Lorde On David Guetta: "He's so gross."
November 2, 2013 11:03 AM   Subscribe

A journalist gets fantastic access to Lorde before she tops the charts around the world. The long article gives the backstory to the precocious 16 year old and explains how she was instrumental in creating her well-received debut album Pure Heroine.
posted by meech (175 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Perhaps I'm showing my age but she sounds exactly like Melanie, a 70s folkie. And for the curious, until it gets taken down.
posted by epo at 11:25 AM on November 2, 2013


from article: Ella’s songs, meanwhile, are very much her vision, and hers alone. That meant there was no one to deflect attention to when a blogger writing on the website feministing.com decried ‘Royals’ as racist. Months earlier, over burgers and cokes on a sunny winter’s day, Ella and I had discussed the potential for the song to be misinterpreted. Even though “gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin’ in the bathroom” – a set of black music clichés – is immediately followed by the rock’n’roll excess of “trashin’ the hotel room”, it’s the nature of contemporary commentary to intentionally misconstrue in the endless quest for clicks.

“I mean, I was 15 when I wrote that song,” says Ella, a little sadly. “I wasn’t thinking about anyone’s cultural aspirations. I was being a bit silly. I don’t know. I can understand [the response] now, and it’s probably not my place to even comment on it. It’s just one of those kind of uncomfortable grey areas.”


It's very clear-eyed of her to understand that. I gave the album a few listens, but the lyrics don't stun me with their depth as I guess they're supposed to according to everyone else; they sound (surprise!) like 15-year-old lyrics. It's funny; just a few hours ago I was sort of trying to work out how I feel about the problems I see in "Royals" in the last Lorde thread. Now, seeing her say that she sees that it was a little silly, I can't help but hope she rides out the storm of this album safely enough to maybe give herself some years and come back when she's matured a bit. I wish her luck, anyway.

And she's right about David Guetta. Also, the author of the article seems to play up Guetta's importance a bit more than one should, I think. A big deal he may be, but "the most influential and successful producer on the planet over the past five years"? - that's going a bit far, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 11:31 AM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


well, epo, that didn't take long.
posted by jpe at 11:38 AM on November 2, 2013


jpe: “well, epo, that didn't take long.”

Weirdly, it only seems to be taken down on mobile.
posted by koeselitz at 11:42 AM on November 2, 2013


What it's all about these days, creating blockbusters (movies, music, books) - the producers put a huge amount of money and effort behind a small number of bets, while the rest of the catalog gets middling support. It looks like a classic blockbuster bet, but they portray her as a rebel outside the blockbuster system. Who knows.
posted by stbalbach at 11:49 AM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is the incessantly-referenced Belmont Idol middle school performance video anywhere online?
posted by How the runs scored at 11:54 AM on November 2, 2013


Months earlier, over burgers and cokes on a sunny winter’s day, Ella and I had discussed the potential for the song to be misinterpreted. Even though “gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin’ in the bathroom” – a set of black music clichés – is immediately followed by the rock’n’roll excess of “trashin’ the hotel room”

I am just so fucking over the simpleton mathematics of political correctness. Finally, a proper hill to die on. I love this music, and how awesome is it that a 16-year-old unknown can have this much success, especially relative to the 16-year-old "music bloggers" trying to bring her down. And way to call out mainstream hip-hop for being so full of materialistic "I am better than you" bullshit. 15 years ago a lot of vocal people actually held this opinion. So bring it on.
posted by phaedon at 12:02 PM on November 2, 2013 [17 favorites]


Watching the usual Social Justice Warriors engage in internecine warfare over who's most sensitive and outraged over Royals ("but she's attacking black aspirations!"/"but classism!") has been darkly amusing in the Judean People's Front/People's Front of Judea sort of way that leaves the modern left endlessly devouring its own children.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:04 PM on November 2, 2013 [31 favorites]


Sick to death of Royals at this point, but I think she is doing some really neat stuff. Her songs are sparse and produced in a way that nicely separates it from monotony of most radio pop production. I think Tennis Court is the best song on the album, especially accompanied with the video.

I also like her thoughtful response to what is really a pretty shallow accusation of racism in the lyrics of Royals.
posted by Corduroy at 12:07 PM on November 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Excuse me, Lorde is fucking awesome. kthxbai
posted by New England Cultist at 12:09 PM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Total aside: people were discussing this now ubiquitous longform parallax presentation in the 'girl in the closet' thread, where the style enhanced the story. This article is a good example of the style run rampant over the content.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:18 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


In Royals, the pause that "Cadillacs in our dreams" brings – I'm still trying to understand whether the flow breaks down intentionally, or it is just a flat lyric, the germ of the original idea that the author couldn't let go of as the song grew.
posted by zippy at 12:18 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


And way to call out mainstream hip-hop for being so full of materialistic "I am better than you" bullshit. 15 years ago a lot of vocal people actually held this opinion. So bring it on.

This has never been controversial, so, uh, ok? The shitty thing is painting all of hip-hop with that brush, and the much shittier things are painting all black culture with it and claiming that it says something intrinsic about black people, but just observing that, yes, hip-hop has a lot of "materialistic 'I am better than you' bullshit" isn't some big stand. Every genre has its own tropes and sometimes they're overused cliches (but often there's still a lot of nuance in their use).
posted by jason_steakums at 12:22 PM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Posted this on MeTa as well, but I went as Lorde for Halloween. By all rights I should resent her -- I was as smart and as ambitious as she was when I was 16 but my family more or less neglected my talents. When I look at her, though, I nod and say "Good on you." She's so undeniably talented and insightful that it's exciting to see her succeed.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:27 PM on November 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


The shitty thing is painting all of hip-hop with that brush, and the much shittier things are painting all black culture with it and claiming that it says something intrinsic about black people, but just observing that, yes, hip-hop has a lot of "materialistic 'I am better than you' bullshit" isn't some big stand.

Thanks for making my point.
posted by phaedon at 12:31 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


phaedon: “And way to call out mainstream hip-hop for being so full of materialistic ‘I am better than you’ bullshit.”

The irony being, of course, that it's easy to hear "we are better than you" in the lyrics of "Royals" – "we're not caught up in your love affair." That right there is probably why it irked some people, myself included. She shows maturity when she admits that there's a point there. It is an "uncomfortable grey area." But that said I also see what she means when she says she was just being silly; it's intended to strike a romanticized chord of solidarity, and the exclusion it implies is just the byproduct of where she's coming from. I hate to harp on her age, but she invoked it herself, aptly I think, in explaining why she did what she did in the song. 15-year-olds see the world like that – black and white, in terms of "us" and "them," so it made sense to her to write the lyric in a way that, to some, sounded like the kind of crass classist dismissal American whites love to indulge in by dismissing rap as terrible or intellectually inferior. But why should a 15-year-old girl in New Zealand understand the cultural background of American hip hop, even in the age of the internet? That's asking too much. Which is why I don't really hold "Royals" against her.

Ghostride The Whip: “Watching the usual Social Justice Warriors engage in internecine warfare over who's most sensitive and outraged over Royals ('but she's attacking black aspirations!'/'but classism!') has been darkly amusing in the Judean People's Front/People's Front of Judea sort of way that leaves the modern left endlessly devouring its own children.”

The use of "Social Justice Warriors" as an insult always strikes me as incredibly vulgar and obscene, though I think I agree with some shades of your point. Tastes can't become something we attempt to enforce through outrage; and the tragedy of the modern left is that, after Richard Rorty, all we have left is outrage. However, in the interest of maybe providing a positive critique, I want to attempt to point out that hip hop's obsession with material things is not necessarily simple, crass, base materialism. It is part of a whole, and it functions in that whole. Money and things represent power, and they represent pleasure. Kenny Werner explained this eloquently in the context of jazz some years ago, in his fine book on musicianship, Effortless Mastery:

“As enslaved peoples are separated from their religion, the lyrics of the song change. The cry is for sense pleasures: more sex, money, alcohol. How many blues and rock and roll songs speak about that? Desire for 'my God' is supplanted by the desire for 'my man.' Mankind's vision decays, entangled by the search for temporary relief from its subjugation to false gods. But the cry is still there, even if man no longer knows for what. It is the yearning for unity, for oneness as experienced in the mother's womb, attuned to the rhythm of her heartbeat. The muffled song can still be heard from the God within 'seeking to behold himself,' and man's yearning to be one with him.”

Lorde isn't supposed to know all that. It'd be nice if she didn't dismiss it, but I don't think she even realized she was doing that. That's why I wish her the best, and hope she can stay out of the limelight for a while after this and catch her breath and give her talent some room to breathe.
posted by koeselitz at 12:34 PM on November 2, 2013 [17 favorites]


phaedon: “15 years ago a lot of vocal people actually held this opinion.”

I can't for the life of me figure this out, even from context – what opinion do you mean when you say this?
posted by koeselitz at 12:37 PM on November 2, 2013


Thanks for making my point.

All I'm saying is getting all fighty and "bring it on" is a bit much, it's kind of a non-thing as just an observation. She's not getting flak for just saying that, there is also a pretty valid interpretation of judgement in the song which she herself admits creates an uncomfortable grey area, so that's a different thing entirely.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:38 PM on November 2, 2013


I have nothing to contribute to this thread except for this Lorde cover.
posted by sparkletone at 12:44 PM on November 2, 2013 [16 favorites]


koeselitz, I was talking about how a lot of people were vocally against the selling out of hip-hop, "within" the hip-hop community, and how well-established that was in the 90's, both in terms of the production of "underground" (in retrospect I hate that term) hip-hop and its legitimate following. In this context, I think defending Lorde on the level of ignorant, young New Zealander is overly dismissive. One might wonder what kind of message music videos of ratchets shaking their asses, Lamborghinis and diamond-encrusted chalices might be sending abroad. This is success. This is what your life should look like. This is what you should be jealous of. Maybe Lorde's not an ignorant 16-year-old. Maybe she's taking a stand, and it resonates with people.

I do like how you dragged Rorty into this. I'm a huge fan. Where does he talk about outrage being all we have left?
posted by phaedon at 12:47 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should say: when I first heard everybody talking about the new Lorde album being a sensation, I was a bit confused. "It was okay," I thought, "but it's not really as good as 'Monsterman' was." I confess I was a bit disappointed to discover that America hadn't suddenly fallen in love with theatrical monster metal from Finland. Anyway, as precociously talented as Lorde may be, I'm willing to bet she'll never win the Eurovision Song Contest.
posted by koeselitz at 12:51 PM on November 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


phaedon: “koeselitz, I was talking about how a lot of people were vocally against the selling out of hip-hop, "within" the hip-hop community, and how well-established that was in the 90's, both in terms of the production of "underground" (in retrospect I hate that term) hip-hop and its legitimate following. In this context, I think defending Lorde on the level of ignorant, young New Zealander is overly dismissive. One might wonder what kind of message music videos of ratchets shaking their asses, Lamborghinis and diamond-encrusted chalices might be sending abroad. This is success. This is what your life should look like. This is what you should be jealous of. Maybe Lorde's not an ignorant 16-year-old. Maybe she's taking a stand, and it resonates with people.”

That makes some sense. I will say that I don't listen to hip hop a whole lot these days, precisely because of this (well, and more because I can't stomach sexism as well as I could when I was younger for some reason). I guess I don't want to make out as though I'm defending materialism, which I have a problem with, obviously. But "Royals" seems to lean pretty heavily on poverty as a marker of authenticity, which is something I think is problematic.

“I do like how you dragged Rorty into this. I'm a huge fan. Where does he talk about outrage being all we have left?”

Well, I don't want to derail this discussion with my thoughts on modern liberalism, but: in the vacuum left by the collapse of the Old Left and the New Left, Rorty, feeling that 'absolutism' of any kind has no rational basis and must be eschewed, tried to reconstruct liberalism as strictly and solely an attempt to minimize suffering. But if that's all liberalism is or can be, then it is no longer a project of structural change or an attempt to make the world more closely align with a set of practical goals and ideals; it is only a project of pointing out and publicizing suffering wherever it occurs in the hopes of stopping it. In other words: outrage. This has been hastened and intensified (and complicated) by the rise of the internet, and there's a lot more there, but that's how I see it, anyway.
posted by koeselitz at 1:01 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love Lorde, "Royals," and the slow, trickling rise of anti-capitalist/consumerist pop music. But I do believe it's worth serious thought that, despite the already loooong history of POC / African-American musicians calling out each other / black culture / mainstream culture, the calling-out songs that have hit it big recently are by white artists, with "Royals" and Macklemore's "Thrift Shop." (I also love Macklemore / "Thrift Shop.")

