Royals (song)

Single by Lorde
from the album The Love Club EP and Pure Heroine
Released 3 June 2013 (2013-06-03)
Length 3:10
Producer(s) Joel Little
Lorde singles chronology
"Tennis Court"
Music video
"Royals" on YouTube

"Royals" is a song by New Zealand singer Lorde from her debut extended play album, The Love Club EP (2012). It was later included on her debut studio album, Pure Heroine (2013). "Royals" was characterised as art pop and electropop. Written by Lorde and Joel Little and produced by the latter, the song lyrically disapproves of the luxurious lifestyle of contemporary artists.

"Royals" was released on 3 June 2013 as Lorde's debut single. The song received acclaim from music critics, who praised its minimal production and lyrics. It experienced international commercial success, peaking atop the record charts of many countries including Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In the United States, the single spent nine weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. In doing so, Lorde became the first New Zealand solo act to top the Hot 100, as well as the youngest artist to achieve a number-one single since 1987. As of November 2014, the single has sold 10 million copies worldwide.[1]

Lorde performed "Royals" on numerous television shows, including Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards. Two music videos for "Royals" were directed by Joel Kefali: an international version and a US version. The song was listed as one of the best songs of 2013 by publications including Rolling Stone, Time and Spin. "Royals" also won numerous awards, including the Grammy Award for Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance and the APRA Silver Scroll Award. A live mashup with Disclosure and AlunaGeorge's song "White Noise" at the 2014 BRIT Awards was released as a charity single in 2014. In the media, it is regarded to be an anthem for the "Millennial" generation.[2][3][4]


Born in 1996,[5] Lorde was discovered by A&R representative Scott MacLachlan of Universal Music Group (UMG) at the age of 12, when MacLachlan saw footage of Lorde performing at a school talent show in Auckland, New Zealand. At the age of 13, Lorde started writing songs herself. MacLachlan unsuccessfully tried to set up Lorde with several songwriters and producers to help her with production.[6] Ultimately, he paired Lorde with Joel Little in December 2011, when she had just turned 15. Little was impressed by Lorde's vocal performance and songwriting abilities, and he built songs with musical structures based on Lorde's lyrics.[7]

Writing and composition

External image
The 1976 photograph of baseball player George Brett by photographer Ted Spiegel that inspired Lorde to write "Royals".[8]

Lorde wrote the lyrics to "Royals" in July 2012 at her house, taking half an hour.[9][10] The pair recorded songs at Little's Golden Age Studios in Morningside, Auckland.[11] Within a week, Lorde had finished recording "Royals" during a school break.[12] Lorde had thought of writing a song about the luxury of pop musicians after seeing an image by photographer Ted Spiegel in the July 1976 edition of National Geographic showing Kansas City Royals baseball player George Brett signing baseballs, with his team's name emblazoned across his shirt.[13] Lorde recalled during a 3 September 2013 VH1 interview, "It was just that word. It's really cool." More broadly, historic aristocrats were also an inspiration for the song.[14] She also explained the lyric "We're driving Cadillacs in our dreams" was something she read in a diary she received at the age of 12.[13] Lorde further revealed that she took inspiration from hip hop-influenced artists during the writing process, yet criticised their "bullshit" reference to "expensive" alcohol and cars.[15]

I was definitely poking fun at a lot of things that people take to be normal. I was listening to a lot of hip hop and I kind of started to realise that to be cool in hip hop, you have to have that sort of car and drink that sort of vodka and have that sort of watch, and I was like, "I've literally never seen one of those watches in my entire life."[13]
A 19 second sample of "Royals".

