Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Here I Go Again

16 year-old "phenom" Lorde has gotten the attention of just about everyone in the free world with her monster hit "Royals."  Look below. Even The Boss is paying his respects.

I don't love the all. Not as a song. Not as a record. Maybe just a little as the work of a teenager. Again, "Royals" is better than the usual crap and again, that is not good enough for me. Does that make me a bad person?

Has anyone bothered listening to the rest of Lorde's debut? I have. Or at least as much of it as I could stand. It's god-awful. It reeks of every other plastic pop record with samey over-production and choruses that sound less like music and more like war chants. And quite frankly, Lorde's delivery is downright creepy.

She's gotten props for wearing a Cramps t-shirt on the cover of Rolling Stone and for covering The Replacements. (See video up top.)

Let's review:

Just don't suck and you'll be huge.

And that is the current state of pop music.

"Do The Freddie" is "MacArthur Park" compared to most of this shit.


buzzbabyjesus said...

As far as I know I've never heard Lorde, and after reading your post, I can't bring myself to check out the video. I can't deliberately listen to music I already know is crappy to assess exactly how crappy and in what way. Thanks for the warning.

FD13NYC said...

I totally agree Sal. God awful crap, and she wins Grammys for it. It happens in every generation that produces unlistenable drek. Especially the last 10 years or so. Let's all listen to the good stuff we all know and love, at least we have that. And I love Do The Freddie!

Anonymous said...

No, "Green Tambourine" was "MacArthur Park."

"Do the Freddie" was "Good Vibrations."

kevin m said...

I don't get her music either. But props to her parents for introducing her to The Cramps

Anonymous said...

Hello, please remain seated,

Looks like I'm definitely in the minority, but I really liked Royals. I though the lyrics were great and the melody fit nicely over the 3 simple chords in the song. Was I crazy about the instrumentation? well, no - I'm an old dude and will always have a bias for real drums and guitars. But I think it was a great pop single.

The followup up single (can't remember it's name)? Wasn't nearly as impressed. The rest of the album? Who the hell listens to albums anymore??? (deliberately provocative atatement meant half in jest)




I leave the Lorde debate to others ...

I really dig Bruce's local tributes this tour -- Royals in New Zealand, AC/DC (and have you seen his Bee Gees cover?) in Australia, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, ...

Maybe one man's tribute is another's pandering; for now I'm on the tribute side.

Jeff Matthews said...

OK, you cranky old men you, here's a minority opinion. Royals is catchy ear candy with an infectious hook, even though it's admittedly a little Pass the Dutchie. The lyrics are well-crafted and strikingly incisive for a 17 year old. My problem with the rest of her album is a monotony of tone/approach. Who knows if she has any room for artistic growth but this is much better than most one hit wonders. And her 'Mats cover is terrific.

Sal Nunziato said...

"My problem with the rest of her album is a monotony of tone/approach."

That is also the reason why I'm just not feeling the 'Mats cover.

Cranky or not, the issue still remains...another huge pop star/hit single getting backhanded compliments.

draftervoi said...

Sounds okay to me. Good lyric for teen pop, but I hear nothing that is astonishing "must buy" music. Sound -scape is a bit Eno/Lanois.

Speaking of teen pop, have you heard Babymetal? Think "J-pop meets Metallica" and you'll hear it in your head. They are the most awesome and ridiculous band I've heard in ages, and I mean that in the best way possible.

An American or British band would do such a mix with Ironic Distance...but they're obviously sincere and enjoying themselves.

web_star said...

I disagree with your views Burning Wood. Royals is a great song. It was written by a remarkable 16 year old talking about what a 16 year old dreams about when they are on the bus with their mates with no money fantasising about what money could bring. It really speaks to people. Give her a break. She is 17 years old and has huge potential. Johnnie K Auckland New Zealand

Sal Nunziato said...

Johnny K-

I am more than willing to give a 16 year old a break. I realize I come across as cranky and jaded, but for almost 6 years worth of posting on these pages, I've championed plenty of pop music, ear-candy and young artists. I'm not here to bury Lorde.

I think my point here, as it's been on a few other recent posts about pop music in general, is more about the hype and the acceptance of marginal music.

The bar has not only been lowered, it is close to no longer existing.

Anonymous said...

Goffin/King did this stuff better when they were 17 years old. Still it's listenable compared to the rest of the crap on the pop/hip-hop radio stations.

Allan R.

Shriner said...

So, I will throw in my 2 cents.

"Royals" -- is a great song. It's quite unlike a lot of other current pop songs out there -- so it's refreshing for that. I like that a song with such stark instrumentation can be such a monster hit so it must speak to somebody somewhere.

I do think the album *does* suffer from a lot of "sameness" between the tracks, though. That said, I have played it through more than once (which I haven't done with a lot of other recently released albums in a while) and I enjoyed it both times.