Of course just because they're white doesn't mean Lorde and Macklemore can't comment on the culture they see. But it has a different effect and response coming from them. I see the comparatively moderate success of POC artists like Kat Dahlia and Janelle Monae (who I've only heard of BECAUSE they're fairly popular). Why is it more mainstream-popular now to hear these sentiments coming from musicians who aren't visibly part of the culture they're decrying?
posted by nicebookrack at 1:12 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, listening to the album right now. I guess, maybe I'm an old man out of touch with what should be "hip and now", but I really like how this album doesn't feel like the over-produced onslaught that seems to be so popular these days. It's obviously very carefully put together, but it has a sparseness which I find appealing. She's obviously a talented singer and writer. I don't have the kind of ear to hear whether autotune has been applied in a subtle way, but there is an organic feel to her vocals which seems to be lacking in a lot of the pop music I hear these days.

Anyway, interesting post, interesting article (beautiful online reading experience, too), and an artist I only came to hear of when Carbon Leaf used Royals for entrance music at a show a few weeks ago.

I look forward to seeing what she does in the future. I hope her sudden world-wide blow-up doesn't destroy her.
posted by hippybear at 1:14 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Corduroy: “I think Tennis Court is the best song on the album, especially accompanied with the video.”

I prefer that song myself, personally. It is more interesting, and has a lot of intriguing little statements about modern life that are kind of obvious but frankly most interesting because they're self-reflexive. "It's a new art form / showin' people how little we care..." which is as descriptive of her style as much as anything else – and I think she probably knows that.

sparkletone: “I have nothing to contribute to this thread except for this Lorde cover.”

Okay, that is completely awesome. "Royals" is 100% better when sung by Puddles, the Sad Clown with the Golden Voice.
posted by koeselitz at 1:18 PM on November 2, 2013


Why is it more mainstream-popular now to hear these sentiments coming from musicians who aren't visibly part of the culture they're decrying?

Well, I would think that a) Macklemore would think himself part of the culture he criticises (if that's what Thrift Shop was, which I'm not quite convinced off) and b) Lorde is taking aim at consumerist pop culture in general, not so much hip-hop, let alone black American culture.

In her case, you can't really apply an American context to her song, which is I think the mistake that Feministing article made, thinking it was a slam dunk to make gold teeth and maybachs into hip-hop culture into Black culture therefore racism. Even if you can make a case for this to be dogwhistles, those would only make sense in an American cultural context, not so much outside of the US. Consumerist fantasies are all over pop music, with hip-hop only its most visible component, so it's simpler to think that this was what Lorde was singing about, rather than believe she somehow wanted to make this about race when she was coming from outside the context that would make these dogwhistles work.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:22 PM on November 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


Koeselitz, I'd argue that with the line "we're not caught up in your love affair", it is almost impossible (for me) to figure out who is actually saying that and what it is even referring to.
posted by Corduroy at 1:27 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like so much of popular music I think this is about aspiration.

Royals reaches out to the people who are alienated by the shallow monetary aspiration of the impoverished. To people who have money in the bank (so they don't daydream of fancy cars and drugs), but have their own aspirations. What dream does Royals speak to? The dream of authenticity? The dream of contentment? Youth?
posted by idiopath at 1:32 PM on November 2, 2013


The irony being, of course, that it's easy to hear "we are better than you" in the lyrics of "Royals" – "we're not caught up in your love affair."

Yeah, in some ways "Royals" is as much an aspirational fantasy as the music it's commenting on, the fantasy of not having to worry about money. "Life is great without a care"–I'll take that over a thousand tigers on gold leashes.

Lorde could have highlighted this disconnect: maybe put more ironic emphasis on 'let me live that fantasy.' But it would be a very different song.
posted by nicebookrack at 1:34 PM on November 2, 2013


So, I think I like this album enough to buy it. That's surprising to me, actually. But it is fun for me to actually like something that is part of the musical zeitgeist for the first time in years.

Thanks for this post.
posted by hippybear at 1:38 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, "let's go down to the tennis court and talk it out" brings to mind Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Surely she wasn't referencing that consciously? (Or maybe she was)
posted by hippybear at 1:45 PM on November 2, 2013


It's not like materialism is unique to black culture or hip hop culture or whatever you want to call it. It's just different. You can tell by the actual behavior of people in our culture at large that people are super materialistic. The difference with hip hop culture is that it tends to be ostentatious and flashy, and in the mainstream culture it's gauche to openly display wealth or express acquisitiveness. This is explained by Kanye West, the poet of a generation:
I'm talking George Tenet, I seen him the other day
He asked me about my Maybach, think he had the same
Except mine tinted and his might have been rented
You know white people get money, don't spend it
Or maybe they get money, buy a business
I rather buy 80 gold chains and go ign'ant
posted by chrchr at 1:46 PM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Started from the bottom now we here." -Drake

I thought the point of materialism and grand standing in hip-hop (/rap?) was that a lot of people came from nothing and now they are rich beyond their wildest dreams and had no idea that it could happen to them. That was sort of why people didn't like Jay-Z's last album, because it's about him being obscenely rich and successful, which everyone has already heard from him, whereas his earlier albums were about him being a drug dealer and how now he doesn't have to do that because he has money. That's an incredibly, incredibly loose rundown, but that was sort of my interpretation of it.

It's like how rappers get rich and then they buy their mothers brand new everything.
posted by gucci mane at 2:02 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


She's not getting flak for just saying that, there is also a pretty valid interpretation of judgement in the song which she herself admits creates an uncomfortable grey area, so that's a different thing entirely.

This is more of a sidenote, but I'm actually of the opinion that if you're a commentator on the internet, you're better off writing something insanely inaccurate or unjust if you want to get noticed. With that in mind, if Flores had written something that actually approached a legitimate criticism of Lorde's music, it would have been more easily digested and we probably wouldn't be talking about it. So congratulations all around, I'm talking about your stupid essay.

I don't think Lorde is painting "all black culture" any which way or saying "anything intrinsically bad about black people." Where do you come up with this stuff? Well, of course I know the answer to this question: context. These days all one person has to do is lob such accusations across the bow and the entire conversation now has to be dragged down by and centered around charges of contextual racism. Must respect the context. Because that's how we've been rolling in this country for quite some time. Soundbite intellectualism with a double order of judgment on the side. We quickly apologize on behalf of Lorde because she's from a different country and didn't know better. We say things like, wait, she talked about rock and roll excess too, so maybe she's not racist. Yeah that makes a ton of sense. The mathematics of political correctness, this is what I was referring to in my first comment. Disagreement ensues, and we move on to the next thing.

This is where I say something like I can't believe people are taking an article that starts with "Holy. Shit. What did this white girl just say?" seriously, as the writer then sits us on her lap and explains to us what said "white girl" said. Hold on, what did this Hispanic girl just say? Charges of false equivalency ensue. The distorted mathematics appear again. White people are reduced to "they're white, they can't help it, they're racist if I say they are." Everyone else is "off-limits" and "uncomfortable grey areas" should the conversation head in a different direction.

I like that Rorty was dragged into this conversation because it's true that in a post-modern context with no cultural ideals, all we have left is outrage. No other social mechanism exists. There is no way to establish consensus or even make observations about something outside the political or racial area you are told you are allowed to occupy.

I am not trying to apologize for racists and I'm certainly not pretending that systemic racism doesn't exist, I very much believe in that. You can look at my posting history if you don't believe me (please don't, that's kind of weird). But I am also very much against the dumbing down of everything and everyone. God forbid we call out bling rappers for being totally ridiculous, totally fraudulent and representative of everything cheap and superficial about American consumer culture, because that's exactly what they are. And because we can't talk about this stuff, over time everyone just gets stupid and buys into it. So I'm really grateful some contrarian New Zealander put bling bling on blast and talked about taking the fucking train to a fucking party.

Of course, I would argue that some (white? I dunno if it matters) musicians have thrived in this nonsense context, by putting together personae that look like they came out of a Tim and Eric parallel universe. Notably Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga. What are they trying to say? Nobody fucking knows. That's the point. Teddy bears and one eye closed with tongue sticking out? Yes. Show up at an awards show in an egg or looking like a big mini wheat? Fuck yes. What Lorde said? Bring out the pitchforks and torches.

This attitude is of course prevalent in all aspects of society. This should probably be its own post and I can't believe I'm dragging it into this conversation, but if you missed it check out this video from the Daily Show about good/bad reductionism in journalism; it has really affected the way I look at wider public discourse, and consequently the willingness I have to engage in any kind of simplistic "good/bad" conversation. So that's why I don't apologize for what Lorde is saying. Even if I didn't totally agree with her, for the love of God, please say something dark and complicated. With your young mind, please keep looking critically past the patina of bullshit and keep writing songs. I remember when rap used to be more this way and I liked it better then. The truth is there still are a lot of black artists doing this right now and I love it.
posted by phaedon at 2:06 PM on November 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


This post introduced me to Lorde and her music, so thanks for that (on my second consecutive listen-through of Pure Heroine now). The article was excellent, she seems pretty bad-ass, honestly. I love her response to a scathing review of her EP:

"I read it, and then looked at the Arc de Triomphe from the window of my hotel room, and felt nothing at all."


She has the self-confidence of a truly thoughtful and aware person, and that tends to be fairly unshakeable, which bodes well for her future self, work, and growth.
posted by LooseFilter at 2:10 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think Lorde is painting "all black culture" any which way or saying "anything intrinsically bad about black people." Where do you come up with this stuff?

I... didn't? I didn't say that at all.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:13 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah that. "If you grew up with holes in your zapatos, you would celebrate the minute you was having dough." -- Jay-Z

This notion of thinking of wealth and materialism as crass is a kind of privilege. You grew up as a middle class white kid? Yeah. You probably never had to worry too much about money, and nobody will be impressed that you bought a gold chain or a designer purse. Anybody can buy that stuff. In a context of generational poverty, they can serve as a sign that you've made it.

Anyway, I don't find the line in the song particularly irksome.
posted by chrchr at 2:14 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a waste of time and effort to analyze a pop song while it's on the charts. We won't know what the damn thing REALLY means for a decade or so. Royals is the smartest, coolest pop song I've heard in years. Let's just sway.

("Ribs", IMO, is the best song on the album. More enclosed space in that song than in a cathedral. It's a marvel.)

BTW, is "whitesplaining" a word yet? Christ, people.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:15 PM on November 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I... didn't? I didn't say that at all.

Well, I quoted you practically word for word. At the very least, somebody's saying it, right? You were talking about valid interpretations of the song. I'm just responding with my take on that as well.
posted by phaedon at 2:20 PM on November 2, 2013


This notion of thinking of wealth and materialism as crass is a kind of privilege.

True, but that doesn't mean crass consumerism should be celebrated or that celebrating gettinmg ahead in the system that made you and people like you poor in the first place is a good thing.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:36 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's fairly common for your more insular gringos to think their society's brand of racism, including it's specific symbols, dog whistles, triggers, etc., is somehow universal. I had this american girlfriend who thought the fact that almost no black people lived in Chile proved we were racist (it doesn't, the way we treat people with amerindian blood does).
posted by signal at 2:38 PM on November 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, I quoted you practically word for word. At the very least, somebody's saying it, right? You were talking about valid interpretations of the song. I'm just responding with my take on that as well.

You quoted me talking about your "bring it on"/"a proper hill to die on" take on pointing out that hip-hop is "so full of materialistic 'I am better than you' bullshit", to which I basically said there's no controversial stand to make there unless you're grinding that axe for shitty reasons. I didn't say she was doing that, and I didn't say you were doing it, all I said was it's a bit of a weird thing to get fighty over. Nobody's calling up the censorship squad because somebody said mainstream hip-hop can be materialistic.

And there's a grey area in interpretations of her lyrics, yes, because by her own admission the shitty interpretation is a valid enough one to make it an uncomfortable grey area, simply because she didn't think her wording through with enough care at 15 (and who would?), but I didn't say that her intent was to say a bunch of shitty things. I mean, yeah, "somebody's saying it", but you directed your take on that at me, who wasn't.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:44 PM on November 2, 2013


I'm honestly really surprised by this interpretation of Royals. It doesn't seem like anything in that song is particular to black culture any more. Every kind of pop music makes use of that imagery.