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Royals" was produced using the software Pro Tools.[16] A writer from Spin described it as an art pop song.[17] Meanwhile, a reviewer from Consequence of Sound characterised it as a minimal number,[18] and James Lacho of The Daily Telegraph detailed "Royals" as an electropop piece.[19] Written in the key of D Mixolydian, it is followed by the chord progression I-vii-IV (D – c – G). The song has a moderate tempo of 85 beats per minute (Andante).[20] "Royals" is instrumented by finger snaps and bass.[21] On the song, Lorde performs with a mezzo-soprano vocal range,[22] spanning from F♯3 to F#5.[20] The lyrics of "Royals" concern the luxurious lifestyle of contemporary artists. According to Brad Wheeler of The Globe and Mail, the song expresses disapproval of "bejewelled lifestyle" of hip hop artists: "But every song's like gold teeth, Grey Goose, trippin' in the bathroom."[22] The Guardian's Paul Lester likened its theme to that of "Million Dollar Bills" (from The Love Club EP) and "Tennis Court" (from Pure Heroine).[23]

Critical reception

"Royals" received widespread acclaim from music critics. Digital Spy gave the song five out of five stars praising the song saying it has an "addictive hook that thrives on its simplicity" continuing to comment saying "Lorde's success is here to stay."[24] Other reactions were mixed, with The Singles Jukebox having ratings ranging from a three to an eight out of ten.[25] Duncan Greive of The Guardian gave the song positive reviews placing emphasis on Lorde's vocal performance and the song's lyrical content. He wrote, "The production is spare and haunting, and the vocals somehow simultaneously vulnerable and imperious, but it's Royals' words which have propelled its ascent to the top of the UK and US charts", continuing to praise the song's "direct response" to excess and wealth.[26]

"Royals" was recognized as one of the best songs of 2013 by numerous media outlets. Spin listed it at number 15 on its list of 50 best songs of the year, commenting that "true artpop rarely announces itself as such".[17] Time's writer Douglas Wolk wrote "It's a pointed rejection of the aspirations that have been foisted on the victims of capitalism", placing "Royals" at number 10 on his list of top 10 songs of 2013.[27] Meanwhile, it was ranked as the best song of the year by Consequence of Sound[28] and the second best song of the year by Rolling Stone.[29] On 18 December 2013, Billboard editors Jason Lipshutz, Erika Ramirez and Brad Wete named "Royals" the third best song of the year.[30] Time magazine placed it at number 20 on its 2013 best songs list.[31] The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop annual critics' poll ranked "Royals" at number two to find the best music of 2013, after Daft Punk's "Get Lucky".

On 15 October 2013, co-writers Ella Yelich-O'Connor and Joel Little won the APRA Silver Scroll award, which honours original New Zealand songwriting.[32][33] At the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, "Royals" was nominated for three awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. It won Best Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year.[34] "Royals" also won Single of the Year at the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards.[35]

Chart performance

Lorde performing at the Laneway Festival in Sydney, 2014

"Royals" debuted at number one on the New Zealand Top 40 on 15 March 2013 and remained in the top position for three weeks.[36] In Australia, "Royals" was released simultaneously with "The Love Club" and was classified as a single for charting purposes and spent two weeks at its peak position of number two on the ARIA Singles Chart; sales of tracks on the album counted toward the EP, and therefore could not chart separately.[37] It has been certified six-times Platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipping 420,000 units.[38]

In August 2013, Lorde became the first solo female artist to top the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in the United States since Tracy Bonham in 1996.[39] The song also holds the record for longest run by a woman atop the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, surpassing Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know", which spent five weeks at number one.[40] Following the release of "Royals" in the United States in June 2013, 85,000 copies were sold during a single week in July. In a subsequent interview, Lorde stated, "I had a sneaking suspicion that it might do all right."[41]

On the week dated 2 October 2013, the song rose to number-one on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Lorde her first number one. At sixteen, she is the youngest artist to reach number one since Tiffany ("I Think We're Alone Now", 14 November 1987).[42] With "Royals", Lorde is the first New Zealand act to have achieved a Billboard Hot 100 number one as lead artist.[43] The song became a crossover hit, receiving significant airplay on triple A, modern rock, adult contemporary, rhythmic contemporary, urban contemporary and contemporary hit radio in the US, and eventually topped the US Hot 100 chart in October 2013. It replaced Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" at number one. "Royals" spent 23 consecutive weeks in the top ten of the Hot 100.[44][45] The track spent a total of nine weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the second longest run that year. After nine weeks at the top, it was succeeded by Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball."[46] It became the fifth best-selling song in the US with 4,415,000 downloads sold in 2013, and was the top selling song of the year by a female artist.[47] As of December 2014, the song has sold 5.9 million copies in the US.[48]