And the Replacements cover was completely unexpected and not bad.

I am very curious to hear what her follow-up will sound like. She may be a one-hit wonder but that's not to be dismissive of "Royals" or the album as a whole.

Anonymous said...

I felt very cranky after her performance at the Grammys and watching her win. It's not that she hasn't accomplished something amazing at her young age. It's that the song is okay, it didn't deserve a Grammy and her performance was creepy--but not good creepy. Certainly, we can all find a little something to like about every artist and even the silliest lyrics in songs that have been shoved down our throats on the radio over the years, but I agree with Sal--the bar is close to no longer existing.

steve simels said...

Okay, for starters -- a teenager (heh) wrote and sang this record. Which is as immortal as anything in its field can be.

And yes, that Lorde song totally sucks.

People get the pop culture they deserve, is the point I'm trying to make.

Sal Nunziato said...


Anonymous said...

I actually love the song. Great, simple, smart, pop song. Doesn't need to be anything else. Just has to move me. First heard it in a bodega and Shazamed it with no idea if I was hearing pop radio or obscure Indian bodega music.
I also love the Bruce version. But his Stayin Alive cover is so good it should be released as a single.
Not liking it doesn't make you a bad person,just means that you don't like that song, and you have that right. Some people don't like butterscotch, but I sure do.
I hear nothing of much interest in Todd Rundgren besides the pop hits, but you thrive on it. I hear New Orleans music and can't wait to turn it off, but you crave it like oxygen. Nobody's taste makes them a bad person, we all just love the music we love. Your hating Royals just makes you you.

Sal Nunziato said...

Thanks Anon, but I wasn't serious about it making me a bad person.

And I would like to clarify one more time...

these cranky posts are NOT about liking or not liking something, per se.

You say I "thrive" on Todd Rundgren, yet I am the first to point out his crap, of which there is plenty. You say I "crave" New Orleans music. I love it yes, but I also know that aside from the true greats of the Crescent City, a lot of it panders to the tourists.

I am bored...tired...sick of every Lorde, Emile Sande, whoever...who is considered fantastic simply because their song doesn't suck as bad as others.

That's really what it is, isn't it?

It's great because it doesn't suck.

Gyro1966 said...

A lot of great garage music from the 60's was made by teenagers, and it stands up today as some of the best music ever created. So I don't care if this person Lorde is 16.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean it as a criticism that you "thrive" on it, I meant that there's a lot of it that you deeply love, which is totally fair, but that does nothing for me ( and I've tried ) and I didn't mean that you crave all New Orleans music, but rather that it's a genre that you love the very best of, and even that leaves me cold. No judgement there.
I just disagree that my liking the Lorde song can necessarily be reduced to" because it doesn't suck" when I specifically did not say that. I said I love the song. Full stop. Not because it's better than crap we both hate, but because I actually like it. To deny me the right to like it by trying to reduce what I said, is simply wrong. My point was that I disagree, and we each like what we like and you don't get to decide for others WHY they like something. I love that you feed off the best of New Orleans music and I wouldn't take that away from you or tear it down verbally if I could. It just doesn't move me, like opera doesn't, but I don't claim that either is bad, or is liked for any other reason than taste.

Sal Nunziato said...


Forgive me. I wasn't pointing you out specifically. But let's face it, the comments here that aren't "full stop" love are indeed what I say.

Rich D, "not crazy about the instrumentation."

Jeff Matthews-
"Royals is catchy ear candy with an infectious hook, even though it's admittedly a little Pass the Dutchie. The lyrics are well-crafted and strikingly incisive for a 17 year old. My problem with the rest of her album is a monotony of tone/approach."

"Sounds okay to me. Good lyric for teen pop, but I hear nothing that is astonishing "must buy" music."

Allen R.-
"listenable compared to the rest of the crap on the pop/hip-hop radio stations."

And it's not just Lorde, though today's post is. I've been posting about marginal pop music for awhile and for the most part, the comments are usually the same.

So many disclaimers.

William Repsher said...

I can hear why the Lorde song is such a hit. Smooth, big chorus, catchy vocals, vaguely meaningful lyrics, but ultimately empty ... which taps into the sort of emptiness that's common currency these days. Facebook. Twitter. People spending countless hours hunched over devices, ignoring the reality around them, living inside their heads. This song sounds like that mentality. That smug sense of superiority teenagers have always had in my lifetime. I had it, too!

And what were any of doing at 16? It's pretty damn impressive that anyone can put together something that professional at that age ... lest we forget Debbie Gibson!

Post rock and roll, Top 40 Pop has been about either youth culture or nostalgia for youth culture, often times both, a nostalgia for youth WHILE you're still young. As I recall, we all used to mythologize our wildness, how crazy and out of control we were, how we saw things no one else did, particularly adults, who were so full of shit, man. We knew more than they did. I mean about life, not stupid shit, like engineering or square roots.

