100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #84: “Royals” by Lorde

The song at #84 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Royals“, the debut single by the amazing singer-songwriter Lorde. The New Zealand artist – born Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor – stunned the world in 2013 with the release of her mesmerizing track, which had a totally new and unique sound unlike anything that had been done before. Only 16 years old at the time, she was the youngest artist to have a #1 song on the Billboard chart since Tiffany in 1987. Lorde wanted to write a song expressing her disapproval of the luxurious lifestyle of many contemporary artists, and reportedly penned the lyrics in half an hour.

The song has a minimalist sound, with instrumentation consisting of a deep synth bass groove set to a languid hip hop beat, and accompanied by finger snaps and percussion. The song title came to her after seeing a photo in the July 1976 edition of National Geographic of Kansas City Royals baseball player George Brett signing baseballs, with his team’s name ‘Royals’ emblazoned across his shirt.

I’ll admit that it took a couple of listens before I was able to get into it, but once I did, I loved it. “Royals” spent nine weeks at #1, and also topped the charts in Canada, New Zealand and the UK. It sold over 10 million units worldwide, making it one of the best-selling singles of all-time, and was awarded Grammys for 2013 Song of the Year and Best Solo Pop Performance.

The cool video conveys the sense of ennui inferred in the lyrics, and shows Lorde singing the song, interspersed with scenes of two young guys looking bored and doing unremarkable stuff.