The song debuted at number three on the Irish Charts on 3 October 2013, before climbing to number one the following week. On the week dated 9 October 2013, the song retained its number one spot, selling a further 309,000 copies.[49][50] On 28 October "Royals" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart; in doing so, Lorde became the youngest solo artist to score a UK number one single since Billie Piper's 1998 song "Because We Want To".[51] As of November 2014, "Royals" has sold over 10 million copies worldwide.[52]

Music videos

The official video for "Royals" was directed by Joel Kefali[53] and released on Lorde's official YouTube channel on 12 May 2013.[54] with a US version released on 18 June 2013 on her VEVO account.[55] In line with the subject of the song, the video for "Royals" mostly consists of normal teenagers doing unexceptional things in slow motion. The actors in the music video are Lorde's schoolmates. In the international version, with the exception of one extended frame of Lorde singing, Lorde herself rarely appears in the video. On her lack of appearance in the video, Lorde said,

The music video for me was about creating a piece of art and I wanted it to feel cinematic and like it's something you can immerse yourself in. Having me in it didn't feel like something that was necessary to create that world. So I'm just in it for just a little bit. I think it works well.[56]

The US version of the song uses the same clips as the international; however, it intersperses more clips of Lorde singing. It also omits scenes from the beginning and the end, which made reference to two of Lorde's other songs. This cut the running time from 4:02 to 3:21. The US version also received 300 million views meaning this video is now certified. It won best music video at the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards.[57]

The "Royals" music video also won Lorde the award for Best Rock Video at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. The video had 387 million views at the time, and as of November 2016 has amassed over 630 million views.

For the Japanese release of Pure Heroine in February 2014, Lorde collaborated with Japanese illustrator and musician Akiakane to create an animated music video for "Royals".[58]

Live performances

On 13 August 2013, a rendition of "Royals" was recorded live for KCRW's radio programme Morning Becomes Eclectic.[59] Lorde appeared on US television for the first time by singing "Royals" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on 1 October 2013, wearing a white dress, and backed by a keyboardist and a drummer. "White Teeth Teens" was also performed on the show, but was only shown online.[60][61] She later sang the song on VH1 television show Big Morning Buzz Live on 4 October 2013, dressed in a black turtleneck and skirt.[62][63] Lorde performed "Royals" on US talk show Ellen on 9 October 2013.[64] Lorde opened the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards with "Royals".[65] In January 2014, Lorde performed the song at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.[66] At the 2014 BRIT Awards, Lorde performed an electro version of "Royals" with Disclosure, which transitioned into "White Noise" by Disclosure featuring AlunaGeorge.[67][68] The "Royals/White Noise" performance was released at iTunes Stores by the BRIT Awards on 19 February 2014;[69] proceeds from its sales went to the charity War Child.[70] It debuted at number 72 on the UK Singles Chart.[71]

Media usage

"Royals" was used as the basis of a parody on the Canadian Senate expenses scandal by the satirical CBC TV programme This Hour Has 22 Minutes.[72] A group of law students from the University of Auckland, who had previously parodied Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines", released a spoof of "Royals" titled "Lawyers" in October 2013.[73]

It was used in the first episode of the fifth season of The CW television series The Vampire Diaries, the third episode of the third season of Revenge, and in the season three premiere of Suburgatory.[74]

"Royals" is the main song of a Samsung commercial advertising their Samsung Galaxy Note 3 cell phone. The commercial presents Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi, and the song is performed by a children's choir.[75] The song was used, in a more classical rendition, in scene in episode 18 of the TV series Reign.[76]

