Is the Song 'Royals' by Lorde Racist?

10/31/2013 11:36 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

This question originally appeared on Quora in regards to this article.

Answer by Aaron Ellis, Former Music Critic with Artist Farm

This song is not about a race. It's about a culture. Not African American or rap culture, but the materialism and excess that is overtaking pop culture.

If I wanted to, I could interpret this song as an attack on 2 Chainz, Kanye West, Wiz Khalifa, and Lil Wayne. However, based on their recent music, videos, and behavior, I could make an equally strong argument that this song is directed at Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber. Heck, Miley has a song on the radio right now that talks about, as Lorde puts it, "trippin in the bathroom" (referring to the line in "We Can't Stop" about "everyone body in line at the bathroom, trying to get a line in the bathroom," or something to that effect).

Miley and Justin. White.

Lorde's song mentions people bragging about "Jet Planes." While one could associate that with Far East Movement's rap song "Like a G6", it could also be about Jesse McCartney's pop song "Leavin," where he sings about taking his girl to fly on a G5.

Jesse McCartney. White.

(For the record, Far East Movement also aren't Black, either. They're Asian. The writer implies that rapping equals blackness. I'll forget about that massive hole in her logic, lest I start spouting off materialistic white rappers like Paul Wall and Mac Miller, thus nullifying her argument that this is a racial issue).

I also think the writer is missing out on one part of the song lyrics. Yes, Lorde says "Every song is like," which makes it sound as though she's only talking about musicians. But she later says "But everybody's like," which is referring to people OUTSIDE of the music world who are similarly materialistic. This distinction is important, because when you open your scope beyond just musicians, the song takes on a different meaning. It becomes about celebutantes like The Kardashians and Paris Hilton (who, by the way, is also a "musician" ... she has a pop album and is currently a deejay). It becomes about professional athletes, like the gold-grill wearing Ryan Lochte. It could even be interpreted as a literal criticism of actual royalty - such as the über-wealthy Royal Family - since that's what the chorus explicitly states.

The Kardashians. Paris Hilton. Ryan Lochte. The Royal Family. White!

This article criticized "Royals" for what it isn't rather than what it is. The writer wants a song that attacks the people in the country clubs and yacht clubs. She wrote:

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?

This is a weak argument against a pop song. We already had Occupy Wall Street and similar movements against the ultra-wealthy and powerful. Those movements don't need a pop song for an anthem. However, we could use an anthem about fighting the materialistic attention whores in pop culture. More importantly, Wall Street isn't cramming images of excess down the throats of the average person. The people on TV are, which is the pop singers, reality tv stars, and professional athletes.

This song is not about calling out one race. It's not about calling out a class, either. It's about calling out behavior. Anyone -- regardless of age, race, musical preference, creed, class, personality, etc. -- who falls into that behavior pattern is the target. That isn't racism.

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