That being said although I really want to like Pure Heroine most of the lyrics are disappointingly flat and more about having than not-having. "So now we live beside the pool where everything is good." Uh, ok? Good for you? I hope this is a function of being 15, and eventually this apparent genius will learn how to write songs that make sense and aren't just a mish-mash of phrases.
posted by bleep at 2:46 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


...most of the lyrics are disappointingly flat...

Wow, really?

From the same song you quoted:

"And nothing's wrong when nothing's true
I live in a hologram with you"

Maybe now extrapolate the lyrics you quoted to the above ("So now we live beside the pool where everything is good.")

I wish more 36-year-olds would talk like this, nevermind 16-year-olds.

Comparatively, Miley Cyrus:

"Don't you ever say I just walked away
I will always want you
I can't live a lie, running for my life
I will always want you"

Um, yea.
posted by New England Cultist at 2:54 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lorde is aight, but I'm surprised she seems to have captured so many people's imaginations. If the angle is "cool, a young woman taking agency over her career", there are a lot of young women musicians from the past few years-- Laura Marling, Azealia Banks, Grimes, etc.-- who have put out (IMO) more interesting music. I definitely don't mean that there's space for a limited number of young women artists who run their own shit, but I guess I don't see Lorde as particularly groundbreaking either musically or narrative-wise. giant YMMV
posted by threeants at 3:18 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rolling in Rolls Royce Corniche Only the doctors got this, I’m hiding from police - Jay Z

Sure, "started from the bottom" is a thing but some of the materialism and messages of acquisition in rap music are expressly political. We live in a culture where a vast segment of the population are told they can't possibly own things unless they are criminals. Jay Z makes the point that a well paid doctor could own a Rolls Royce to putter out to car shows, but if he owns one he is suspect.

Some acts, like Migos, are absolutely ridiculous but trying to read any kind of sociological import into the lyrics to Versace is like trying to rest an argument on the lyrics to Party Rock by LMFAO, or Wooly Bully, or Surfin Bird.

I don't think Lorde as anything against rap music, she covered Chief Keef's poignant refrain from Hold my Liquor.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:21 PM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


And, I mean, I don't mean to shit on Lorde. When I was her age I was, like, sitting around playing Pokémon. so
posted by threeants at 3:21 PM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought Lorde was a nice story, but maybe not something I'd be giving a spin on my own time.

And then... I heard her do a fantastic cover of "Swingin' Party" by The Replacements. I've come up with maybe a dozen possible explanations for how a teenage pop singer form New Zealand could manage a knock-you-on-your-ass 'Mats cover, but tossed them all aside in favor of the most obvious answer: because she's kinda awesome.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:22 PM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I still don't know that I'm going to become one of her fans myself, but she's cool in my book, from that alone.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 3:32 PM on November 2, 2013


because she's kinda awesome

She's COOL.

Miles Davis Lou Reed Joey Ramone cool. Not-trying cool. Arch and distant and standing aside cool. Cool in a way it's no longer cool to be.

That's pretty cool.

(Now she needs to collaborate on a record with Janelle Monae produced by MF Doom and make the fucking world explode.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:33 PM on November 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


Oh hell a 47-year-old white suburbanite thinks she's cool I've ruined everything
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:34 PM on November 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


(Now she needs to collaborate on a record with Janelle Monae produced by MF Doom and make the fucking world explode.)

Oh, god, music nerd wet dream.
posted by sparkletone at 3:35 PM on November 2, 2013


Canadians will appreciate Tories , by Brodie of 22 Minutes. It may be notable that 22 Minutes is aired on the publicly-funded CBC, which always has to balance its satire and journalism against the threat of tightening government pursestrings.

It is very interesting to compare the lyrics. They are much the same in terms of commentary on social class. In their message, I guess I’m saying.
posted by davidpriest.ca at 3:38 PM on November 2, 2013


I don't like the lyrics. They sound exactly like lyrics I would've expected a 15-year-old to write. Which is to say, not good. They give me the same awkward feeling I get looking back on my high school poetry, where I was striving so hard to feel adult and universal things while also glorifying my relatively gentle state of young adult suffering as somehow holy. (Like, the whole baptized-by-heroin teenaged saints thing I don't have words to describe.) So maybe it gets under my skin a little more than most. She might have something good in ten years.

I'm sure she's great as a person and everything but I feel a little insulted by the idea that this is pop brilliance. Where's the bar set?
posted by stoneandstar at 4:06 PM on November 2, 2013


In her case, you can't really apply an American context to her song

Completely agree.
posted by smoke at 4:17 PM on November 2, 2013


I don't disagree with the idea that she sounds like an adolescent, but I'm of the opinion that when constructed properly, pop songs that tackle adolescent themes tend to be weirdly universal. Pop music is built for those themes, so I don't think it's a shortcoming.

For instance, there isn't much that Phil Spector ever produced that a fifteen year-old couldn't relate to, but human beings will be listening to "Be My Baby" about a thousand years after you need to visit the Library of Congress to hear the work of [insert name of hyperliterate indie rocker here].
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:17 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I also do find the lyrics pretty weird, in the sense that sticking your nose up at Maybachs kind of dismissive of rap culture or whatever and also... bloodstained... ball gowns... something about a queen bee, what? Like I don't actually know what she's talking about and the language is a bit worn to be poetic.

It feels a bit pathetic to say give her ten years since I'm officially where she'll be in ten years, but give her ten years, idk.


God forbid we call out bling rappers for being totally ridiculous, totally fraudulent and representative of everything cheap and superficial about American consumer culture, because that's exactly what they are. And because we can't talk about this stuff, over time everyone just gets stupid and buys into it.

... really though? Bling rap may be superficial or whatever but that doesn't make it entirely without art or substance. And as much as I love the playfulness of a lot of bling rap, I'm definitely not, like, feeling the need to drink champagne on a private plane while getting a lap dance or whatever. In a way, it's kind of a joke. Not much more insulting to me than the carefully groomed aesthetic of any clean "indie" white girl pop singer.

So I'm really grateful some contrarian New Zealander put bling bling on blast and talked about taking the fucking train to a fucking party.

To be honest the "counting quarters on the train to the party" or whatever thing seems either a bit snobby or a bit boring to me, can't put my finger on it.

Of course, I would argue that some (white? I dunno if it matters) musicians have thrived in this nonsense context, by putting together personae that look like they came out of a Tim and Eric parallel universe. Notably Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga. What are they trying to say? Nobody fucking knows. That's the point. Teddy bears and one eye closed with tongue sticking out? Yes. Show up at an awards show in an egg or looking like a big mini wheat? Fuck yes. What Lorde said? Bring out the pitchforks and torches.

Well, yes, Lorde has written some nonsense things into this song. My complaint to my boyfriend yesterday while hearing it for the thousandth time was "what is this abouttttttt" because I am developing a serious problem with the way a lot of (yeah, white) musicians cheer rock and pop music in the direction of "artistic" abstraction, which is often not at all legible and very boring and underbaked, and I'd rather hear about being on the train to a party than try to worry about whether Lady Gaga is self-aware or not but I wish Lorde were at a place right now where she could write things with emotional substance into her lyrics, because I think I'd like it a lot more (than this queen bee & dated DeLilloesque maximalist critique of the music scene that leaves me cold). There's a great song to be written about being a young person feeling buoyed by being young and alive while also feeling alienated by the youth culture that is trying to sell her a vision of freedom rooted in consumerism, but I just don't feel like this is it. WHY DOES SHE WANT TO BE QUEEN BEE if someone could just explain that part of the song to me in a compelling way I'd like it more. Also why is she counting change, what is the change for? Alcohol? Admission? Train fare? Why is she poor? Is that the persona she's portraying? Confused.

bla bla not to fight with one specific person but your comment just stirred up a lot of thoughts in me, apologies if I seem fighty
posted by stoneandstar at 4:19 PM on November 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm of the opinion that when constructed properly, pop songs that tackle adolescent themes tend to be weirdly universal.

I agree with this totally, and wish that this song were constructed properly. It's a song that desperately needs workshopping-- who is speaking now, which perspective are you speaking from, focus these images, &c. I just kind of hate the idea that her star will end up fading before she really develops the ability to fine tune her songs.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:23 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Clearly, what this song needed was a set of footnotes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:25 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or a writing workshop.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:26 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


phaedon: "Even if I didn't totally agree with her, for the love of God, please say something dark and complicated. With your young mind, please keep looking critically past the patina of bullshit and keep writing songs. I remember when rap used to be more this way and I liked it better then. The truth is there still are a lot of black artists doing this right now and I love it."

I've sort of tiptoed around this, but -the other part of my criticism was, this is really not some new, dark, complicated message. "Materialism bad" is something that, as you yourself said, people have been bringing up for years, usually not so breezily in fact. Her other songs get further toward that "dark, complicated" thing you're asking for, but I still feel the way stoneandstar describes above. The most striking lines, like saying it's an art now to show how little you care, or saying she's getting tired of being asked to wave her arms around - those are sort of interesting as wry asides, but they don't really function well as the core to whole songs. They're more the kind of interesting observations that someone who is young thinks of as very deep statements on existence. There might be something in them, but they haven't been taken apart or explored, and after my third listen of this album I felt like I'd exhausted it as far as lyrical exploration.

Which means that I'm pretty sure we're left with Lorde as an atmospheric artist, a musician who creates an ambience, in which function she sort of reminds one of a more spry Adele maybe fronting Beach House - at least that's how it feels to me. And those are perfectly fine things - I respect a lot of people who love them, and actually I imagine some people would kill to see that combo - they're just not my thing.
posted by koeselitz at 4:26 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sure she's great as a person and everything but I feel a little insulted by the idea that this is pop brilliance. Where's the bar set?

Found it!
posted by phaedon at 4:26 PM on November 2, 2013


Found it!

lol. I just think that when we think "great pop music!!" we should be thinking about Robyn or Martina and the Diamonds (not Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus), artists with beautiful, moving lyrics and an ability (or context, whatever) to fold them into cheeky, living music that fills you with emotion... I don't think what we need is more disjointed one liners marred by teenaged solipsism. There is quite a large genre of shitty mainstream folk pop music for that. There's a difference between writing like a teenager and writing about being a teenager in a beautiful, distilled, universal way. The latter is wonderful and classic.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:33 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


DirtyOldTown: "I don't disagree with the idea that she sounds like an adolescent, but I'm of the opinion that when constructed properly, pop songs that tackle adolescent themes tend to be weirdly universal. Pop music is built for those themes, so I don't think it's a shortcoming. For instance, there isn't much that Phil Spector ever produced that a fifteen year-old couldn't relate to, but human beings will be listening to 'Be My Baby' about a thousand years after you need to visit the Library of Congress to hear the work of [insert name of hyperliterate indie rocker here]."

No, you've missed the point here - she actually doesn't sound like an adolescent in the sense that her audible voice sounds immature. The point is that her literary and lyrical voice is immature. Which might be just fine. I mean, like you said, people love "Be My Baby" - and I am people - even though I'm pretty sure nobody is going to claim that the lyrics are a brilliant exposition of the deepest issues in society. Lorde is patently different because there's an attempt at lyrical depth there, and that's what people are claiming she has.

But if you want, we can talk about her strictly on the level of "Be My Baby"s greatness, which is to say solely in terms of the sound. That's a fine way to discuss music. I am still not a huge fan of "Pure Heroine" on that level either - as I said above, the production is graceful but doesn't really wow me - but we can talk about it that way if you want.
posted by koeselitz at 4:37 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


stoneandstar: "WHY DOES SHE WANT TO BE QUEEN BEE if someone could just explain that part of the song to me in a compelling way I'd like it more."

For the same reason that Paul Simon wants you to call him Al and he'll call you Betty; it's a romantical defiance of the vicissitudes of life. Is that compelling? You decide. I confess that sometimes I really like Paul Simon.
posted by koeselitz at 4:41 PM on November 2, 2013


I really didn't miss the point. I wasn't talking about her voice. I was talking about how her themes come off. That's what all of us were talking about. I regret if my use of the word "sounds" threw you off. You can substitute "seems" for that and it should be easier to follow what I was going for.

My point was that lyrical maturity and depth is not only not a prerequisite for pop greatness, frequently the two things aren't connected in the slightest. So it's a bogus standard.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:42 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the Queen Bee bit is a reference to I'm a King Bee.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:45 PM on November 2, 2013


From my perspective, it's not necessary for me to be able to call her a bard for our new age and a fully formed composer/artist to have a net positive opinion of her.

She's a pop singer with a striking, appealing voice, who doesn't seem to be a douchebag, has an interesting minimalist sound, and writes catchy earworms about topics that even border on interesting.

