People seem excited by the criticism of conspicuous consumption in “Royals.” What were you thinking about when you wrote it?
I’ve always listened to a lot of rap. It’s all, look at this car that cost me so much money, look at this Champagne. It’s super fun. It’s also some bullshit. When I was going out with my friends, we would raid someone’s freezer at her parents’ house because we didn’t have enough money to get dinner. So it seems really strange that we’re playing A$AP Rocky. I experienced this disconnect. Everyone knows it’s B.S., but someone has to write about it. There’s typically been a lot of interest in that aspect of the song, but my all my friends are kinda like, “yeah.” They thought it was less profound.
Lorde had thought of writing a song about the luxury of pop musicians after seeing an image in the July 1976 edition of National Geographic showing Kansas City Royals player George Brett signing baseballs, with his team's name emblazoned across his shirt – Lorde recalled during a September 3, 2013 VH1 interview, "It was just that word. It's really cool." More broadly, historic aristocrats were also inspirational, as she explained during that same interview. She wrote the lyrics to "Royals" in July 2012, at her house in only half an hour. She was listening to a lot of rapping and hip hop-influenced music, especially Lana Del Rey, while writing. Lorde has mentioned that "all those references to expensive alcohol, beautiful clothes and beautiful cars – I was thinking, ‘This is so opulent, but it’s also bullshit.’" Later, Lorde went to show the lyrics to Joel Little, her producer at his Golden Age Studios – he remarked "Yeah, this is cool". Within a week, "Royals" and two other songs were produced there, for The Love Club EP.
Write a song about how people buy a new gaming system every year; or build houses with a ridiculous number of bathrooms; or treat plane travel as a necessity...suddenly we aren't too keen on criticizing consumption.
What I think makes the song sort of confusing, or at least more complicated, is that she says "We don't care/We're driving Cadillacs in our dreams." There's sort of an ambivalence there - she's asserting a rejection of consumer culture but then also admitting that she fantasizes about being able to participate in it. Or something? I don't know, I haven't quite been able to wrap my head around it.
(I guess what I keep coming back to is that, if she’s savvy about how a writer dropping in a detail about truffle fries can add weird class implications, why is it so much of a stretch to notice how a writer dropping in a detail about gold teeth or Cristal can add weird racial implications?)
I feel like if someone has a nuanced enough understanding of media culture to know about Lynn Hirschberg’s profile-writing techniques by name (I mean, like, I probably know more about this sort of thing than anyone and the Megan Fox thing was news to me), it’s not much of a stretch that they may have a nuanced understanding of racial issues? -- Kathryn St. Astaph
Yeah, but Flunkie, if you believe that Cadillacs are expensive, why would it occur to you to check Wikipedia in the first place?
I’ve always listened to a lot of rap. It’s all, look at this car that cost me so much money, look at this Champagne. It’s super fun. It’s also some bullshit. When I was going out with my friends, we would raid someone’s freezer at her parents’ house because we didn’t have enough money to get dinner. So it seems really strange that we’re playing A$AP Rocky. I experienced this disconnect. Everyone knows it’s B.S., but someone has to write about it.
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