Lorde's Royals sparks racism row

By Hayden Donnell

Lorde in a still from her video for Royals.
Lorde in a still from her video for Royals.

A blogger has sparked furious debate with a claim that Lorde's hit song Royals is racist.

Feministing writer Veronica Bayetti Flores said the 16-year-old singer was insulting rap culture with her stabs at "Cristal, Maybach" and other images of excess in music.

"We all know who she's thinking when we're talking gold teeth, Cristal and Maybach. So why s*** on black folks? Why s*** on rappers? Why aren't we critiquing wealth by taking hits at golf or polo or Central Park East? Why not take to task the bankers and old-money folks who actually have a hand in perpetuating and increasing wealth inequality? I'm gonna take a guess: racism," she said.

Video

Bayetti Flores went on to hit out at the New York Times for calling Royals a "calmly insubordinate" look at the disconnect between pop-culture fantasy and the real life of those who "didn't come from money".

"White liberal critics have been so captivated by Royals' call-out of consumption that they didn't bother to take the time to think critically about the racial implications of the lyrics."

The lyrics from Royals show Lorde - a self-professed feminist - had much to learn about feminism, Bayetti Flores said.

"She apparently calls herself a feminist - let's just hope her feminism gets a lot less racist as she develops as an artist."

The post sparked controversy on blogs and social media, with many calling its claims unfounded and inaccurate.

New Zealand journalist Lynda Brendish said Bayetti Flores was guilty of analysing the song through the lens of US race relations.

The song was a New Zealand teen's reaction to the over-the-top images of wealth and materialism "tubefed" to her in pop culture, Brendish said.

"The theme of the song is a the dissonance between that life (ironically one that Lorde is probably now set to live) and the one she lives in New Zealand, but it is not at all about race."

Dave Schilling of Vice concluded the song was not racist in his 'This Week In Racism' column.

Asking Lorde to sing about polo, golf and Central Park East was unrealistic, he said.

"Could it be that there aren't any songs on the radio about golf or polo that 16-year-old girls listen to? Why would anyone assign their own cultural baggage to someone who isn't even old enough to buy cigarettes in America? Also, are "Jet planes, islands, [and] tigers on a gold leash" or "Blood stains, ball gowns, [and] trashin' the hotel room" black things?"

Petra Jane contrasted the Feministing allegation with those of critics who called Miley Cyrus racist for embracing hip-hop trends such as twerking.


A post on Edgar Wolf said the entire Feministing blog may have been an attempt to get clicks by drumming up controversy.

It was also guilty of pulling Lorde down for being "not 'feminist enough' or not 'the right kind of feminist'", the post said.

"I guess what I want to ask Feministing is, couldn't you have taken a different angle? Couldn't you have published something that saw the good? Lorde's a feminist after all, and that's what you're supposed to be all about. It's a hard fight we're fighting and this kind of thing doesn't do anything to advance our game."

Meanwhile, satire site The Civilian took a different tack.

Its post from the perspective of a "bored psychology graduate" found that all of Lorde's album Pure Heroine is virulently racist.

The lyrics to Royals:

I've never seen a diamond in the flesh
I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies
And I'm not proud of my address,
In a torn-up town, no post code envy

But every song's like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin' in the bathroom
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin' the hotel room,
We don't care, we're driving Cadillacs in our dreams.

But everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your time piece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.
We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair.

And we'll never be royals.
It don't run in our blood,
That kind of luxe just ain't for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
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.

My friends and I - we've cracked the code.
We count our dollars on the train to the party.
And everyone who knows us knows that we're fine with this,
We didn't come from money.

But every song's like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin' in the bathroom.
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin' the hotel room,
We don't care, we're driving Cadillacs in our dreams.

But everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your time piece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash
We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair

And we'll never be royals.
It don't run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain't for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
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.

We're bigger than we ever dreamed,
And I'm in love with being queen.
Life is great without a care
We aren't caught up in your love affair.

And we'll never be royals.
It don't run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain't for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz
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.

- nzherald.co.nz

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 25 Oct 2014 16:48:05 Processing Time: 540ms