She has the rest of her life to try and refine her songwriting, add depth to her style, etc, to try and grow into Tom Waits or Neko Case or whoever your personal yardstick is. But for now, for my ears, she's something rare: a Next Big Thing who not only doesn't seem like a miserable jackhole, who not only doesn't make awful music that makes me want to smash some shit, but also seems to have an innate cool and a knack for melody that seem promising. Being kinda good with a high base ability score for charisma is fine. She can quest the rest out later.

Maybe "Hey I don't hate her! She has a coupla noteworthy finer points!" is a very low bar to have for liking a young pop singer, but chrissakes, have you heard pop music?

(But then, if my tastes in pop music had any connection to reality, Greg Cartwright from Reigning Sound would live in a platinum-plated castle, warming himself in winter by burning bricks of thousand dollar bills.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:46 PM on November 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


"Be My Baby" has a desperate intensity about it though, however simple and cheesy the lyrics. I'm moved by it even though it's simple (and of course the music matches the content). The idiocy of love and all. (not a disparaging remark!)

For the same reason that Paul Simon wants you to call him Al and he'll call you Betty; it's a romantical defiance of the vicissitudes of life

Yeah yeah I don't know, it just seems so arbitrary in the wrong way, hits the wrong note of defiance. There's a sense of solidarity in the defiance (we, on the train, going to a party) and then an abrupt second-person (you, call me queen bee) that is the earmark of immature poetic writing, and then the fact that the already brittle sense of solidarity is then shattered in favor of a new queen/follower dynamic, I just. Don't like it. It says nothing. Say what you will about Paul Simon, at least he's got an ethos.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:51 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


And for the record I am not asking anyone to literally explain away the queen bee part in terms of uhh metaphor or allusion or anything I am just looking for a convincing explanation of the dynamic she's trying to develop that doesn't make the whole song feel limp to me

Also I realize she's quite young and what she's doing is impressive for her age, but I always hate being told about the Next Big Thing and being expected to make excuses for it

My point was that lyrical maturity and depth is not only not a prerequisite for pop greatness, frequently the two things aren't connected in the slightest. So it's a bogus standard.

Emotional maturity and lyrical maturity are perhaps two different things? "Be My Baby" was written by someone with a mature sense of control over how to describe an essentially ridiculous feeling; Royals (imo) lacks that lyrical maturity, even if Lorde has emotional maturity that exceeds that of someone youthfully, desperately in love.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:57 PM on November 2, 2013


To be honest the "counting quarters on the train to the party" or whatever thing seems either a bit snobby or a bit boring to me, can't put my finger on it.

Perhaps your mis-quote of the lyrics - there are no quarters in New Zealand(*) - may be indicative of an American read of a New Zealand song [and also of others in the thread that talk about Royals racism/not racism]. Here in New Zealand there has been zero talk of racism in the lyrics and I don't see how the counting the dollars line can be read as snobby - its simply saying her funds are limited for whatever the night will bring her. Boring, maybe, thats your call.

* Total aside: on the whole there is no pretense in her lyrics to being an American which is interesting in relation to another New Zealand song that was a hit in the United States. How Bizarre's lyrics were deliberately Amercianzed to try and get a hit:

Cruisin' down the freeway - should have been highway
as we pull in for some gas - should have been petrol
posted by meech at 5:03 PM on November 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


For my money, I thought the Queen Bee bit wasn't all that mysterious or hard to follow. It's a song comparing wealthy, status-symbol endowed pop stars to "royals." The narrator riffs (presumably to her friends who were part of the "we" earlier) that she should be "Queen Bee," the "ruler," Why? Because she rules, man. Teenagers taking the piss. I think if your takeaway from that is anything beyond the "I rule" punchline, you're just way, way, way off.

It's also possible the Queen Bee bit is a reference to Beyonce's occasional nickname "Queen Bey." And she's punning from that to "Queen Bee," which is, where I'm from, what you call someone who thinks they're more important than they are in their own little circle. This would, it should be noted, make the "I rule" joke self-deprecating, and maybe funnier.

And yeah, the counting dollars on the train bit clearly seems like meech has it: she's not being a snob about money. She's saying that far from rolling up in a luxury car ready to throw money around, she's taking the train, trying to work out in advance how much of her meager money she can afford to spend tonight. Frankly, that interpretation is obvious enough and in line with the rest of the song enough that I'd need to hear a helluva case to believe it means anything else.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:07 PM on November 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


This is not quite related, I'm not trying to say Lorde should be more like Robyn aesthetically, but this song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nv644ipg2Ss

... is to me a perfect example of a well-written, mature, controlled contemporary pop song about people in a messed up, emotionally immature situation. "You met someone new, break up with your girlfriend, things with us are going to be amazing"-- it's ridiculous and crazy and not morally spotless. But it's written in this glorious mildly wry narrative voice that is both saying, I know this is terrible, but look how incandescent it is!

I think that most people, when they're teenagers, are too defensive to be this honest-- and too young to be this self-aware. It takes a little time and distance usually to describe an intense feeling this clearly.

Here in New Zealand there has been zero talk of racism in the lyrics and I don't see how the counting the dollars line can be read as snobby - its simply saying her funds are limited for whatever the night will bring her. Boring, maybe, thats your call.

Sorry I said quarters, but I mean snobby in the sense that who's 16 years old and counting dollars on the train to a party? Who are these people? Like, what kind of party is this? To me it sounds a lot like the worn-out hipster aesthetic where we're so poor we have to take the train to the warehouse party and drink PBR or whatever, it's snobby in a different sense. I'm not sure I'm reading it right but that's what I meant.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:08 PM on November 2, 2013


To me it is a about sex and a song about the roots of popular music, which is sex. She is not interested in material goods, trashing things, or songs about that stuff.

She "craves a different kind of buzz" as the song I'm a King Bee says "I'm young and able to buzz all night long"

She then says "you can call me queen bee" seems like a direct response to the line "Well, I'm a king bee want you to be my queen".

It isn't like she wouldn't have heard one of the hundreds of versions of the song. Maybe I am reading too much into it.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:10 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]




I definitely, definitely know the dollars line isn't about being a rich snob. See above. There's more than one way to be a snob. I may still be wrong but I got that part.

My takeaway from the Queen Bee line is exactly that-- she's saying I'm so great, follow me, aren't I a darling. Which is just so bored-- there are more interesting ways to take the piss. Couldn't she have reached a bit further?
posted by stoneandstar at 5:12 PM on November 2, 2013


aw dammit, meech beat me to it
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 5:12 PM on November 2, 2013


Speaking of, if she's just taking the piss, it might be worth considering that a lot of those materialistic bling rappers are taking the piss as well. They're constantly doing that cocky signifying that is apparently more adorable in Lorde than Lil Wayne.

And I am honestly asking, are Maybachs not explicitly linked with Jay-Z/black hip hop in New Zealand? If not, where did she get that from? Truly curious.
If she doesn't understand racism in America, not being from here, that is understandable. It doesn't mean that she's not being dismissive of the history of black American hip hop, however. She's just ignorant. There is a source. (It is possible to be ignorant about America in a bad way.) She herself admits that this is a grey area, also, so I don't think we need to protect her from thinking.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:17 PM on November 2, 2013


The TL;DR for my take on the Queen Bee bit is that she's saying the closest she's ever going to get to being a "royal" is that she (jokingly) "rules."

Given that this fits in with the rest of the song, and given how weirdly out of place naked self-aggrandizement would be in this song (or with her entire persona), I think the most likely reason you're stuck on this is that you don't like her and want her to have meant something rotten there.

Which is fine. I'm too old to make the "your tastes are incorrect!" argument, so I'm not after you on that. I just think you're reading the lyric wrong.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:19 PM on November 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think it would have been much weirder for her criticism of pop materialism to have not included anything hip-hop related than for her to include that. I mean, how can you talk about people who rule pop music and not mention anyone from hip hop?

I have an issue with the idea that her doing so is inherently racist, because I find the idea that hip hop artists are undisputed spokespersons for black America obnoxious and nonsensical.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:21 PM on November 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


What? I don't think she meant something rotten, I think it's a poorly written lyric. I don't know why you think I'm trying to say she's a QUEEN BITCH or something. I think she's precisely trying to make an ironic show of being a "queen bee," I just think it's such a cliche and she should challenge herself to write a stronger lyric.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:21 PM on November 2, 2013


I don't know why you think I'm trying to say she's a QUEEN BITCH or something.


she's saying I'm so great, follow me, aren't I a darling.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:22 PM on November 2, 2013


Robyn isn't consistently mature either. I think she's great, but I mean, Konichiwa Bitches is entirely a jokey immature braggadocio track.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:23 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have an issue with the idea that her doing so is inherently racist, because I find the idea that hip hop artists are undisputed spokespersons for black America obnoxious and nonsensical.

If inherently racist doens't seem right, I don't see why ignorant doesn't fit the bill. It is ignorant. Lorde seems to think so a bit.

And why on earth would anyone call hip hop artists the undisputed spokespersons for black America. They are the spokespersons for themselves, and their message is a lot more nuanced and complex than "fancy cars, poppin' bottles" if you follow and understand it. There is a great deal of critique of self-hating materialism in many of the songs that people would seemingly think just baldly espouse it.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:24 PM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, DirtyOldTown, in an ironic, taking the piss sort of fashion, as you said. Playing at being the darling. I actually love that kind of thing; I love Nicky Minaj's showmanship. I love lyrics that are bold and fun and being a bit rowdy. (Hip hop is full of this and it's so clever at times.) I have no problem with Lorde trying to do that; I have a problem with her picking literally the most worn out pop cultural girl trope to express it in, because she could probably do better. I... do not have a problem with Lorde, the person, and I do not think she's a rotten bitch.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:27 PM on November 2, 2013


As has been pointed out, she also references trashing hotel rooms and other signifiers of rock excess. So the idea that she's specifically targeting hip hop performers out of racism doesn't hold up even to the end of that stanza.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:29 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


She doesn't have to only be targeting hip hop to be ignorant about what she's saying.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:30 PM on November 2, 2013


If your argument is, she maybe could have done more to avoid the impression there, I don't see anyone arguing with you, even Lorde.

But in order to actually make an argument that Lorde is being racist there, you need to first, ignore the lyrics that clearly reference rock (i.e., generally white) excess and then suppose that in a song criticizing pop star materialism, she's taking time out to go off topic and attack black folks, because she's using hip hop stars as signifiers for black people. So that she can harangue the black community for its private jets and Maibachs.

If you feel this is a reasonable argument, I will agree to disagree. I think that making such an argument is more problematic, in terms of racial assumptions, than the actual lyrics.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:34 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seriously though, I think her lyrics are underdeveloped and she needs more time working on her writing; I think she wrote some things which (and she herself admits) fall into a grey area of ignorance about hip hop; I think she seems pretty decent. Do I have to think the song is perfect for you to not think I'm attacking her personally?

Robyn isn't consistently mature either. I think she's great, but I mean, Konichiwa Bitches yt is entirely a jokey immature braggadocio track.

Agreed about her not being consistently mature, but do people think I'm saying that I don't like jokey immature braggadocio schtick? Because I'm specifically saying that I do like it. I just like it done well and cleverly, and I think Lorde could have done better because she seems like she's truly interested in artistry.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:36 PM on November 2, 2013


I think her lyrics are underdeveloped and she needs more time working on her writing

I think if you say that six or eight more times, I will totally agree with you.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:37 PM on November 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Seriously though, as I said above, my only beef was that it came off like you were looking for things in her lyrics that were damning to her personally, instead of being content to rest with, "Meh, I think she could be a lot better." Which is a totally valid opinion.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:39 PM on November 2, 2013


you need to first, ignore the lyrics that clearly reference rock (i.e., generally white) excess and then suppose that in a song criticizing pop star materialism, she's taking time out to go off topic and attack black folks, because she's using hip hop stars as signifiers for black people. So that she can harangue the black community for its private jets and Maibachs.

I just don't agree that that is necessary. I think she's haranguing hip hop for being hung up on private jets, Maybachs, &c., and I think she's intelligent enough to know that even some of the most popular hip hop artists say intelligent, complex things about conspicuous consumption, and that her treatment of them in the song was a bit handwavey and not very nuanced. An area that is grey. A grey area.

I think if you say that six or eight more times, I will totally agree with you.

