appearance. With female musicians that’s made a big thing of and I think people, certainly with me, have appreciated a bit of mystery. When I first released the EP [The Love Club] I didn’t have any imagery of myself, just this one illustration that was the cover of the EP. So that was a bit of a talking point. [...] Since then I’ve been very selective about the visual content that comes out of me. It’s something I feel strongly about.

Synopsis[edit]

A screenshot of the video showing the main protagonist sitting in a bench with friends. According to Lorde, this is a picture of the "straight forward life" she grew up with, where she spent most of her time riding around on bikes and taking photos.[146]

The video begins with a shot of an undone bed, in monochrome colors as the instrumental from "Biting Down" (2013) plays in the background. The scene then fades to a camera moving away from a suburban neighborhood. A boy with a silver chain necklace is seen taking a shower. A television is then shown in static before the scene changes with the boy is in different shots, staring outside his bedroom window, laying down on a couch, eating breakfast and cutting his hair in a buzz cut style.

The following scene shows the boy in an indoor swimming complex. He then appears in a living room with boxing gloves as he trains with another person. He then stares at a mirror and pulls down his bloody lip from the injuries he sustained from boxing. The video continues with different locations around the city. Lorde is then shown singing part of the song's lyrics. The scene then transitions back to the boy, waiting on a bus stop with other friends. He is shown laying his head next the bus window, in a mundane expression. The video ends with the camera moving towards the suburban neighborhood from the start of the video.

In the outro, a shot of the boy arriving at a tennis court at night is shown with the instrumental from "Tennis Court" (2013) playing in the background.

Reception[edit]

Vasil from Stereofox stated that the video "parades just pure minimalism." He called the cinematography "beautifully sterile" and praised the director for combining humor and smug undertones with "slick geometrical aesthetic and clever editing".[147] Slant placed the video at number three on their best music videos of 2013 list, noting that her absence from it "speaks to both the 16-year-old’s 'postcode' shame and her friends’ suburban-teen ennui".[148]

The video won the award for Best Rock Video at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. Critics were divided over its placement in the rock category. Ethan Sacks of the New York Daily News wrote the singer's win in the rock category "over actual rock bands", angered many rock fans, but stressed that Lorde was as surprised by the choice as anyone else.[149] Alex Young of Consequence of Sound, however, explained that the reason Lorde won in the rock category was due to the absence of male nominees. Young believed that 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".[150] Mathew Coyte of Rolling Stone Australia was unhappy with the artist's win saying that "Royals" was by "no means a rock song by anyone's definition, it's an electronic track". He found it strange the song was not nominated in the pop category.[151] It received a nomination for Best Female Video in the aforementioned ceremony but lost to Katy Perry's "Dark Horse" (2014). It also won best music video at the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards.[152]

Other versions[edit]

A US version of the video was released using the same clips as the original; however, it intersperses more clips of Lorde singing. It also omits scenes from the beginning and the end, which referred to two other Lorde songs. This cut the running time from 4:02 to 3:21. As of July 2018 the video has amassed over 720 million views. Months after the release of the US 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.[153] 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".[154]

Live performances[edit]

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.[155] In New Zealand, she made her stage debut at a small venue in Auckland for a reserved audience.[156] On 18 September, Lorde made her television debut on New Zealander 3rd Degree, and on the same day was interviewed by journalist Samantha Hayes. Later, the singer made her debut in the United Kingdom on the BBC program Later... with Jools Holland; Lorde also played the song at Madame Jojo's in London that day.[157][158]

Lorde made her US television debut singing "Royals" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on 1 October 2013 backed by a keyboardist and a drummer. She also performed "White Teeth Teens", but it was shown only online.[159][160] Lorde's performance was met with positive reviews; she was praised by the media for an "impressive stage presence for a sixteen-year-old girl."[161] She later sang the song on VH1 television show Big Morning Buzz Live on 4 October 2013.[162][163] Lorde performed "Royals" on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on 9 October 2013.[164] She opened the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards with "Royals".[165] She later performed it on Q in Canada and sang "Buzzcut Season".[166] Days later, the singer appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and introduced "Royals", "Team", and other tracks from The Love Club EP and Pure Heroine.[167]