Yeah, well, it was easy to be f'n genius when you didn't have to put a roof over heads and food on the table. But that's what I hear in Lorde, and as far as I can tell, she's keeping a proud tradition alive.

Sometimes genuine music quality and Top 40 converge, but not always. I wouldn't say rarely because it does happen often enough over the decades. It happened constantly in the mid-60s, but from the 70s onwards, a lot of the best music quality wise got nowhere near the Top 40, nor did the artists making that music assume that would ever happen. Think The Cramps. Or The Ramones. Or The Replacements.

Most Top 40 music is there because it taps into a vibe, a zeitgeist that helps define the times ... more than represent any indication of higher musical quality or enlightened state of being. It's pop music, not good music, or smart music, or quality music. The sound it makes ... POP! I think we need to keep that in mind with music that inspires deep WTF moments like you're having with these "sort of OK but not Hey Jude" tracks.

And the hype is necessary these days. No more radio. No more critics. No more print ads. It's all word of mouth via the internet ... thus you got to shout to be heard, and keep shouting. I don't like it, but I can see why it has to be that way since we've destroyed the old ways of marketing music effectively.

Eric said...

ur evil...boy, swingin' party is grating...


buzzbabyjesus said...

So many comments I had to listen. I began with "Swinging Party", which I hated. I didn't last a minute. Her slurred vocal mannerisms really pissed me off. I'm not a Billie holiday fan either.
Next I YouTubed "Royals", and it's much better than I expected. Those vocal quirks are largely absent, and it's really catchy. The arrangement is nice. I managed all four minutes and give it a thumbs up. However,based on these two recordings, I don't need to hear the whole album.

Anonymous said...

I really like Royals. Stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it. Not too many songs do that for me, but I liked the vibe. The other very good songs on the album (for me at least) are 400 lux and white teeth teens. These songs speak for the disenfranchised, which if my last class reunion (30 years) was any indication, is most teens. Her vocal harmonies are great. What little instrumentation there is tends to support the feeling of the songs. Yes, the album has a certain sameness to it, but for a freshman album, it is amazingly cohesive and intelligent. At least her values are in the right place and her language is not offensive. That in itself is refreshing. As to the creepiness of her performing style I would take that any day over the likes of Miley Cyrus, Lady GaGa or any of her overblown overproduced ilk.

Anonymous said...

I largely agree with Sal's sentiments.

As I recall Lorde and “Royals” is something of a reaction to the materialism of our times, in which case, I think she’s on the right track with her sentiments.

So much of today’s pop music on the radio is pure exhortations of materialism or some kind of empty headed sloganeering about an inch deep. There’s also a decided lack of “empathy” found in today’s pop music.

Springsteen did more to the song with an acoustic and a harmonica than it deserves. He found the empathy, he built a connection, he made the song deeper and richer with his rendition. He did the same mining “Stayin’ Alive “and even “Highway to Hell”. The guy’s got the empathy because he’s real, he knows who he is and his experience wins out.

Lorde may grow beyond this one hit, who knows? She is young and she may evolve beyond the single.

I blame Apple and the digital world. Apple has largely destroyed the album; today’s pop stars cannot deliver past a half-hour of attention. Their single may be nice and all, but their albums don’t hold up.

Because of the economics of the single, the music business has largely forgotten their role in building an artist up or supporting them over the long haul. They may not have the resources to do so as well.

I would much rather spend money on a confirmed album artist over the single popstar of the week. But I have an attention span and a vinyl catalog too. The people I seek out and listen to can still deliver over the album framework.

So, meh, I’m old, get off my lawn, etc.

Michael D.

Chris Collins said...

You're gonna hate me but I gotta disagree. I love the Lorde album. Cleaver lyrics. Sly, good hooks. I like it. Lots

Robin said...

Well, I'm late to this party! Loved Royals. I find it hard to criticize a 17 year old, especially female, she could be my daughter so maybe I'm not objective here. I liked the Replacements cover a lot. In listening to it I realized what I like about Lorde's vocals- I like her phrasing (yes she does slur, and is a bit affected as many vocalists today are). She understands what she is saying and is actually intelligently singing the words as a phrase, in her way of course, but she does sound like she's telling a story. That is not true for a lot of vocalists. So I am anxious to see what is in store for her in the future.

philo said...

Well the lead singer is 16, the drummer is 17, and the other 2 are 18. Which teenagers would you rather listen to.

Ready Eddie said...

Lorde had a record and publishing deal at 15. At the Grammys her co-writer Joel Little was there with her. At age 31 his is a little past teenage status.

She's been groomed and assisted by folks with lots of money. It's not just a kid strumming in her bedroom. Those videos don't make themselves.