“Royals” was the first single off 17 year old Australian artist Lorde’s debut album. It won two Grammy awards at the 2014 Grammys. The lyrics can be reviewed here.
The track opens up with, “I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh / I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies / And I’m not proud of my address / In a torn-up town, no postcode envy.” Meaning? The singer did not grow up with wealth or in a fancy neighborhood. Pride in self and where one lives is a sinful act (Proverbs 16:5, Proverbs 26:12, Romans 12:3). We should squelch it. In that regard, Lorde is right to comment about a lack of pride. Pride will crush the prideful.
She continues with the following, “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 timepiece / Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash /We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair.” She points out the opulence and excesses of popular music which, as Solomon points out throughout Ecclesiastes are a waste (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3). The things of this world, as nice as they may seem at the time, are fading away (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11, Ecclesiastes 5:10-11). These treasures we beg for, long for on this earth which pop culture convinces us to crave are worthless and will all fade away; focus heavenward not earth-ward (Matthew 6:19-21). By saying, “I’m good with what I have, in my mind I’m rich enough,” Lorde is rejecting the materialism which can turn wealth into an idol (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13) if one does not focus their eyes upon the Lord (1 Timothy 6:17). That’s a good thing to promote.
Then comes the remainder of the chorus, where Lorde sings: “And we’ll never be royals (royals) / It don’t run in our blood / That kind of luxe just ain’t for us / We crave a different kind of buzz / Let me be your ruler (ruler) / You can call me queen Bee / And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule / Let me live that fantasy.” No, they’ll never be royal – but she wants to be the queen Bee, she wants to rule. Despite having no desire for the opulence or wealth, she implies a desire for power or the image of power.
Who is in charge? The King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 15:3, Revelation 19:16). Yes, we have rulers on earth who the Lord ordains (Romans 13:1), but the desire for power can corrupt and warp a person. As the word points out, that which we hold to in our mind can be sinful (Exodus 20:17, Matthew 5:28, 1 John 3:15). This internal desire to rule, to “…drive Cadillacs in our dreams,” can quickly turn to sin. The line is a fine one. Where does the simple desire to better ones self turn into lustful desire for power, wealth. It’s hard to say, but if one wishes to be called “…the queen Bee…” they may have already crossed the line internally.
Lorde continues by singing, “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.” Not sure what code is cracked – but we now see a type of public bragging about her new found wealth. We are not called to boast in ourselves or our belongings (James 4:16), but in the Lord (Galatians 6:14). He is the first born over all creation (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:6). He is God and far above us (John 10:30). Bragging in our wealth displays a love of wealth which is sin (1 Timothy 6:10, 1 John 2:15).
In the end, while Lorde comments on the excesses of pop culture and how she doesn’t want them – she still indulges in the song in love of wealth, love of power. She still indulges in this sinful lust for the things of this world. The cravings of this world are powerful and come to each of us in different ways (James 1:14-15). For Lorde, that craving and desire comes in the form of status not things. It’s still sin. She may never be a royal, but she is just as fallen as the rest of us.