Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad: Lorde ‘Royals’

Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad is a column which sees a panel of writers for The Corner review a range of local singles and grade them out of 10. Check out the song below, read through their opinions and let us know in the comments section your own thoughts and what you’d like us to review next time around.

[Soundcloud]

[Grade: 7.5]

Joe Nunweek: So this has gone pretty huge while staying enigmatic – a mysterious Soundcloud, little in the way of a bio, one elaborate illustration, and some hard repping from what seems to be a few influential people in high places. However this unfurls is anyone’s guess, but it’s a pretty subtle campaign, made more satisfying by how good this is. Like Lips, she knows how to hem in the dynamics – there’s a snap-crack minimalism going on which rightly bets on her vocal charisma, a restrained verite coolness rather than hitting the switch on big instrumental signifiers of emotion and drama (cf: Lana Del Rey and the Sky Ferreira stuff that isn’t ‘Everything Is Embarrassing’). Getting into trainspotting, my favourite part here is the “But-every-song-is-like gold teeth-grey-goose-drippin’-in-the bathroom” strut before the chorus, but everything hangs together.

I just wanna say that the lyrical conceit is pretty marvelous too – it’s a song for everyone who’s ever been young, ordinary and in love with decadent modern pop music, the dissonance of lapping up obscene depictions of wealth or largesse while counting your last coins on the 221 from Avondale to town. Like Parallel Dance Ensemble, it’s a canny universal sentiment with the added bonus of being able to look out your window as you listen and say “Yeah, that’s happening here.” Also like PDE, this is fucking great. [9]

Stephen Clover: From out of nowhere — who actually is this vaguely anonymous Lorde? Anyway, I’m enchanted by the simple-funk-icity here; it’s cute, it’s clever and smoove as hell. ‘Royals’ is basically just completely dope and I hope it goes huge for Lorde. [7]

Luke Jacobs: This song felt like 6 minutes 20 and not 3 minutes 10. It just never seemed to move right and did very little to hook me in and make want to get into it. I think the biggest part of that was not the vocals, the lyrics or the inflection of either. It was the production which felt bog standard and quite vanilla. That made it hard to want to get into the drama of the song. It felt hard to get excited about the way the song moved because the way it was structured never made it feel like there was anything at stake, so to speak. It had potential to become something. I reckon a remix of the song could bring out that magic. [5]

Maddie Collier: Lorde sounds exactly like someone I can’t quite put my finger on; Robyn or Grimes or that sort of flavour. She describes herself on her various pages as “a fury, a dilemma”, which I misread at first as “I’m a furry; a dilemma”. ‘Royals’ has a smooth, languid pace and snug production, but easily the best thing about it is the charming proletariat-chic narrative. It’s a punchy rejection of all things swag: “Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece / jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash / we don’t care / we aren’t caught up in your love affair”. She’s defiant and contradictory and defensive, pluckily regaling scenes where she’s counting coins on the train to a party with her friends one minute then asking us to subsume to her queen bee reign the next; qualities which seem to cross over to her real-life persona where you can find her wondering publicly if her short fingernails disqualify her from the twittersphere while she plugs her fresh EP by tweet. I think I like it. [7]

George Johnston: I really want to make comparisons to Kimbra and Fever Ray meets The Naked and Famous but I honestly think that would be doing her a diservice. This is a super slick single, one of those songs that’s quite incredible when you realise that it came from here. Really looking forward to hearing more. [7]

Lauren Clark: I’m really floored. This is – dead serious – perfect. I went a little nuts listening to this – just a bit of “is this really happening?” and swearing at my computer – especially once I found out that she’s sixteen, which just makes me feel oddly emotional. So I had to scrap my raving and wait until I’d calmed down in order to submit something that resembled some kind of review… I’m struggling to recall anything I have listened to recently that has made me so ecstatic. But there’s something about it that has some weight, something intelligent, maybe, that makes it feel not like a throwaway song you’ll play all day and then forget the next. She clearly has a savant-like musical ear, and you can tell by the strength of her voice (literally and figuratively) that she knows it. Which is perfectly fine, because she has the skill to back it up. And the lyrics, in addition to having a maturity behind them (for a sixteen year old), actually make thematic sense the whole way through, which is rare in pop these days. Pretty sure this will go viral, and I am totally falling for it. I think we’ll see great things from Lorde (whoever she is. Sixteen! What the fuck). [10]

28 Comments

  1. She’s 16!?

  2. Dan Taipua says:

    Earl was sixteen

  3. Martyn Pepperell says:

    It amazes me that people are still amazed when teenagers make good music.