In early 2014, Lorde was a performer at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.[168] She sang "Royals" during the ceremony, but with some changes to its instrumentation. The presentation, which featured projections of statues behind the singer, was praised by the media and personalities such as Mac Miller and model Chrissy Teigen, and made Lorde the most talked about artist on social networks during the ceremony.[169][170][171] At the 2014 BRIT Awards, she performed an electro version of "Royals" with Disclosure, which transitioned into their song "White Noise" featuring AlunaGeorge.[172][173] The BRIT Awards released the "Royals/White Noise" performance at the iTunes Stores on 19 February 2014;[174] proceeds from its sales went to the charity War Child.[175] It debuted at number 72 on the UK Singles Chart.[176] In April, Lorde appeared for the first time in Brazil at the Lollapalooza festival and included "Royals" on her set list.[177] G1 portal held a poll days later with festival participants and readers of the site. Her "Royals" performance was voted "the 2014 festival success", with the approval of 37% of respondents.[178] The song was also added to the repertoire of the album's promotional tour.[179]

Covers and media usage[edit]

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"

Other artists have recorded or performed versions of "Royals". In August 2013, Selena Gomez performed a cover during her Stars Dance Tour appearance in Vancouver, Canada.[180] Mayer Hawthorne covered "Royals" on Vevo's Unexpected Covers series that used more electric guitar and heavy percussion.[181] Pentatonix and Cimorelli recorded the song a cappella style; both uploaded their versions on YouTube.[181] American girl group Fifth Harmony included the song on Cher Lloyd's I Wish Tour.[182] Saints Of Valory, incorporated a "country-tinged, rocker twist" on their cover.[183] American singer Jason Derulo performed an R&B-style version on BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge in December 2013.[184] On 6 October 2013, American band Paper Route released a cover version as a single.[185] Postmodern Jukebox also covered the song in October 2013, featuring Puddles Pity Party on vocals.[186]

Bruce Springsteen performed an acoustic cover of "Royals" in April 2014 in Auckland, New Zealand during his High Hopes Tour.[187] Lorde responded to it, 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."[188] American spoof-folk duo Black Simon & Garfunkel performed a cover of the song on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, which Esquire considered the best cover of the song by any artist.[189] "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded a parody of the song titled "Foil" for his album Mandatory Fun.[190] Its music video was released online on 16 July 2014.[191] Capital FM described the work as "equally strange and brilliant".[192]

Current New York Mayor Bill de Blasio used "Royals" at his victory speech in Brooklyn in November 2013. According to The New York Times, the song was chosen because it dealt with social class inequality, one of de Blasio's main campaign themes.[193] Samsung used the track in a commercial for the Galaxy Note 3.[194][195] "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.[196] 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.[197] 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.[198] A more classical rendition of the song was used in a scene during episode 18 of the TV series Reign.[199] In 2014, "Royals" was featured in the rhythm game Fantasia: Music Evolved,[200] and The Crew video game 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.[201]

Impact[edit]

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[202]

Lorde was considered one of the most popular personalities of 2013. Many analysts emphasized the acclaim the song earned despite the minimal promotion it received when it started to gain an audience. Other publications commented that it was surprising that a song with such a critical view, performed by someone of such a young age, with underground status, led many of music's most popular charts and garnered international acclaim.[203][204]

"Royals" has been credited with changing the pop music landscape because of its take on common modern pop themes. Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph, said that "Royals" contained a "solid letter between expressionless cynicism and pleasure in its own disenchantment", which "serves as 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."[205] According to McCormick, Lorde clearly expresses no interest in "luxury products and empty lifestyle cliches", and makes the pop music genre sound "ridiculous". He credits its strong public appeal to the singer's use of "we" in the lyrics. McCormick adds that Lorde addresses her message to a generation that does not take "such luxurious objects seriously". He ends saying, "Lorde is the pin-up of self-generation."[205] Other journalists echoed McCormick's opinion, describing the song as an anthem for the "millennial generation".[206][207][208] Her lyrics were described as "anti-luxury" and Lorde as a "counterculture" artist.[209]

