Feminist Blogger Claims Lorde’s Hit Single ‘Royals’ Is Racist

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In the last month sixteen-year-old New Zealand native Lorde has become one of the most recognizable people on the planet. She has more internet hype than #StarbucksDrakeHands, and recently became the youngest female to top the Billboard Hot 100 in two decades. Now, at the very peak of her time in the spotlight, a female blogger is attacking the young singer and her smash hit “Royals” with claims of racism.

Let’s take it from the top. Veronica Bayetti Flores, a blogger for Feministing.com, recently posted a column picking apart Lorde’s hit single “Royals.” In her piece, Flores accused Lorde of singling out wealthy black people in the song’s chorus, specifically referring to the lines ““But every song’s like gold teeth, Grey Goose, tripping in the bathroom,” as well as, “But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your time piece.” She wrote:

While I love a good critique of wealth accumulation and inequity, this song is not one; in fact, it is deeply racist. Because we all know who she’s thinking when we’re talking gold teeth, Cristal and Maybachs. So why shit on black folks? Why shit on rappers? 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? I’m gonna take a guess: racism. I don’t have to explain why wealth operates differently among folks who’ve grown up struggling because this shit has been explained already: If you grew up with holes in your zapatos you’d celebrate the minute you was having dough.

Flores fails to comment on the how the hook also mentions ownership of jet planes and owning private islands, but hey – if it doesn’t help make your point, why include it?

Lorde and her reps have yet to respond to Flores’ remarks, but a gaggle of Lorde supporters have turned to social media and blogs to defend their pure heroine. One of them, New Zealand journalist Lynda Brendish, wrote:

“I realize not everything in this world is an instrument of oppression, and not everything in this world should be viewed through the lens of Americans, particularly when it comes to race and cultures of other countries. To insist otherwise is ignorant at best and imperialistic at worst.”

Flores quickly fired back at naysayers, telling CNN in a statement she took exception to how the song directs:

“a critique of excessive consumption to a genre both created and currently dominated by Black Americans, particularly when the vast majority of excess consumption is done by white people – not to mention the fact that Black people bear the brunt of the ill effects of wealth inequality, both in this country and globally.”

You can view the music video for “Royals,” as well as a news report on the song’s supposed racism, below.

While I can understand how Flores drew her connections, I too have to say I completely disagree with her thoughts on “Royals.” It’s not a scathing commentary on black culture in my mind, but rather the story of a small town girl from another country depicting how she feels pop culture tells everyone the only way to truly live is by having a healthy obsession with materialism. Does she get that impression – at least in part – from black entertainers? Probably. But that does not mean Lorde is directly slamming an entire ethnicity with her lyrics. Comment below and let us know if you think “Royals” crosses a line.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • It’s completely counter-productive to try to make this song about race. I hope other fellow feminists aren’t jumping aboard with Flores on this one.

  • Kriston McConnell

    I agree with you, James. I never thought this song was racist. Flores needs to calm down. I’m reading comments by people from New Zealand and they are all saying that Lorde is calling out what the media tries to make of mainstream music. I can also say that whites are just as guilty of being materialistic as other races.

  • XBlueCollarHardcoreX

    People like Flores are the people who continue racism and light unnecessary fires. I’m not ignorant to the fact that there still is racism, but let’s attempt to call it out with better proof.

  • Pohutakawa

    Ki ora,
    Here in Aotearoa (New Zealand) our media is awash with American music/movies/TV shows. The percentage of local content compared to American content is tiny here, in part because of our small – 4.5 million – population. Our young people do experience a disconnect between the mainstream popular culture imported from the USA, and our own Kiwi culture, because the difference is massive. Listening to Lorde’s song – as a Kiwi – it’s that disconnect that takes centre stage.

    Aotearoa isn’t free of racism either despite being a nation that began it’s official bi-cultural journey with the Treaty of Waitangi. But the racism here plays out differently because it’s roots are in colonialization. It would be more comparable to the experiences of the American First Nation’s Peoples: loss of ancestral lands, language, culture, sovereignty, and because of that, worse health, economic disparity and educational outcomes.

    Here, pushing back against racism takes a different form – it’s about reclaiming and celebrating Maori Culture, language, knowledge, land (or compensation for land taken) Political representation and participation.

    Guess what I’m trying to say is that Ella’s (Lorde) basic framework for understanding racism will be different from someone in the US. She wouldn’t necessarily have the nuanced understanding of US racism that Flore’s article is accusing her of.

    I have to say too, that it was kind of ugly to watch a 30+ year old feminist with a Master’s degree under her belt, take a swipe at a 16 yr old girl from another culture who wrote the lyrics to “Royal” when she was 15.