  4. @Maddie
    > which I misread at first as “I’m a furry; a dilemma”
    HAHAHA nice :))

  5. Yes, apparently – and from Takapuna Grammar (which totally figures)

  6. Shit this is good, I wish I wasn’t lazy and did the reviews this week.

  7. Natasha Beddingfield rulz

    • Hadley this is beau says:

      Hadles i second you on that %100. Pocket Full of Sunshine, I jam that shit errday.

  8. Wow, this is awesome.

    So are the other tunes on her sound cloud. I especially like The Love Club, great lyrics and tune is a bit more expansive than Royals without losing the minimalism.

  9. Luke Jacobs says:

    Really swam against the tide of opinion here haha. I listened to the song a few more times again and I stand by what I wrote. There’s something about the backing rhythms that just make it hard for me to get behind it and really enjoy it. If I had to compare it reminded me so much of my thoughts on the new XX album. Lush and pretty but no clear defined shape.

    • Michael says:

      I agree 100%.

      This song sucks. It’s generic and completely boring. I don’t see how anyone thinks the lyrics are clever. Clever would have been to put a subtle satirical spin on the subject instead of just listing things.

  10. I think the greatest thing about this song is the “vanilla” production. Strip that away and put her with a basic guitar accompaniment and you have a very boring product.

  11. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCr81kVTdqE

    puts the chorus of this in my head. odd.

  12. I’m her teacher, she is legit.

  13. shes amazing!

  14. Could have been worse – at least she’s not another kid with a ukulele.

  15. I dig it. The stripped-back production and her voice are nice; as for the lyrics, I like them too, very impressionistic. Shows a lot of restraint, which many of us have trouble exercising. Sweet work.

  16. Antipodean says:

    Looks like you guys nailed it.

  17. Hussein says:

    Here’s some links to the ‘Royals is racist’ discussion, for those interested.

    http://its-her-factory.blogspot.co.nz/2013/09/a-different-kind-of-buzz-harmony-white.html

    http://feministing.com/2013/10/03/wow-that-lorde-song-royals-is-racist/

    http://livinlavidalynda.com/2013/10/no-feministing-lordes-royals-is-not-a-racist-song/

    http://www.npr.org/2013/09/30/227790278/lorde-doesnt-have-a-bentley-but-the-charts-will-do

    This is a great reply, via Singles Jukebox
    http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=7333#comment-343000

    “This is a racially tinged song that shits on a raft of signifiers associated exclusively with rap, and this bs about her “opting out” that she’s offering and people above offer in defense of the song betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what rap’s materialism is actually about, i.e., celebrating ascension from poverty, and who rap’s consumerist messages are actually addressed to, i.e, not white teenagers from New Zealand. You can’t opt out of something you were never invited to opt into in the first place, and when a rapper brags about his jewelry as a symbol of his emergence from inner-city poverty and derides other rappers’ shitty jewelry, he is not actually pressuring white middle-class people (or white middle-class children in distant lands!) to go out and buy stuff that would look ridiculous on them, or making fun of them because they got their engagement rings at the suburban jewelry megastore, or in any way imposing anything on them such that they can “opt out” of it. What’s really offensive and stupid about this song, though, is that all these things that “everybody’s like [rapping about]” are, in fact, not things that anyone raps about in 2013. She lists a brand of car that went out of production last year, a brand of champagne that Jay-Z and other rappers stopped rapping about seven years ago when the CEO said he couldn’t help it if rappers drank his products but he wasn’t too glad that they did, a brand of vodka that also hasn’t been fashionable to rap about for over five years, and a gold teeth trend that died out in 2005. Did she write this song when she was 8, or did she just write a song shitting on rap when her whole knowledge of it seems to be based on about five ten year-old songs?”

    • Dan Taipua says:

      Livin’ La Vida Lynda
      (- _-)

    • Melanie says:

      Why are we labeling which typical wealth belongs to certain groups? Sounds like the ones who are writing its racists are actually racist. Only the true author knows. Give me a break. Everybody wears grills , all have drank Cristal. Big cars are always among the rich. I’m sorry no its not racist. Also a reference was made about 80 hairs bands trashing hotel rooms. Well that’s what was running through ones mind at the time, also it was during the time when prince William announces their big engagement. And everybody was kneeling and just ripping their clothes off for the prince and princess of whales. It makes sense, “Were all not caught up in your love affair”. Clearly she found them to be as annoying and just more of what we don’t need. We don’t need actually need them or any rulers. Taking shots at them all. Grills and gold teeth are not pinned on just rappers, Give me a break. Besides gold crowns are ugly, And any kind of human has them.

      • Melanie says:

        I also feel she was just wondering if they accidentally cut their teeth and gums wearing their fancy grills during a movie or video.

  18. Hey Hussein. Maybe it would be better if more people of the rapping coloration celebrated their emergence from poverty via education [because the non-rap talent will pursue the obvious drug culture route]. This old pink guy loved the song.

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