Matthew Perpetua from BuzzFeed noted "Royals"' are based on growing up in a society subjected to 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 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".[57] Newsweek noted how her Grammy wins "marked a cultural turning point in a society exhausted by consumerism", remarking that Lorde said what "millions of adults could not". It commented further that the singer's songs are "not worshipful of the dollar" the way many songs produced at the turn of the millennium are. Even though other songs such as "Thrift Shop" tackled the topic, 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 said 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."[210][53]

"Royals" is credited with inspiring other artists as well as the rise of "whisperpop".[211] The melodic styles and lyrics of artists such as Halsey, Tove Lo, Daya, Meg Myers, Melanie Martinez, Bea Miller, Alessia Cara, Troye Sivan and Banks have all been compared to Lorde.[212][213][202][214] Elle Hunt from The Spinoff stated that "elements of post-‘Royals’ pop" can be heard in songs such as "Hands to Myself" (2016) and "Bad Liar" (2017) by Selena Gomez, "New Americana" (2014) and "Now or Never" (2017) by Halsey, "Gold" by Kiiara (2015), "Here" (2015) by Alessia Cara as well as "Blank Space" (2014) and "Look What You Made Me Do" (2017) by Taylor Swift.[214] Peter Robinson from The Guardian credited Lorde and Lana Del Rey with the rise of "whisperpop" in mainstream music. An unnamed source interviewed by the publication said, "When I was signed it was just after Lorde too, so labels were wanking over trying to get loads of girls who were like her."[53] Forbes writer Nick Messitte said that "Royals" success helped the re-release Lo's song "Habits (Stay High)" become a top five hit in the United States. Messitte writes "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.[215] Messitte felt that Lorde changed the way contemporary pop music is viewed. David Bowie called her "the future of music",[72] and Dave Grohl, lead singer of Foo Fighters, described "Royals" as revolutionary.[75]

Track listings[edit]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Belgium (BEA)[302] Gold 15,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[303] 7× Platinum 560,000^
Germany (BVMI)[304] Platinum 300,000^
Italy (FIMI)[305] 2× Platinum 60,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[306] 6× Platinum 0*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[307] 5× Platinum 50,000*
Sweden (GLF)[308] 4× Platinum 160,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[309] Gold 15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[310] Platinum 600,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[311] Diamond 10,000,000dagger[115]
Venezuela (APFV)[312] Platinum 10,000^
Streaming
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[313] Platinum 2,600,000^
Summaries
Worldwide (IFPI 10,000,000[142]

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

dagger Since May 2013, Recording Industry Association of America certifications for digital singles include on-demand audio and/or video song streams in addition to downloads.[314]

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label Catalogue no.
United States[315] 3 June 2013 Adult album alternative None
Austria[216] 2 August 2013 Digital download Universal
Belgium[316]
Denmark[317]
Finland[318]
Greece[317]
Indonesia[317]
Ireland[317]
Japan[317]
Norway[317]
France[319] 5 August 2013
Italy[320]
Luxembourg[321]
Portugal[322]
Singapore[323]
Spain[324]
United States[325][326] 13 August 2013 Contemporary hit radio
  • Lava
  • Republic
3 September 2013 Rhythmic contemporary
Germany[219] 13 September 2013 Digital download Universal
Italy[327] 20 September 2013 Contemporary hit radio
Germany[328] 10 December 2013 CD single 0602537693191
United Kingdom[329] 18 February 2014 Digital download Virgin None
Worldwide[174] 19 February 2014 "Royals/White Noise" download Brit Awards
New Zealand[217][218] 4 April 2014 "Royals" / "400 Lux" download Universal
"Royals" / "Tennis Court" download

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]