The reason I've said it five thousand times is that I came to this thread to critique her writing and discuss common pitfalls in lyrical writing and was told I was calling her an evil bitchy racist, which is so bizarre I felt the need to literally repeat myself.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:39 PM on November 2, 2013


Seriously though, as I said above, my only beef was that it came off like you were looking for things in her lyrics that were damning to her personally, instead of being content to rest with, "Meh, I think she could be a lot better." Which is a totally valid opinion.

Well, uh, I wasn't damning her personally. Was I supposed to be as bland as possible? It just drives me crazy to hear something on the radio every five seconds that desperately needs some tweaking on a basic mechanical level. It could be so much better, I don't know why no one pushed it there, but I don't know much about the music industry.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:42 PM on November 2, 2013


It just drives me crazy to hear something on the radio every five seconds that desperately needs some tweaking on a basic mechanical level.

I disagree that the song needed to be "pushed" somewhere else. Maybe this song just isn't for you? Plenty of music out there.
posted by sweetkid at 5:50 PM on November 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


Also (and then I am done on this topic I think), I don't know much about there being a self-critical dialectic in (white) rock music about materialism/conspicuous consumption. Is there? The fact that so much of black hip hop is about that conversation is what makes the dig a little more questionable to me. There's an active conversation about it happening, and it's a very deep, sometimes painful discussion. See recent Kanye, Jay-Z, &c. So seeing it waved off as just flashiness might rub the wrong way.

This might not be the greatest or most classic example of that conversation but it says a lot about the personal pain of being involved in that kind of dynamic, the ambivalence and even self-hatred, and it just feels a little dismal to have it summed up as just a song about cars or watches or whatever, or to pretend songs like this don't have a part in the mainstream hip hop ecosystem. It's not to say she can't comment on the dynamic, but it is to say that not all things (rock music excess and hip hop excess) are equal.

I disagree that the song needed to be "pushed" somewhere else. Maybe this song just isn't for you? Plenty of music out there.

Well, I disagree... so, there we are. Is there seriously a big problem with not thinking this song is perfect? To the extent that we have to say "well don't listen if you don't like it!" Because the first time I heard it, I did like it, and the more I was exposed to its flaws (because I think it has flaws) the more I wanted to talk about what it is vs. what it could be.

I'm an artist and I have a love-hate relationship with critique. Do I heed every work of critique I get? Do I always change in accordance with others expectations and preferences? No, but it gives me super valuable perspective on my work. It challenges me to do better. It's the meat and potatoes, it's fuel to my growth as an artist. People who love Bob Dylan still critique his work; it's done out of passion and love and an interest in the process and development of artists. So, whatever, I critique her work out of an interest in her as a fellow young artist (and the fact that I really recognize certain flaws in her writing that took me a long time to work out of my own) and out of a desire to see more interesting, talented artists doing great things. I could just stop caring about art and music and process altogether or decide to keep my thoughts to myself but I feel a bit bored by that possibility.

Is it controversial to say conversations about art are a good thing?
posted by stoneandstar at 6:03 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It didn't seem like you're critiquing it, it seems like you're saying "this song is fundamentally, objectively broken and she needs to work harder," which is kind of a weird thing to say about art and seems different to me than "critique."
posted by sweetkid at 6:07 PM on November 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Agreed about her not being consistently mature, but do people think I'm saying that I don't like jokey immature braggadocio schtick? Because I'm specifically saying that I do like it. I just like it done well and cleverly, and I think Lorde could have done better because she seems like she's truly interested in artistry.

Oh no, I don't think you said that, I just think it's kind of a "making perfect the enemy of good" thing to hold Lorde up to a really high standard of maturity when she's really doing quite good on that whole thing already. The accolades she gets aren't empty, even if she's got room to grow. I thought Robyn was a really good choice of example of thoughtful, mature pop, but it is still true that Robyn doesn't hit it out of the park 100% of the time or consistently express herself in a thoughtful, mature way (who does? well, who does and gets crazy radio play, anyways), so I'm cool with giving Lorde a pass on that. I mean, Robyn was only two years older with her first hit, which... didn't really measure up to Lorde's stuff, maturity-wise. On a scale of recent teen musicians from Bieber to, I don't know, circa 2008 First Aid Kit (I keep thinking of them with all this Lorde talk, kinda-sorta similar discussions back then), Lorde's respectably far from the vapid end of the scale.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:10 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


It didn't seem like you're critiquing it, it seems like you're saying "this song is fundamentally, objectively broken and she needs to work harder," which is kind of a weird thing to say about art and seems different to me than "critique."

That is exactly what critique is in my experience, minus the "fundamentally broken" thing, which I don't think I really tried to convey. It's saying "you have something interesting here but it's not moving me as an audience the way you probably want it to, here's what I think," with which the artist can do whatever she wants. This song doesn't move me or get under my skin-- if you're an artist, isn't that exactly what you want to do? And you want to refine your work so it has the most impact, conveys the message you want it to. I don't know what it matters if I imply it's "objectively" wrong or not; what does it matter if I couch my opinions in relativism. They're obviously my opinions. If I wasn't interested in the song, I wouldn't bother.

Art is pretty subjective, so I don't really feel the need to emphasize how subjective my opinions are. Of course my experience of the song is subjective. Is it objectively worse than yours, because you liked the song?

jason_steakums, I definitely agree that she's respectably far from vapid-- I'm not super invested in her but I do hope she keeps working hard and does some great stuff, like Robyn, imo. There are certain things about this Royals song that do grate on me because they're kind of amateur mistakes, which I guess when you spend a lot of time with amateur/beginner poetry there are certain triggers that set you off.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:18 PM on November 2, 2013


I'm used to showing my work to a group where some people love it, some people are left cold, and some people are rabidly interested in the topic but have a lot of opinions about what more I could've done. I'm usually most interested in the third group, whether I agree with them or not. It pushes me. It is nice to hear from the first group, too.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:20 PM on November 2, 2013


It didn't seem like you're critiquing it, it seems like you're saying "this song is fundamentally, objectively broken and she needs to work harder," which is kind of a weird thing to say about art and seems different to me than "critique."

Agreed. I don't mean to over-trivialize the, uh, running commentary regarding what "good music" consists of, but let's face it, why stop at Paul Simon, I'm sure Mozart is rolling in his grave.

I know, guilty as charged. I wish somebody could tell my why even the trashiest music I listened to in my teenage years resonates so deeply in my soul years later. It literally relaxes me, and makes me think everything is going to be ok. I mean, I know there is such a thing as "good music" but, on the other hand, some of them try to rhyme but they can't rhyme like this - jump! jump! - cuz I'm the miggety miggety miggety Mac.

I have no idea what a miggety is, but it just makes so much sense. I don't question it and find it ridiculous that anyone would. I'm a model you know what I mean and I do my little turn on the catwalk. I mean what the fuck is going on here? Love that song.

So that being said, if you don't like Lorde, you just might not be young enough to be receptive to it. Face it, you're a bunch of geezers. Songs work because they become a part of the listener, not because they conform to some external standard or represent a progression of the musical form. And "catchy" is a really difficult thing to quantify. For example, I cannot believe the ubiquity of "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk. To me it sounds like a really bad b-side.
posted by phaedon at 6:25 PM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


What really bothers me is her references are so dated. I feel like she is complaining about Puff Daddy or something.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:25 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Exactly, Ad hominem. It seems threadbare.

Like, I don't know what to say here. I'm sorry I do not like the song (well no, I'm not). I like a lot of "nonsense" songs, songs you can't even understand. They touch a deep chord. There's plenty of music from my youth that I love because I loved it then, or which I think is stupid now but which is still comfortable me. I'm not an idiot. But I feel like her song sounded exactly like talented teenager trying to write a song, and it didn't do anything for me, but I think that's exactly where a lot of artists begin, so that is the part that's compelling to me.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:29 PM on November 2, 2013


cuz I'm the miggety miggety miggety Mac.

Kriss Kross was an example of fast tongue twister type rap along with Fu Snickens and Das EFX. None of that shit made sense it was just about rapping real fast. They often thew in stuff like miggity, smiggity, etc. another example is from The Want EFX, " I smiggedy-smacked some whiz kids". Just a stylistic choice.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:31 PM on November 2, 2013


Ad hom, I think that may just be that her frame of reference is New Zealand pop culture? Not so much dated as different.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:31 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was thinking that was possible, I almost wrote maybe NZ has it's own rap that is like 5 years behind the curve.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:32 PM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nah, she's definitely dated. We need to find us an eleven year old pop songwriter to find out what the kids are thinking.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:35 PM on November 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't care if you like the song stonesour, but you started out saying it was hard to interpret and then you said it was too obvious. I don't find it either way.

Are you still confused about the lyrics? If so ask away. Are you wondering why people like it? It's because it's catchy and excellently performed (try singing along and replicating holding the note on Bee). That's about it!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:36 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I kinda like the song musically, but the album is just so anodyne and safe. It's hip-hop for grandmas.
posted by empath at 6:43 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nah, she's definitely dated. We need to find us an eleven year old pop songwriter to find out what the kids are thinking.

See, as someone who was a 16-year-old aspiring artist not so long ago, I think the more likely explanation is that you rely on cliches when you don't understand the world as well as you want to and realize you have to understand it better to make expressive art.

I don't really find it hard to interpret, maybe I was being a bit of a jerk; I find it incoherent because it relies too much on cliches. I am not wondering why people like it. I found it catchy the first time I heard it. I am wondering why people get kind of hostile about the fact that I think it's an interesting song and also think it could be improved. Like I'm being a total egghead who has never enjoyed something purely for the pleasure of it (trust me, I like a lot of trash). If you don't like something you must just personally be a terrible jerk, apparently.

Evidence of fun poppy/artsy things I like so I can recover my cred here: Robyn, Lana del Rey, Grimes (these are the first 'comparable artists' that came up on Google amusingly), Nicki Minaj, &c.

I kinda like the song musically, but the album is just so anodyne and safe. It's hip-hop for grandmas.

Agreed. This is why I'm finding it so maddening-- not sure what really happened with this. Was it overproduced, underproduced, what happened. (Or is it too perfect??)
posted by stoneandstar at 6:48 PM on November 2, 2013


Is it overproduced? Okay, now I'm going to ask if you've even heard this record. Honestly, I think being in her backing band must be the lowest impact gig in the musical universe.

"You get four notes on this song."
"I was thinking I could..."
"No."
"What if I add some percussion here?"
"We have percussion."
"We do?"
"Yeah, in about twenty seconds, that guy is going to step on the kick drum."

(These are jokes. You do not need to engage.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:56 PM on November 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


This is more of a sidenote, but I'm actually of the opinion that if you're a commentator on the internet, you're better off writing something insanely inaccurate or unjust if you want to get noticed

That's actually Aahz's Law.
posted by Justinian at 6:57 PM on November 2, 2013


I found it catchy the first time I heard it. I am wondering why people get kind of hostile about the fact that I think it's an interesting song and also think it could be improved. Like I'm being a total egghead who has never enjoyed something purely for the pleasure of it (trust me, I like a lot of trash). If you don't like something you must just personally be a terrible jerk, apparently.

I think it's just that there's a casual discussion and a critical discussion kind of running into each other, is all, and lines of discussion always kind of blur in unthreaded comments. I don't think you're getting into the dreaded "your favorite band sucks" territory by any means, or that a critical discussion is unwelcome or anything like that. And maybe it's partially that people have a bit of a strong reaction to anything that even remotely looks like the old Mefi "your favorite band sucks" trolling chestnut, often when that's not what it really is (which, again, I don't think for a second that's what you're doing), and it takes a few rounds of clarification for that kind of thing to shake out. Accidentally misreading intent and overlapping and blurring lines of conversation is kind of the norm around here.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:04 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, stoneandstar, I never read you as doing the "your favorite band sucks" thing either. But you did couch several of your objections with assertions that people disagreed with (the Queen Bee part as unclear, for one.) So people will argue those, anyway.

The hallmark of true "your favorite band sucks" isn't saying you don't like an artist anyway. It's not even saying you don't like an artist because reasons. It's saying an artist sucks and people only disagree because of intellectual failing/lapse in judgment/personal shortcoming. I didn't see a bit of that today.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:12 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


DirtyOldTown's link to her Replacements cover led to the best Youtube comment in recent history. Like better then when I want to listen to a Cure song and then find the comments sections taken over by Greek users.
GUYS
DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN COMPLIMENT ARTISTS WITHOUT HAVING TO PUT DOWN OTHERS
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:22 PM on November 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


You know who Lorde is way better than? Kitty Pryde.

I hate to say this, but Lorde is better than Lil B.