In 2014, "Royals" was featured in the rhythm game Fantasia: Music Evolved.[77] "Royals" was also featured in The Crew, played on the fictional 8-Radio. A remix of the song with new lyrics called "Loyal", performed by Demarco, is in the re-released version of Grand Theft Auto V.[78]

Covers and remixes

Selena Gomez performed a cover of "Royals" during her Stars Dance Tour

There is an official remix to the song featuring hip-hop artists T-Pain, Rick Ross, Wale & Magazeen.[79] On 14 August 2013, singer Selena Gomez made an acoustic performance of "Royals", in Vancouver, during her Stars Dance tour.[80] The band Saints of Valory covered the song with an added "country-tingled rock twist".[81]

Producer Raak released a remix of the song with Gilbere Forte's guest vocals.[82] This was followed by a remix from R&B singer The Weeknd.[83] In early September 2013, the group Fifth Harmony covered "Royals" on Cher Lloyd's I Wish tour.[84] The girl-group Gap5 covered the song in week two of The X Factor (New Zealand series 1),[85] young Italian singer Violetta Zironi covered the song in season 7 of the Italian version of the TV show.[86]

Canadian indie rock band Walk off the Earth covered the song in a video on their YouTube channel.[87] US girl-band Cimorelli covered the song on their YouTube channel. The winners of NBC series The Sing-Off (season 3), Pentatonix, have covered "Royals" on their YouTube channel.[88] British girl-group, Mutya Keisha Siobhan covered the song for Reload Sessions on Google+ on 10 October 2013.[89] Post-hardcore group Closer to Closure covered the song in October 2013 and released the music video on their YouTube channel.[90]

On 6 October 2013, American band Paper Route released a cover version of the song as a single.[91] Postmodern Jukebox also covered the song in October 2013, featuring Puddles Pity Party on vocals.

Mayer Hawthorne did the song as part of Vevo's "Unexpected Covers" series, and Billboard asked readers to vote on their favourite cover in October 2013.[92] Meanwhile, The Rekkids,[93] Death By Bacon[94] Postmodern Jukebox and hundreds of lesser known artists have uploaded their covers of the song on YouTube.[95]

In December 2013, Jason Derulo covered it at BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge.[96]

The Florida State University all-girl a cappella group, Acabelles, covered Lorde's "Royals" (produced by The Vocal Company) and the video went viral within a matter of weeks, being featured on Good Morning America, CNN, MSN, People, HLN, Elle, Seventeen, and more. The cover has over 5 million views on YouTube and has been mentioned by Lorde herself on her Twitter account.[97][98][99]

On 1 March 2014, singer Bruce Springsteen opened his Auckland concert of his High Hopes Tour with an acoustic performance of "Royals".[100]

The recording was covered during the semi-finals of the The Voice 2014 by contestant Sophie May Williams. The episode aired live on BBC One in the United Kingdom on 29 March 2014.[101]

In 2014, "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded a parody of the song titled "Foil" for his album Mandatory Fun.[102] The song's music video was released online on 16 July 2014.[103]

In the seventh season of The Voice, contestant Taylor John Williams performed "Royals".[104]

Track listings

Digital download[105]
  1. "Royals" – 3:09
New Zealand double download 1[106]
  1. "Royals" – 3:10
  2. "400 Lux" – 3:54
New Zealand double download 2[107]
  1. "Royals" – 3:10
  2. "Tennis Court" – 3:18

CD single[108]
  1. "Royals" – 3:09
  2. "Bravado" – 3:41
BRITs performance digital download[69]
  1. "Royals/White Noise" (Live from the BRITs) (featuring AlunaGeorge) – 4:59


