This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #136: Royals by Lorde.
You just never know when something you are innocently doing will be witnessed by someone else and will be the spark that this other person needed to change their life but, it does happen. How the hit song, “Royals” by New Zealand singer, Lorde, came about is a case in point. Lorde, (whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor) grew up as a lover of language and, in particular, of words. She loved to write and always had a notebook at the ready, should she come across a word that sparked inspiration. For Lorde, that inspiration would usually manifest itself in the form of poetry and/or song lyrics.
And so it was that, one day, a teenage Ella found herself watching a YouTube video about Hall of Fame baseball player, George Brett. Brett was an all-star third baseman who played his entire career for the Kansas City Royals. In this particular clip, Brett had finished batting practise and had taken some time to sign a few autographs for fans. Ella was captivated by his smile, his tanned complexion and by the word, “Royals” that was swirled across his chest. She wrote the word, “Royals” down in her notebook and then, she began to think.
Ella Yelich-O’Connor was discovered at age 13 as she sang in a talent show at her school. By age sixteen, she had been paired with a producer and was recording songs for her debut album called, “Pure Heroine”. The first single released from that album was a song called, “Royals”. Between watching that YouTube clip of George Brett, the baseball star and writing the lyrics for the song, “Royals”, Ella did what many teenagers do and that was, she listened to lots of music. In particular, Ella listened to Hip Hop, as well as, female singers such as Lana Del Ray. Because she was a literate young lady, she didn’t just accept the messages she was hearing in the songs she listened to nor the videos that she watched. To her, the Hip-Hop lifestyle of gold chains, drugs use, lots of cash on hand, fancy cars, nearly-naked women at the singer’s beck and call…..well, it all seemed unreal. Ella looked around at the world she and her friends were living in and saw none of those things happening. In her teenage world, her friends worked for minimum wage and often had to pool their coins together in order to afford a pizza or to afford bus fare to get around town on their own. Tedium was often their greatest issue, never excess. So, Ella decided to write about her frustration with the messages being aimed at young people like her and her friends. Ella claims to have written “Royals” in her bedroom in one evening.
In order to protect her privacy, Ella Yelich-O’Connor decided to adopt a stage name. Because she loved history and literature, she went with the name, “Lorde”. “Royals” was a hit, right out of the gate, for Lorde. Audiences and critics were captivated by the richness of her lyrics and the deep, mature voice with which she sang. Comparisons to Kate Bush and Tori Amos came quickly. “Royals” went to #1 on the charts around the world, making her the second youngest singer ever to reach #1 (Tiffany, with “I Think We’re Alone Now” beat her by a few months). “Royals” won the Grammy Awards for “Song of the Year” and for “Best Pop Vocal Album” all before Lorde was legally old enough to buy her own drinks. Lorde followed up “Royals” with the equally successful and highly literate song, “Team” (about life in New Zealand and how music and Art are viewed differently there…”We live in cities you never see on screen” and “I’m kind of over being told to throw my hands up in the air” were just some of the lines that resonated with listeners). For what it was worth, when David Bowie listened to her album, “Pure Heroine”, he called Lorde, “The future of Music”. He wasn’t wrong. Lorde is very much the real deal. What a fantastic talent!
Lorde is twenty four now *(at the time this post was written in December of 2021) and has enjoyed many hit songs (“Ribs” and “Green Light”, just to name two), she has headlined many music festivals and has managed to do so while maintaining her private life as, just that, private. Little is known of her off-stage life and that is just the way she wants it to be. Lorde is as grounded and centred an entertainer as I have seen in recent times. She is intelligent and literate and gets off on being a wordsmith which, as you can imagine, is something that I respect in a person.
So, without further delay, here is Lorde, with the song that started it all for her, the Grammy Award-winning, “Royals”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Royals” by Lorde, can be found here.
The link to the video for the song, “Team” by Lorde, can be found here.
The link to the video for the song, “Green Light”, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Lorde, can be found here.
Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for supporting new and emerging artists from all around the world. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.