Better than Lisa Gail Allred

She edges out the combined powers of John Travolta & Olivia Newton John

I apologize to all those I've insulted if those are your favorite artists.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:44 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry I said quarters, but I mean snobby in the sense that who's 16 years old and counting dollars on the train to a party? Who are these people? Like, what kind of party is this? 

I'm a New Zealander and taking public transport to a teenage party just makes total sense to me. Why wouldn't she do this? The only reason I didn't at that age was that my town was so small we walked everywhere. And counting your change on the way (NZ dollars are coins and not worth a whole lot) also makes sense. I did that too as a teenager, counted out my meager funds to make best use of them (can I afford a hip flask? are hot chips likely in my near future? ). I find it weird that you're even quibbling over this stuff, it's all so normal and obvious to me.
posted by shelleycat at 8:00 PM on November 2, 2013 [18 favorites]


Yea I thought she was talking abput counting their very little money on the way to the party. Like "crap do I have enough to get the train back/can we all squeeze in a cab" sort of thing.
posted by sweetkid at 8:05 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whoa whoa whoa. WHOA. Lorde is not better than kitty. Kitty is literally a genius. Lorde is just a decent pop singer.

And Lil B is probably Jesus. Let's keep things in perspective.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:58 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lordi is more fun than Lorde. I'll say that.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:03 PM on November 2, 2013


Ever since I said that about Lil B I lost my job, my girlfriend left and my dog ran off, and it's only been like 20 minutes. I'm sorry Basedgod, please forgive me.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:04 PM on November 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure just saying "bling bling rap" in 2013 counts as evidence you are not actually in touch with the mainstream of rap.
posted by atoxyl at 9:16 PM on November 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I came back solely to say that if anyone doesn't think "Be My Baby" is a near-perfect pop song I will fight them in a cage
posted by threeants at 9:31 PM on November 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I find it weird that you're even quibbling over this stuff, it's all so normal and obvious to me.

I think sometimes a song just rubs a person the wrong way for some inexplicable reason, like tasting a food and just not liking it, but we look for reasons anyway, and you end up with a lot of "I dunno, I can't put my finger on it, but it just sounds so off" and what have you, going over different little details for what makes the song "off", ignoring the simple possibility that we just don't care for the song and/or have heard it too many times.

At least that's what a lot of these critiques have sounded like to me.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:46 PM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


threeants, I considered challenging you to a steel cage match just for saying "near-perfect."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:01 PM on November 2, 2013


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: "I think sometimes a song just rubs a person the wrong way for some inexplicable reason, like tasting a food and just not liking it, but we look for reasons anyway, and you end up with a lot of 'I dunno, I can't put my finger on it, but it just sounds so off' and what have you, going over different little details for what makes the song 'off', ignoring the simple possibility that we just don't care for the song and/or have heard it too many times. At least that's what a lot of these critiques have sounded like to me."

Ha. Everybody stands around declaring loudly Lorde is god incarnate, the absolute salvation of pop music - they really have been saying practically this for weeks now all over the internet - and when one of us says, "well, are sure that's really true...?" - it's "oh look everybody, somebody can't seem to accept that there's no arguing taste!
posted by koeselitz at 11:05 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I missed the part where Lorde was deified and declared the hero pop music needs. I'm just speaking from my own personal experience with looking for reasons why I don't like a song when I find myself running over little details and still sounding not too sure. I am not saying someone cannot like the song.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:09 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


> I'm a New Zealander and taking public transport to a teenage party just makes total sense to me. Why wouldn't she do this? The only reason I didn't at that age was that my town was so small we walked everywhere. And counting your change on the way (NZ dollars are coins and not worth a whole lot) also makes sense. I did that too as a teenager, counted out my meager funds to make best use of them (can I afford a hip flask? are hot chips likely in my near future? ). I find it weird that you're even quibbling over this stuff, it's all so normal and obvious to me.

Er, yeah. I'm from Australia rather than NZ, but I spent my teenaged years catching public transport from Fremantle to, say, Subiaco to go to parties, and would have, yes, counted out my money to see if I'd be buying my own cigarettes that night or bumming them off my mates. Do people not catch public transport to parties in America? Do all US teenagers have cars or only go to parties down the road from their houses? Puzzling.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 11:15 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can buy cigarettes at parties? Heck, you can buy anything at parties? That was what confused me. I think I'm missing something.
posted by koeselitz at 11:20 PM on November 2, 2013


(Not that that line bothered me, I just wondered, since I figured it was a NZ thing.)
posted by koeselitz at 11:21 PM on November 2, 2013


I'm guessing you'd buy these cigarettes between the train stop and the party?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:22 PM on November 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


That makes some sense. I will say that in the US public transport is not a great way to get to parties generally because in most places it stops running around midnight anyway. And also it's mostly busses. These are, in fact, some of the more annoying things about living in most of the US - and they're the reasons I'm kind of happy I live in Boston right now, where there are late-ish-night trains and things like that.

Also, I did not really go to parties when I was younger, so I'm probably not much of an authority on what young people do in such circumstances.
posted by koeselitz at 11:26 PM on November 2, 2013


I think it is actually the counting money in public thing. When I stop and think about how many times I've seen it happen, not like before or after a purchase, seems like probably almost never.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:29 PM on November 2, 2013


Do people not catch public transport to parties in America?

The party is 15 miles out in the sticks to avoid cops, your old Chevy only gets 25 mpg and your two best friends don't have cars yet so you'll have to drive an extra 5 miles or so to get them both. Your boyfriend has a car but he's gonna be stoned so you'll have to get him too. The fucking car is already on E and you've only got 20 bucks. So someone's going to have to cough something up so you can have at least a little money for drinks, smokes, and stuff.

This sort of calculation would be immediately familiar for the vast majority of Americans.

The kid in question would probably even pull out her wallet in the privacy of her car to make sure it really is a 20 in there and not 21 or 22 or maybe even 30 if the fates favor you. Or, maybe you were just imagining the 20 and you only find a 5 or a 10. You never know until you look.
posted by honestcoyote at 11:39 PM on November 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


> I'm guessing you'd buy these cigarettes between the train stop and the party?

Yeah, at a milk bar/deli/corner shop on the way.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 12:05 AM on November 3, 2013


Catching the train means she lives in Auckland or, more likely, Wellington. So it's an urban party where corner shops, liquor stores, and fast food outlets are likely to be near, not one out in the sticks.

But I'm actually ok with the idea of a song just not working for someone. A lot of American music sounds bland and overproduced to me (even the supposedly edgy indy stuff) probably because I'm used to listening to a lot of kiwi-made music. Which isn't objectively better, it's just a different aesthetic.
posted by shelleycat at 1:09 AM on November 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oops. This is the Daily Show clip I meant to link to upthread. It's funnier.
posted by phaedon at 1:41 AM on November 3, 2013


WHY DOES SHE WANT TO BE QUEEN BEE if someone could just explain that part of the song to me in a compelling way I'd like it more.

Ok, I know we're way past this, but I also thought this line was a misstep. For most of the song she's talking about how all the stuff held up as gold standard is actually fantastical crap, but then she holds herself up as gold standard? Maybe it's joke-y, but regardless, I think it doesn't really work. Who is she, a dictator emerging from a communist revolution, using equality rhetoric to justify her own tyranny?

I didn't have a problem with the cliches of grey goose, islands, tigers on a gold leash, etc. I thought the point is that they're threadbare cliches. Also, the lines themselves sound great so I have zero problem going along with them -- the chorus is my favorite part of the song.

It also made me think of Gossip Girl rather than hip hop, but once people started saying it referred to hip hop, that makes sense. *Shrug* sounds like her hindsight is 20/20, too.

I think it is actually the counting money in public thing. When I stop and think about how many times I've seen it happen, not like before or after a purchase, seems like probably almost never.

Yeah, Lorde. Plenty of people take buses and trains to parties (it's not like she has a Caddy!) but nobody is counting their money on there. Didn't your mother teach you one single thing? You're going to get that stolen.

Anyway, as far as current rap/hip hop critiques of materialism, I really like J. Cole's "Crooked Smile." I won't post all the lyrics here because that seems like overkill, but here are a few bits that I think kind of paint the song's essence (in broad strokes anyway):

They tell me I should fix my grill cause I got money now
I ain't gon' sit around and front like I ain't thought about it
A perfect smile is more appealing but it's funny how
My shit is crooked look at how far I done got without it
I keep my twisted grill, just to show the kids it's real
We ain't picture perfect but we worth the picture still

[...]

Now is it real? Eyebrows, fingernails, hair
Is it real? if it's not, girl you don't care
Cause what's real is something that the eyes can't see
That the hands can’t touch, that them broads can’t be, and that’s you

[...]

We don't look nothing like the people on the screen
You know them movie stars, picture perfect beauty queens
But we got dreams and we got the right to chase ‘em
Look at the nation, that’s a crooked smile braces couldn’t even straighten
posted by rue72 at 1:36 AM on November 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I definitely thought the Queen Bee thing was a reference to Beyonce, especially with the diamond wedding ring stuff earlier in the song (referring to "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)"?), and saying "Let me be your ruler / You can call me queen bee / And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule / Let me live that fantasy" sounds to me like she's talking to a specific person ("baby," the love interest) rather than literally ruling everyone, and the fantasy is being like Beyonce, not for the jewels, cars, etc., but maybe the talent or opportunity, and/or the adoration of whoever is being addressed -- "baby." So, like an "I'll rule your heart" kind of thing?
posted by taz at 2:00 AM on November 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Only half way through this page and it is deeply distasteful. If there is anything more pathetic than shooting at easy targets by deconstructing the lyrics of a 15/16 year old child it is doing the same to fabricate charges of racism.

The people doing this sort of thing remind me of the right-on, middle class lefties I saw at college who were all "workers revolution" during term time and were going on skiiing holidays with their rich parents during the Christmas break. Contemptible poseurs.

These are disposable pop songs, they happen to much better than many other disposable pop songs. I wish this girl lots of success and hope she continues to annoy bigoted, self-appointed linguistic guardians.
posted by epo at 2:32 AM on November 3, 2013



Don't you think that it's boring how people talk?
Making smart with their words again, well I'm bored
Because I'm doing this for the thrill of it, killin' it
Never not chasing a million things I want
And I am only as young as the minute is full of it
Getting pumped up from the little bright things I bought
But I know they'll never own me

Yeah.
posted by gwint at 4:45 AM on November 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Only half way through this page and it is deeply distasteful. If there is anything more pathetic than shooting at easy targets by deconstructing the lyrics of a 15/16 year old child it is doing the same to fabricate charges of racism.

this is reasonable

The people doing this sort of thing remind me of the right-on, middle class lefties I saw at college who were all "workers revolution" during term time and were going on skiiing holidays with their rich parents during the Christmas break. Contemptible poseurs.

this is deep, deep into "says more about you than the other posters" territory
posted by ominous_paws at 5:46 AM on November 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Lorde wonders aloud why the value system of every peer around her is defined by millionaires and billionaires she has never met from a far-off continent.

Folks from that far-off continent comfort themselves with finding ways that her indictment is off-base, as they always do.

That she's able to fire this shot back across the water in the form of her destructor—pop—is so beautiful that I'd be a fan for life even if I didn't like the song.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 9:22 AM on November 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


Personally I would say that the value system of the millionaires she is seemingly indicting is set by, and a reaction to, American culture.

Someone linked All Falls Down up thread, in it Kanye West says "they teach us to hate ourselves and love their wealth". Our heros are billionaires. We have a shared mythos of Rockafellers, and Carnegies,and Buffets.

Yet for most of us that is forever out of reach. Some of us are held back by a system set against us. Crowded into schools and jails. Stopped and frisked by cops, told at every turn that we know they are no good and it is only a matter of time before they fuck up.

Kanye West also said "Wait till I get my money right, then you can't tell me nothing right?" turns out it isn't true. Turns out everyone lines up to tell you you are doing something wrong. You were never supposed to get money to begin with.

Many of us are defined what we are told we will never have, can never have, but then we get and we are told we are using it wrong. Buy LL Bean, don't you know your $2500 purse looks dumb? You think people want to listen to the same motherfuckers that told them they would never make it to begin with?

I think this is the context Lorde doesn't see.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:07 AM on November 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


epo: "Only half way through this page and it is deeply distasteful. If there is anything more pathetic than shooting at easy targets by deconstructing the lyrics of a 15/16 year old child it is doing the same to fabricate charges of racism."