Weekly charts

Original version

Chart (2013–14) Peak
Australia Digital Track Chart (ARIA)[109] 2
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[110] 2
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[111] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[112] 1
Bulgaria (IFPI)[113] 2
Brazil (Billboard Brasil Hot 100)[114] 20
Brazil Hot Pop Songs (Billboard Brasil)[114] 3
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[115] 1
Canada AC (Billboard)[116] 1
Canada CHR/Top 40 (Billboard)[117] 1
Canada Hot AC (Billboard)[118] 1
Canada Rock (Billboard)[119] 9
Czech Republic (Rádio Top 100)[120] 7
Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)[121] 20
Denmark (Tracklisten)[122] 3
Europe (Euro Digital Songs)[123] 1
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[124] 8
France (SNEP)[125] 4
Germany (Official German Charts)[126] 8
Hungary (Rádiós Top 40)[127] 32
Hungary (Single Top 40)[128] 10
Ireland (IRMA)[129] 1
Israel (Media Forest)[130] 1
Italy (FIMI)[131] 1
Japan (Japan Hot 100)[132] 16
Mexican Anglo Chart (Monitor Latino)[133] 11
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[134] 4
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[135] 4
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[136] 1
Norway (VG-lista)[137] 3
Poland (Polish Airplay Top 100)[138] 11
Portugal Digital Songs (Billboard)[139] 2
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[140] 1
Slovakia (Rádio Top 100 Oficiálna)[141] 4
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[142] 61
South Africa (EMA)[143] 3
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[144] 9
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[145] 4
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[146] 3
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[147] 1
Ukraine (FDR Pop Singles)[148] 11
US Billboard Hot 100[149] 1
US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)[150] 1
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[151] 2
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[152] 1
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[153] 14
US Latin Pop Songs (Billboard)[154] 19
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[155] 1
US R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay (Billboard)[156] 3
US Rhythmic (Billboard)[157] 2
Venezuela Pop/Rock General (Record Report)[158] 1

Royals/White Noise (Live from the BRITs)

Chart (2014) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[159] 93
New Zealand Artists (Recorded Music NZ)[160] 9
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[71] 72

Year-end charts

Chart (2013) Position
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[161] 46
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[162] 43
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[163] 68
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[164] 18
Denmark (Tracklisten)[165] 39
Germany (Media Control AG)[166] 59
Italy (FIMI)[167] 53
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[168] 17
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[169] 15
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[170] 2
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[171] 75
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[172] 51
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[173] 44
US Billboard Hot 100[174] 15
US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)[175] 3
US Adult Alternative Songs (Billboard)[176] 5
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[177] 23
US Alternative Songs (Billboard)[178] 12
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[179] 27
US Rhythmic (Billboard)[176] 35
Chart (2014) Position
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[180] 35
Germany (Official German Charts)[181] 98
Italy (FIMI)[182] 64
Japan (Japan Hot 100)[183] 92
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[184] 98
US Billboard Hot 100[185] 20
US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)[186] 3
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[187] 37

All-time charts

Chart Position
US Billboard Hot 100[188] 65


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Belgium (BEA)[189] Gold 15,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[190] 6× Platinum 480,000^
Germany (BVMI)[191] Gold 150,000^
Italy (FIMI)[192] 2× Platinum 60,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[193] 6× Platinum 0*
Sweden (GLF)[194] 2× Platinum 80,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[195] Gold 15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[196] Platinum 600,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[197] 7× Platinum 7,000,000dagger[48]
Venezuela (APFV)[198] Platinum 10,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[199] Platinum 2,600,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

dagger Since May 2013, RIAA certifications for digital singles include on-demand audio and/or video song streams in addition to downloads.[200]

Release history

Country Date Format Label Catalogue no.
United States[201] 3 June 2013 Adult album alternative None
Austria[105] 2 August 2013 Digital download Universal
France[210] 5 August 2013
United States[216][217] 13 August 2013 Contemporary hit radio
  • Lava
  • Republic
3 September 2013 Rhythmic contemporary
Germany[108] 13 September 2013 Digital download Universal
Italy[218] 20 September 2013 Contemporary hit radio
Germany[219] 10 December 2013 CD single 0602537693191
United Kingdom[220] 16 February 2014 Digital download Virgin None
Worldwide[69] 19 February 2014 "Royals/White Noise" download Brit Awards
New Zealand[106][107] 4 April 2014 "Royals" / "400 Lux" download Universal
"Royals" / "Tennis Court" download

See also


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