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Behind The Song: Lorde’s ‘Royals’

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(James K. Lowell)

(James K. Lowell)

By Jeremy D. Larson

To check the barometer of a song’s popularity, just type the name of the song plus the word “cover” into YouTube and see how many people have tried their hand at it. Right now, there’s over 1.5 million results for Lorde’s “Royals,” from California bros to a cappella groups to 8-bit versions to whatever this is.

The song that slipped out of Ella Yelich-O’Connor’s mouth on a relatively unknown EP in 2012 went to No. 1 in 11 countries in 2013, and ended up as fifth best-selling song of 2013 — the best by any female artist — selling over 4.4 million digital copies. She was the youngest female artist to have a No. 1 song in the U.S. since Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” and countless outlets (including us) crowned it one of the top songs of the year. It did very well.

But what’s most notable, or perhaps ironic, is that it did very well for a song that lambasts fame and wealth, both of which are now well within Lorde’s reach. Throughout the year, Lorde has been vocal to the press about the meaning of the song, though no more than she needs to be. Part of the song’s power come from her polemic against the kind of images she was seeing in pop music in the 21st century.

“When I wrote ‘Royals’, I was listening to a lot of rap, but also a lot of Lana Del Rey,”Lorde told the New Zealand Listener back in March,” because she’s obviously really hip-hop influenced, but all those references to expensive alcohol, beautiful clothes and beautiful cars – I was thinking, ‘This is so opulent, but it’s also bulls**t.’

Related: Lorde Wins Radio.com’s Rookie of the Year

Materialism, escapism, regal love — by the time Lorde was nominated for a GRAMMY for “Royals” we knew every nook and cranny so well we could have put up our own version of the song on YouTube. We wanted to know the one thing about the song that we may not know yet.

Lorde starting writing songs when she was very young, only about 13 or 14 years old, but one of the lyrics from “Royals” came from even a few years earlier.

Related: Radio.com’s 2014 Grammy Coverage

“I think one of the first lines I wrote from that song,” Lorde told Radio.com, “which was, ‘We’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams,’ was in a diary that I had when I was like 11 or 12, so young.”

Lorde, the diamond in the flesh, has been nominated for four GRAMMYs, including Song of The Year, Record of the Year and Pop Solo Performance of the Year.

Tune in to the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards on January 26 (8 p.m. EST, CBS).

(Charles Howells)(Charles Howells)

 

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