I'm not sure what the hell you're reading. Nobody here called her a racist, and as far as I can tell almost all of us have gone out of our way to say she isn't racist at all. And it seems as though people in this thread have been quite kind, even in their most critical moments; the worst thing anybody here has said about her is "she sounds about like I did at that age" and "she's too young to know that this is a really awkward way of putting this." I've said at least half a dozen times that I like her as a person and I wish her the best of luck artistically even if I don't dig this record all that much.
posted by koeselitz at 10:42 AM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not to derail the thread or anything, but I enjoyed the article, and I've just got one question. What did they use to format it so that the pictures come down between the words like that as you scroll? It may be a novelty thing, but it's head and shoulders above most formatting I try to read online.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 11:05 AM on November 3, 2013


I heard this song on the radio out of the blue -- I'd previously read about it in the FPP about the Pentatonix cover, where the title was "a capella cover of Royals" and someone commented "Isn't Royals already a capella?" From that description alone, I knew the song from the instant it started. And when Ella sang "I've never seen a diamond in the flesh," my heart almost stopped with the amazingness of her voice.

The lyrics aren't some kind of amazing poetry, to be sure. And the racism charges exist for me in that weird place where I don't see it, but I don't feel comfortable arguing against them; my impression was that she has this picture of American Pop Culture Excess, which includes hip hop and hard rock and metal and Lady Gaga and everything in between, and she's reacting to that as a monolith. But particularly in combination with the video, which features nothing more than a bunch of very ordinary-looking teenagers being visibly bored out of their fucking minds, I got the impression from the song that she's saying "That American Pop Culture Excess lifestyle is so far out of our imaginings that we can never even pretend to aspire to it, ever. And that's fine! Those grapes are so, so sour anyway! But when I close my eyes and dream, what I dream about is a lot less not-that than I would have you believe. This is the cognitive dissonance of being a teenager; admitting to ridiculous aspirations is a recipe for mockery and heartbreak, but really accepting that my world is much smaller and my reach much shorter than that causes me to die a little inside. So look, I KNOW that this is my world, counting my change on the train to make sure I have enough, lying down in the middle of the road for a thrill, OK? Don't steal my dreams too."

Or, who knows, maybe I'm just heartstruck by her voice and I'm reading something into it that isn't there.
posted by KathrynT at 12:32 PM on November 3, 2013 [19 favorites]


KathrynT's interpretation is probably the closest to mine that I've read in this thread. I didn't see it as a scathing indictment of rap culture or pop culture at all. I first heard this song about a month before it was everywhere (not to be all...I heard it before it was cool) and thought Lorde was playing a sort of character. She's poor, small town (torn up town, no postcode envy) but sort of the leader of her group of (also poor) friends, like lots of groups of teen kids have their leader, who kind of sets the tone of "what we're like" and "who we are." The song talks about how "every song's like" and "everybody's like" when talking about pop excess, and I thought it was just talking about how rap and pop that glamorizes excess and wild behavior is something that dominates popular culture (and has for a while), and that trickles down to teenage culture, so all her peers are 'bout that life too.

She's doing that teenage thing where they're like, "OUR group isn't into this," as a way of setting themselves apart, feeling like they're unique, not like everyone else. but at the same time they're driving Cadillacs in their dreams, so how much of an "indictment" can it really be? I saw it as a case of "protesting too much" if anything. She is criticizing, in a sort of exasperated, bored way, the pop culture of excess that's glorified in pop culture as well as by her peers, but she's also paying attention to wedding rings in the movies, and admits she's not proud of her address. In a lot of ways she's hating on it because she can't have it, which is a very teenage thing to do.
posted by sweetkid at 12:54 PM on November 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


she has this picture of American Pop Culture Excess, which includes hip hop and hard rock and metal and Lady Gaga and everything in between, and she's reacting to that as a monolith.

For what it's worth, this is pretty much how I hear the lyrics as someone also from NZ. But I'm more than double Ella's age and don't really know how kids these days are exposed to or interact with pop culture so feel like my reading is probably too shallow. For example, I imagine my friends and I were more prejudiced and uncaring about hip hop and black culture when I was her age because we didn't know shit all about it if nothing else, so I find it difficult to evaluate the claims of racism in those specific lyrics.

That American Pop Culture Excess lifestyle is so far out of our imaginings that we can never even pretend to aspire to it, ever. And that's fine! Those grapes are so, so sour anyway! But when I close my eyes and dream, what I dream about is a lot less not-that than I would have you believe.

And actually this is also my feeling about it all and it makes me quite nostalgic for my youth and early adult-hood. I know what it's like to be stuck hanging around train stations and bus stops waiting for my ride (Auckland is stupidly sprawling), dicking around with my friends bored, and generally caring more about social dynamics within my peer group than all that weird shit that TV and pop music tells me I should be aspiring to (which is how I read the Queen Bee stuff). There is a real mood to this song that rings true to me as someone with a white, middle class, mostly urban, NZ upbringing even with the generation gap. But then I also don't see the reading that she's making any claims to be poor specifically, just not overtly rich (which my be me projecting, who knows).

I do find it quite amusing for me to even be commenting on the meaning of the lyrics because I'm one of those annoying people who don't really care what they say. I generally consider the voice kind of another instrument, adding to the overall mood and feel but not something I have to de-construct for meaning any more than the rest. I'm usually happy to accept the surface meaning or hum the chorus without learning the words or whatever. That this one song has made me listen, think about, and even care about the meaning behind the lyrics even for a hour or so is probably high praise (or maybe I'm just extra bored today).
posted by shelleycat at 12:57 PM on November 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


my impression was that she has this picture of American Pop Culture Excess

In other news, "Britney Spears is a Very Effective Pirate Deterrent"

What did they use to format it so that the pictures come down between the words like that as you scroll? It may be a novelty thing, but it's head and shoulders above most formatting I try to read online.

The effect is called parallaxing and everyone and their mom is doing it in the web design world. It does seem to work well with long-form writing; it makes the site feel like an actual magazine.
posted by phaedon at 2:13 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


For most of the song she's talking about how all the stuff held up as gold standard is actually fantastical crap, but then she holds herself up as gold standard?

Yes, for herself and her boyfriend. Let me be your ruler, let me have that fantasy. It's they're all swanning around in maybachs and have everything we won't ever have, but we still want a little bit of that royal lifestyle, if only for the two of us.

(Incidently, am I the only one to see a bit of a gay subtext in at least the video, with the boys in the hotel (?) room?)
posted by MartinWisse at 2:46 PM on November 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


You know, I never would have thought this video would work with "Yakety Sax," but it kinda does.
posted by sweetkid at 5:58 PM on November 3, 2013


(Now she needs to collaborate on a record with Janelle Monae produced by MF Doom and make the fucking world explode.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:33 PM on November 2


well, that comment is enough to give me my nightly head explode, so .... thanks!
posted by mannequito at 6:44 PM on November 3, 2013


Just because you're not rich doesn't mean you can't rule in your own mind.

I relate, Ella/Lorde, I relate.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:53 PM on November 3, 2013


Kanye West also said "Wait till I get my money right, then you can't tell me nothing right?" turns out it isn't true. Turns out everyone lines up to tell you you are doing something wrong. You were never supposed to get money to begin with.

Many of us are defined what we are told we will never have, can never have, but then we get and we are told we are using it wrong. Buy LL Bean, don't you know your $2500 purse looks dumb? You think people want to listen to the same motherfuckers that told them they would never make it to begin with?

I think this is the context Lorde doesn't see.


I agree that she doesn't see that context, but that's why, unlike the vast majority of hip hop, rap, R&B, and pop artists, she (and "Royals") comes off as unjaded. The "young" "fresh" acapella aethetic is part of what makes "Royals" (and Lorde) come off that way -- that lack of jadedness is an essential part of her image, and of her appeal. In that sense, I think Taylor Swift is her closest counterpart. Now Swift has aged out of the role of "the Ingenue," though, so there's room for a more downbeat, cool, "Post Occupy" version (aka Lorde) to come on the scene.

I don't mean that as a swipe at either Swift or Lorde, I like both pretty well. But I think that what's "exciting" about Lorde is actually that she's the new Ingenue on the scene, not that "Royals" is necessarily special in its own right, in either its message or its production values.

For example -- like Lorde's "Royals" supposedly is, Rihanna's "Pour It Up" is also a subversive reclaiming of a culture that's supposedly hers but is really about commodifying her...and personally, I like it better than "Royals," partly because (like most of Rihanna's songs) it's so jaded it's practically poisonous. Rihanna is old hat on the scene and jadedness is a dime a dozen right now, though, so reception to that song was very different. If the message of "Royals" or even how Lorde's singing style differs from other artists were what interested people -- and not that she's taking up the mantle of "alterna-girl Ingenue" -- then wouldn't at least some other songs that have the same kind of message and/or an odd singing style be getting at least a bit more reflected attention?

I'm not saying that the attention getting paid to Lorde or "Royals" is unwarranted, but I think what's compelling to many people is the cultural role her managers/handlers are casting her to play, rather than this specific singer or song specifically.
posted by rue72 at 9:44 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


unlike the vast majority of hip hop, rap, R&B, and pop artists, she (and "Royals") comes off as unjaded.

It is just sort of funny that the music she is critiquing, if that is indeed what she is doing, is being produced by and large by people who had even less money or prospects at 16 than Lorde did before she got famous.

It is strange how rap artists transition as they get older. In a genre where fans expect some level of honesty, Jay Z can't rap about selling coke forever. He can't do Hard Knock Life with 500 million dollars in his bank account. What do you rap about after you been rich for years?
posted by Ad hominem at 10:23 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


In a genre where fans expect some level of honesty, Jay Z can't rap about selling coke forever. He can't do Hard Knock Life with 500 million dollars in his bank account. What do you rap about after you been rich for years?

Some artists (EX: 50 Cent, Eminem) can't make that leap, and try to rap about all the random other crappy things in their lives. Not that being in prison or hating your family doesn't suck but I feel like those artists do lose their footing when they can't be the complete underdog anymore, and the underdog role doesn't really fit when they're rich and beloved by millions of fans.

Some artists (EX: Rihanna) sing about how life is still empty.

Some artists (EX: Jay-Z, Beyonce, Drake, Kanye -- basically all the middle class artists, now that I think about it) rap or sing about how amazing paying for stuff feels, and assure us that they deserve it.

Rock (and pop-rock) is so strange, I don't have any idea how Lorde is going to transition. I mean, how has Taylor Swift transitioned? She sings about crushing less and breaking up more? Maybe there's actually less room for artists to transition in rock, and so they just sort of die off and join new bands in order to make comebacks.

Maybe Miley Cyrus actually is growing, and is yearning for a transition, and knows from her previous transition from Disney Kid that she's capable of doing so, and that's why she's currently so into rap/hip hop and appropriating black culture in general? She's trying to find a path to transitioning (again) as a performer and sees more role-models there than in pop/rock or rock?
posted by rue72 at 10:42 PM on November 3, 2013


Jay dropped the GOAT truffle verse on Suit and Tie.

Jay needs to go back to his roots like that Rocky movie where Rocky goes and chases chickens in an alleyway.

Kanye at least keeps getting his heart broken and being an emotional wreck. He also surrounds himself with new people all the time. I guess him and Tyler are BFFs now and that may have contributed to Kanye's attempt to appropriate the confederate flag for his tour merch.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:03 PM on November 3, 2013


Kanye at least keeps getting his heart broken and being an emotional wreck. He also surrounds himself with new people all the time. I guess him and Tyler are BFFs now and that may have contributed to Kanye's attempt to appropriate the confederate flag for his tour merch.

Kanye has had a pretty rough row to hoe, I've got to say. What is he supposed to sing about conspicuous consumption when it killed his mom but Kim Kardashian is the mother of his child?
posted by rue72 at 11:23 PM on November 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ok side question:

How is that site made? Love the transition of navigation instead of "turning a page".
posted by stormpooper at 7:44 AM on November 4, 2013


Parallax scrolling
posted by sweetkid at 9:29 AM on November 4, 2013


"Only half way through this page and it is deeply distasteful. If there is anything more pathetic than shooting at easy targets by deconstructing the lyrics of a 15/16 year old child it is doing the same to fabricate charges of racism."

At 16 years old she's old enough to start thinking like an artist and improving her craft, or you know what? She'll suck forever. What do people in this thread think they're protecting their sweet ingenue from, anyway? She'd probably tell you all to fuck off for treating her like an infant.

