When you hear the words 16 year old pop star, you expect a certain amount of flash and excess to come with it. Just how the game is played now. Perhaps that’s why “Royals” from Ella Yelich-O’Connor, aka Lorde, is such a pleasant surprise. The song, which went to #1 in the singles chart in her home country New Zealand, is introspective in a way that you don’t often hear from teenagers. We asked the burgeoning star to tell us more about the song.
What’s “Royals” about? Is it anti the materialist stuff you sing about, or a celebration of it?
It’s not so much a declaration of dislike for the stuff I namedrop, more calling ‘bullshit’ on it all. I thought it was time someone in popular music was saying what everyone my age was thinking: we don’t even have licenses, let alone Maybachs. I enjoy listening to music with really lavish, opulent stuff talked about, but purely on a shallow level; “Royals” was me trying to get real.
You sing “We crave a different kind of buzz.” What’s the alternative besides the idea of being a royal then?
Nothing specific, just anything you do with your friends that makes you happy. The other night I was sitting in a Denny’s with everyone, eating awful food and drinking the last of the beers; I think it was 2 am and everyone looked shitty, but I remember feeling so happy. That buzz is good enough i think!
Do you have a sense of whether or not that same type of aspirational consumer-dominated culture in New Zealand is the same as it is here in the States? Is it everywhere in the world now? We all want the same stupid shit?
I feel like people from larger territories assume that New Zealand is this kind of primitive society where everyone lives in grass huts or something, but we have McDonald’s and shopping malls and tv, believe it or not. So that consumerist mindset is naturally there I guess? Although ‘royals’ wasn’t a criticism of consumerism as such, just extravagance.
Where did the concept for the video come from? Does it follow the idea of the song?
The song and the video were both my attempt to keep it real, the video a hyperextension of this. Basically, I got a bunch of my friends to jerk around and do nothing for a day, and we filmed it. The portrayal of youth in tv and movies and stuff is often pretty skewed and glamorized. I know for a fact my life isn’t that cool, and I guess what I was trying to do is let other people my age know I was feeling the same as them. It’s all shot around my hometown, with my friends wearing some of my clothes. I’m really fascinated by suburbia, that blandness, visually and metaphorically. It felt cool to me.
photo by James K. Lowe