Through A Note Darkly is a weekly feature on thegreatalbums.com in which contributor Chris Villalta searches for lessons in an album he's heard a lot about, but has never heard in full before
Like Lorde must have done to fill “Royals” with all the references to the luxurious hip-hop lifestyle, I too have found myself nodding along to rap records while internally shaking my head to how materialistic it all seems. It has happened outside of the context of music as well: trips to the mall with friends and family who are there looking for a purchase while I stand beside them, playing along, but wanting something maybe not more, but different–”a different kind of buzz.” And it feels good to want something different because that means I’m different, at least for a little while. “Royals” is that little while where being different feels great. The attitude Lorde carries throughout the song is the same so many of my high school peers seemed to have about facing the world. We all felt unique precisely because we couldn’t relate to what once passed off as unique, a complete disregard for relationships in favor of obsession on the material. Knowing we would never be royals made us feel like royalty. The interesting thing about this attitude, however, is the end goal was feeling like royalty. After her rallying cry for those craving that different kind of buzz, “Royals” ends with Lorde getting high off the same old buzz of being Queen Bee, being royalty.
“I'm not in the swing of things/But what I really mean is/Not in the swing of things yet,” admits Lorde on “Still Sane.” The lyrics feel almost defeatist, like she knows this being different from others feeling will fade, this insanity which got her on the radio will so become sane with every time the radio normalizes her insanity with air time. The youth and all their out of the box ideas soon become as in the box as every other idea. This explains the absolute dread for aging heard on “Ribs”: “And I've never felt more alone/It feels so scary, getting old.” The loneliness is cured as one ages and realizes it is not only them who are starting to settle for the standards of those that came before them, as one realizes everyone is “Livin' in ruins of a palace within [their] dreams” and are on each other’s team.
To be aware of how temporary your insanity is could easily eat someone into submission and leave them never experiencing the places their insanity will take them. It has happened to me. My fandom of things left me tracing histories only to discover all the things that were once alternative, whether it be music from The Ramones or comedy from Patton Oswalt, found its way to the mainstream. Some demonize this movement from the underground to the top as selling out, but I see it more as the natural course of entropy. All heated things cool down eventually, so why should I try to heat anything up? The overall feel of Pure Heroine tells me it's because the experience of heating something up can be savored and can be remembered. The consistency in tone on the record had me picturing Lorde chewing on these emotions, getting every morsel of flavor she possibly could before they could only be experienced through memory. I will try to savor this time I have craving a different kind of buzz before settling for old school royalty is the only option.