Jesus christ it's the week where everyone who talks about poverty on Metafilter must be a huge hypocrite? No trust me I am actually fucking poor, I'll show you my dental record to prove it. And when I was 16 I was voraciously interested in feedback on my writing, and critically concerned with what kind of bigotry I'd internalized and never faced up to. Show her a little respect and treat her like a human, eh? SHE HERSELF is more receptive to criticism on the subject of race than any of the white knights in this thread apparently.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:04 PM on November 4, 2013


Some artists (EX: Jay-Z, Beyonce, Drake, Kanye -- basically all the middle class artists, now that I think about it) rap or sing about how amazing paying for stuff feels, and assure us that they deserve it.

... and also tell us about how they think it's kind of ruining their souls, in terms of internalized racism, external racism, and also just personal mental health.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:13 PM on November 4, 2013


Anyway sorry, still a bit angry, which may even be personal because if people had been defending my alleged bigotry when I was 16 I would've felt rather nauseous about the whole thing. Even if there wasn't a racist bone in my body (somehow) there's something awful to me about saying the accusations are just the product of hypocritical white people-- maybe white people are the only ones who can comfortably stand up en masse and shout nonsensically about it in public, but that doesn't mean it's a made up white people concern troll.

But thanks for not saying I am a dreaded troll, I just wanted to talk about the song lyrically and how unique it was for sounding like an unedited piece of young writing in both good and bad ways. I was a bit punchy because I do think it's overkill to need to worship youth to the extent that people are writhing in the streets over her, and am starving to death for some real pop/rock talent to worship lately
posted by stoneandstar at 6:23 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been reading reviews and poking around on YouTube a bit. (People have posted a pretty impressive number of covers and lyrics videos in the last couple weeks.)

There's a verse in "Team" that runs "We live in cities / you never see on screen. / It's not very pretty, / but we sure know how to run ___." The last word isn't quite clear. Two reviews I've seen have quoted the last line as "we sure know how to run things". Her fans seem to be unanimously hearing it as "run free". This probably means something, but I'm not sure what.
posted by nangar at 8:12 PM on November 4, 2013


Some artists (EX: Jay-Z, Beyonce, Drake, Kanye -- basically all the middle class artists, now that I think about it) rap or sing about how amazing paying for stuff feels, and assure us that they deserve it.

... and also tell us about how they think it's kind of ruining their souls, in terms of internalized racism, external racism, and also just personal mental health.

I agree, I'm sorry if my descriptions were too simplistic to convey that. Jay-Z has both "Holy Grail" and "Tom Ford" on his most recent album, obviously there's at least some complexity to his current depiction of materialism and his own commodification.

how unique it was for sounding like an unedited piece of young writing in both good and bad ways

I think it's unique within a certain subgenre. For example, lots of young female songwriters are singing their own stuff with acapella-esque production values -- but on country music stations (which is exactly where we got our last fresh-young-pop/folk-hero, Taylor Swift).

Being a good singer/songwriter isn't what makes someone a star (EX: Britney Spears). I think Lorde *is* a good singer/songwriter, but that doesn't explain why she's all over the radio. What I think is more interesting in a "what is going on with the zeitgeist now?" kind of way is that what the music industry apparently thinks will get them the biggest dividends is a sweet-voiced kid singing acapella about her complicated relationship with materialism.

And I think that issue of where/how the music industry comes in is where an analysis of her lyrics ultimately needs to go, because those lyrics and that image are ultimately getting crafted and shown to us in service of that industry's need to bring in the dollars. The answer to any question of "why is this lyric there?" "why are the production values like this?" is ultimately going to be "because that's what the label thinks will sell best," and so the question becomes, "why does the label think that'll sell best?"

I think that Lorde can access a huge, relatively untapped market that Miley Cyrus and the other Disney-fied pop stars around now can't -- she can pull off the young, fresh, unjaded ingenue *and* she can pull off post-Occupy cynicism (while they can't pull off either, for the most part).

But hey, she *does* do it very well, and I sing along to "Royals" when it comes on the radio, too.

Show her a little respect and treat her like a human, eh? SHE HERSELF is more receptive to criticism on the subject of race than any of the white knights in this thread apparently.

Personally, I think it is racist to steal a bunch of hip hop tropes to set up a "Ghetto Fabulous" straw man as a way to shore up your own pose as "authentic underdog." For what it's worth, I don't think that's something that Lorde consciously meant to do and she seems to take the criticism seriously. I don't think it's pathetic or distasteful to say that her lyrics are setting up dichotomies that she apparently doesn't even want them to, that's legitimate critique in my book. Also for what it's worth, I didn't pick up on the issue until it was pointed out to me, either, which is exactly why I was happy that people made the effort to point it out.

Anyway, now that I *have* thought about it more, what bothers me isn't so much that Lorde lifted the tropes, but rather that in lifting those tropes she's being pretty explicit that she's part of a *tradition* of singing about materialism and commodification...and yet she's still being lauded as groundbreaking, unique, etc. I don't mean by people in this thread specifically, this isn't directed at anyone here, I mean in how she's being framed as the new pop darling.

That seems like pretty classic systemic racism -- a white person doing something that's part of a black tradition and getting lauded as though the tradition didn't exist beforehand. Ie, Lorde sings about materialism and commodification and she's lauded as unique, when there are meanwhile *current songs on the radio* doing that exact same thing. The irony there is that Lorde is even getting called out now on using some imagery tropes that are associated with hip hop and rap, and yet there is much less talk about how the subject matter/theme of "Royals" is the (traditional) beating heart of hip hop and rap as genres....which is why those imagery tropes surrounding materialism that she's getting called out on using even exist in the first place.

Lorde has a perfect right to explore those themes in her music (personally, I'm glad she is), and I don't lay the blame for the racism that frames her as "unique" for doing so on her shoulders. It's another case of systemic racism, another facet of white privilege. Depressing. To quote J. Cole from "Crooked Smile," another song that is currently getting played on the radio, I asked if my skin pale, would I then sell like Eminem or Adele?
posted by rue72 at 8:42 PM on November 4, 2013


It's another case of systemic racism, another facet of white privilege. Depressing.

I showed up early to the party, got my jabs in. So, in the spirit of level-headed, open discussion, I wanted to add that I don't think you make a particularly convincing case for systemic racism, a phenomenon that, as I stated upthread, I do otherwise believe in.

I can't say I know for certain what makes one song transcend all others, I would probably chalk this up to some form of unquantifiable magic. Songs just become hits. Again, Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" became an anthem, despite a terribly simplistic, disco derivative. Hardly the best of its genre; hardly ground-breaking or unique.

Why did that happen? Did Daft Punk pay their dues? Did the song come out at the right time? Did some mogul decide to push it hard? Did the critics fall in love with it? Did some fat cats decide to drop it in a commercial? Am I too old to get what all the fuss is about? I concede that I don't know.

What I can tell you with absolutely certainty is that systemic inequity is a well-established trope in the rap game, and I would add, almost without a doubt, entertainment at large. Not everybody makes it. And it's unfair. And sometimes it comes down to knowing the right people and being at the right place at the right time. And financing.

But inequity does not always rise to the charge of racism. To establish that, you would have to prove that the reason Lorde has risen to the top has something to do with the color of her skin. Up to this point, nobody has said that. And within the context of music listening, that's a pretty wild assertion. In fact, music is one of the avenues in which black artists have been met with public acceptance and have had a great deal of success. Are they getting fucked on the back-end? Of course. I remember when I interviewed Maseo, he said, there is a white man sitting on a yacht making money off of us while De La Soul is on the road busting their ass doing shows. Does this constitute systemic racism? Well yeah, to a degree, it does. Not to get all Das Kapital on your ass, but historically, black people have not controlled the means of production. But even here it would be equally fair to say, it is musicians in general that do not control the means of production. But I digress. We are talking about music, not the music business.

Anyone with more than a passing acquaintance of 90's hip-hop will remember the skit in the beginning of "Kick in the Door" by Biggie where they interview the "My shit's more John Blaze than that" mad rapper, a caricature of the mad black guy who has made four albums and is still living in his grandma's basement. So racism aside, inequity was already built-in to the rap game. And a lot of this was due to artists "blowing up" due to mainstream success, no longer playing at clubs or even on the streets, but rather selling millions of records through major distribution channels. Even within strictly the "black rap community," the forefathers of hip-hop really didn't get paid shit. Inequitable, but not racist.

So to cherry-pick Lorde's whiteness is really disingenuous. She could've just as well been a black artist from New Zealand. I can't imagine anyone giving less of a shit about her because of the color of her skin. I kind of like J. Cole, I wish him well, but I think it's pretty fucking ridiculous that he thinks he's as good as Eminem. Not to mention that Eminem was part of D12, of which he is the only non-black member. And that he was hand-picked by Dr. Dre, who in turn initially received a lot of flack for doing so. The guy also has a lot of credibility, he did not simply repackage something that already existed or dilute it so that white people could understand it. If anything, a lot of his black contemporaries were doing that. Seriously.
posted by phaedon at 3:08 AM on November 5, 2013


That Daft Punk song had a long and calculated advertising campaign leading up to it's release. Even I'd heard of it by the time it was finally out and I'm pretty out of touch given I don't listen to the radio or watch TV very often. That hit didn't just happen and how it happened is pretty well understood. Just like Lorde's song didn't appear magically from NZ to the rest of the world on it's own either.

She could've just as well been a black artist from New Zealand.

And yet she's not. And when I think about the other female singer-songwriters in NZ that she's following on from, all of them were presented by the industry as being pretty white despite many having mixed heritage (e.g. the Runga sisters, Brooke Fraser, Anika Moa, Margaret Urlich, etc). Anika Moa, in particular, has been vocal about not liking how she was presented by the music industry and basically gave up an international career over it. It's not a universal rule for sure, but still something I've noticed before as someone who follows the kiwi music scene.

So yeah, I actually do think the colour of Lorde's skin and her middle-class privileged background probably play into all this success somewhere given I can't think of any overtly maori or pacific islander female artist in a similar high profile position right now.
posted by shelleycat at 10:20 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think an important point to keep in mind here is that hip-hop is a big part of teenage culture, too. It doesn't strike me as particularly odd that her most immediate reference points for displays of wealth might be from the pop culture she's growing up in. Perhaps she hasn't reflected on where some of these artists came from to get as rich as they are, or hasn't yet examined how capitalism itself is the bigger problem. But she's 16, so I'm willing to give her some time where that's concerned. Hopefully the more reasoned discussions that have come up about the song will encourage her to reflect.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:31 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lorde's "Royals" is crossover hit on R&B hip/hop radio

Raekwon adds verses to "Royals" for his own remix

Someone should tell those folks it's a racist song, huh?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:54 AM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hopefully the more reasoned discussions that have come up about the song will encourage her to reflect.

I would say, based on the article in the post anyway, that she already is. And she seems to have a pretty mature, thoughtful attitude to everything in general, I don't think I was so together at 16. I'm not left feeling worried about this young person being overly manipulated by the industry at least.
posted by shelleycat at 12:40 PM on November 5, 2013


The next mayor of New York City just played Royals as he came on stage to give his victory speech, so that happened.
posted by lalex at 7:40 PM on November 5, 2013


I think an important point to keep in mind here is that hip-hop is a big part of teenage culture, too. It doesn't strike me as particularly odd that her most immediate reference points for displays of wealth might be from the pop culture she's growing up in

Yes this. However I still don't see how this song is a straightforward indictment of consumer culture and the glamorization of wealth when the chorus mentions "driving Cadillacs in our dreams."
posted by sweetkid at 7:50 PM on November 5, 2013


Again, Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" became an anthem, despite a terribly simplistic, disco derivative. Hardly the best of its genre; hardly ground-breaking or unique.

Why did that happen? Did Daft Punk pay their dues? Did the song come out at the right time? Did some mogul decide to push it hard? Did the critics fall in love with it? Did some fat cats decide to drop it in a commercial? Am I too old to get what all the fuss is about? I concede that I don't know.


Daft Punk have been making albums for 20 years, they had a huge world-wide tour, got sampled and name-checked by a bunch of hip-hop and indy artists, then recorded an album with a huge budget in LA with legends from the music industry, and released it on a major label, backed by a huge marketing campaign. It was as much of a sure-thing as anything in the music industry can be. It was the musical equivalent of a new Star Wars movie coming out.
posted by empath at 9:05 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone should tell those folks it's a racist song, huh?

Lorde has black friends..
posted by phaedon at 10:44 PM on November 5, 2013


Raekwon - Royals

He really changed that track. It's like, the opposite now
posted by Ad hominem at 12:27 AM on November 6, 2013


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