With the breakout song “Royals,” 16-year-old New Zealand native Lorde (born Ella Yelich-O’Conner) has crashed the international music scene, now earning American radio play with moody and minimal melodies driven by the power of her soaring yet intimate vocals. There’s little more than that – just a few electronic touches and finger snaps.
Evoking a similar anti-consumerist sentiment as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ smash “Thrift Shop,” the meaningful lyricism of “Royals” would seem to belie Lorde’s relatively young age. The artist, however, sees it differently.
“It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” Lorde said of the song’s success, phoning from a recording studio in New Zealand where she’s working on her debut album. “I try not to let it freak me out too much. It’s about all of the opulence in you’ll see in a lot of music videos and stuff, which is fun to look at but is so far from my reality. My friends and I have spent many Saturday nights scraping enough money to get something to eat. It’s all just fantasy. Bullshit, really. It’s not as much profound as it is simply honest.”
An immediate hit in her native New Zealand, “Royals” recently jumped from No. 14 to the top spot on Billboard’s Heatseekers Songs chart, with indications that it will make a debut on the Hot 100 in the coming week. As of July 10, the song currently sits at No. 10 on the playlist at Los Angeles’ KROQ, one of the biggest alternative stations in the country (and a Radio.com station).
“I sent an email very shortly after signing [her] to all the key people at iTunes, and I said, ‘This really takes me back to when I signed Tori Amos,’” Jason Flom, president of Lorde’s U.S. record label, Lava Records, told Billboard. “I feel like Lorde will have the same impact. I worked with Tori from the very beginning, and I can say with some authority that Lorde has the same level of intensity and genius.”