Kate Smucker’s Marxist Criticism of Lorde’s “Royals”

Economics is the basis of Marxist Criticism, which comes from the ideologist Karl Marx. He believed in the separation of classes in terms of socioeconomic status, further; that the lower class attempts to obtain power while the upper class is interested in retaining what they already have. These opposing aspects take that of the proletariat and bourgeoisie. Marxism encompasses many ideologies including classism, patriotism, consumerism, as well as more. Consumerism is an ideology that gives the idea that individuals are only as good as what they buy. Within consumerism, we see capitalism and the use of commodification. In a recent and widely popular song by Lorde, these ideas are clearly exploited.

Through “Royals”, Lorde gives examples of how celebrities embrace the lifestyle and culture of superiority through items and stuff, for lack of better term. Released in 2013, the song was written in a time that reflected consumerism and capitalism as thriving aspects of our nation’s economics. There was an increase in consumer spending that was the most from 2010-2013 (taken from MarketWatch). In her lyrics, we specifically see her say, “but every songs like: gold teeth, grey goose, tripping in the bathroom, bloodstains, ball gowns, trashing a hotel room”. In other words, these songs are talking about sloppy adventures in obtaining fame and exploring such fame through alcohol and drugs. She continues to say, “we aren’t caught up in your love affair”, because she is unable to relate to these desires; thus expressing her critique of classism.  Again, her critique is that people are viewed in society in terms of their monetary success and further claims that money increases how people view you.

As someone who grew up without the luxury of money, Lorde paved her way and seems to reinforce the ideology of the American Dream. Coming from nothing, working hard and making it in the industry as a well known singer is the classic rags-to-riches story our society thrives on. The “American Dream” certainly promotes the belief in classism and capitalism, in that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible for anyone. This idea is conveyed when she says, “It don’t run in our blood”. Since she wasn’t treated with these commodities and such luxuries, it’s clear Lorde is sending a message that she doesn’t crave these things, despite working hard to get them.

Another idea expressed is that of cultural conditioning. We, as a society, reiterate consumerism and conspicuous consumption when we chase after and attain lavish lifestyles. This lifestyle choice continues to reinforce trends found in the oppressors versus those oppressed. With fame and fortune, also comes power, which Lorde makes clear is not something all should wish to obtain. After all, ideologies are passed through structures, and some see the industry of music as one of the largest and most impactful.

In closing, there is a clear reinforcement of capitalistic and classist values being critiqued within these lyrics. Whether it is up to Lorde to condemn or expose these values is open to interpretation. However, as an artist she is entitled to the message she intends to portray. This work invites others to see a side of the lifestyle people classified as bourgeoisie carry out. Her call to action is found when her lyrics imply her desire to be “Queen Bee” and “Ruler”. She wants to show that pop culture is not about materialistic lifestyles and that she “crave(s) a different kind of buzz”.





4 thoughts on “Kate Smucker’s Marxist Criticism of Lorde’s “Royals”

  1. nataliebeyer

    I love your choice with Lorde’s song. I’m a fan of Lorde’s music but I’ve never taken the time to pick apart the lyrics and see the hidden meaning. I can see the Marxist ideology within the lyrics, talking about the lavish lifestyle of the rich and famous people we look up to. I also feel like her song was kind of parodying the majority of songs currently on the radio that talk about and brag about all the money, cars, things, etc, they have. They advertise the same kind of American consumerism (“I’m only as good as what I can buy”) that Marxist thinkers talk about. Really cool analysis though!

  2. pwalton

    It’s always interesting when a member of a certain class (in this case, someone with celebrity status) calls out people that share their domain. Though it’s true celebrities and other wealthy individuals may attribute their success differently and exercise their wealth in different ways, the way a celebrity (in most cases) earns their pay is from their popularity in the public. While their ideals and what they choose to put forward may differ, there is a definite chasm between the “us” and “them” of celebrities.

    Personally I am a fan of Lorde and am glad that there is someone in the music industry to “speak out” and it makes it all the more relatable that she is our age, too. She speaks to the misfit in all of us and is kind of the opposite of the stereotypical blonde hair blue eyed popstar in a sequins dress (though that’s not to say people who may fit or resemble that mold are not valued).

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