I’ve always wanted to understand how does one participate in the music industry and shame it all at once. Remember Kanye’s consumerism and pop culture rant, you know the consumerism that enables Kanye to buy North West expensive diapers and Kim Kardashian new lambos? It’s that same consumerism that keeps artists going. From consumerism to pop culture, as an artist, you’re both a product of it and an enabler, but is there a fine line to walk? Rising star, Lorde, is walking it and benefiting from it quite well.
Lorde, whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor, is a 16-year-old singer from New Zealand and the youngest singer to be number 1 on The Billboard chart in 26 years. Lorde has recently caught flack because her lyrics from the hit song, “Royals”, were deemed “controversial” and also “racist”:
My friends and I – we’ve cracked the code.
We count our dollars on the train to the party.
And everyone who knows us knows that we’re fine with this,
We didn’t come from money.
But every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom.
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room,
We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your time piece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash
We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair
Veronica Bayetti Flores, from Feministing, took issue with the fact that Lorde is calling out rappers and hip-hop music and cited it as being racist:
“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”
But what Flores failed to point out is that “blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room”, isn’t part of rap or hip-hop culture, but more along the lines of the Miley Cyrus’, Taylor Swift and Lindsay Lohans of the worlds. You can’t point out one, and just gloss over the other. But it doesn’t make it racism. And it also doesn’t make what she’s saying innovative.
As a singer, Lorde is attempting to bring forth what she sees are issues in the music industry and she aptly called out both sides of the coins. In response to being called a hater, in a recent interview with MTV, Lorde stands by her words:
“I think there’s a funny culture in music that’s only happened over the last 15 years, that if you have an opinion about something in music that isn’t 100-percent good, you’re a ‘hater,’ even if you have perfectly reasonable grounds for that critique,” she said. “People will say exactly what they think about a movie or a TV show, and that’s fine, but as soon as you say it about a record, you’re like some little zombie in a funny dungeon.
“I have pretty strong morals and opinions being in pop music, and I can’t help but express those, which I think people appreciate,” she continued. “I mean, I don’t think I say anything that isn’t backed up. Most of the time I will stand by things that I’ve said.”
The music industry loves contrived “messages”. I’m the type of person to see it for what it is, record sales. This time the message is packaged in the form of a 16-year-old white girl from New Zealand, who doesn’t mind shitting on her peers at the same time. Or maybe she doesn’t consider the likes of Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus her peers at all. Since she’s so more ‘evolved’ than them. Will I listen to Lorde? Sure, I give props when they’re due. Lorde’s voice is amazing and she’s a breath of fresh air in a world polluted by Miley Cyrus.
Lorde isn’t the first artist to come after a whole industry while profiting from it. And I’m quite sure she won’t be the last.