Black Lips’ Cole Alexander on the naïveté of Lorde’s “Royals”

Black Lips’ Cole Alexander on the naïveté of Lorde’s “Royals”

In HateSongwe ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.

The hater: Black Lips formed in 1999, when guitarist Cole Alexander, bassist Jared Swilley, and guitarist Ben Eberbaugh left their respective other projects and started messing around with their own songs. The group—minus Eberbaugh, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2002—released its debut full length, Black Lips!, in 2003. A little over a decade later, the band has gone through a couple of lineup changes, but Alexander and Swilley remain, as does original drummer Joe Bradley. The group’s latest record, Underneath The Rainbow, is out now. Black Lips put on a totally anarchic live punk show, and will be touring extensively throughout the spring.

The hated: Lorde, “Royals” (2013)

The A.V. Club: Why don’t you like “Royals?”

Cole Alexander: It’s hard to say I actually hate it, but it’s a bit confused. I was looking over the lyrics and in the song she seems to be criticizing what’s going on in pop music, like when people are talking about excess opulence, gold teeth, and Maybachs. In the lyric she says she’s “Never seen diamonds in the flesh / I’ve cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies / And I’m not proud of my address in the torn-up town / No postcode envy.” Most of the people that are rapping about Maybachs and diamonds come from really “torn-up towns.” I’m going on assumptions, but I feel like a lot of these guys are from Compton or these fucking ghettos like Memphis, and their parts of town are way more torn up than hers. That’s a mere assumption from seeing her in interviews and stuff, but I feel like they come from worse parts and they aspire to get Maybachs and diamonds because they come from ratchet-ass ’hoods where they have no hope. I think it’s a bit righteous of her.

Next she’s like, “We’re fine with this, we didn’t come from money.” She’s from New Zealand. Some town called Takapuna. I’ve never been to Takapuna—I’ve been to New Zealand—but I feel like she’s got it a little bit confused. I also heard she’s 17, so maybe she’s naïve.

She’s not proud of where she came from, “no postcode envy,” and these rappers are repping Compton and shit. They’re repping their hood, not 90210 or some shit. A lot of people don’t pretend they’re from 90210, but a lot of musicians want to pretend they’re poor or like rappers. They want to be from the worst ’hood. If you start from the top, people get bored. There’s no struggle there.

AVC: It’s a little unbelievable that she’s “never seen a diamond in the flesh.”

CA: I doubt that, too. But, again, she’s young.

I don’t really hate her. I just dislike the song. I don’t like the groove of it and all these singers they have this inflection in their voice—I can’t even put my finger on it—on what it is, but they’re trying to sing like they’re trying to sing or something. It’s not a natural voice. It’s inflected in a way that I hear every single singer do. It annoys me. But it’s just a matter of opinion so that’s why I have to convince you of my hatred; it’s just my personal opinion.

AVC: You were also thinking about doing a Drake and DJ Khaled song, “No New Friends.” Drake didn’t exactly come out of hard times either.

CA: And it’s not that you have to. I grew up in a decent suburb in Atlanta, but I do think sometimes in hip-hop, you can hear it in his voice. He didn’t have that pain in his voice, but it’s a subtle nuance. I’m sure he has some struggles in his life like everyone does, but I just don’t like Drake. He seems kind of fake to me.

I like my rappers more ghetto and ratchet sounding. Personally, I like more melodramatic, ignorant rap where they’re talking about violence and anger and it’s just evil. I don’t like when it’s too conscious, I don’t like it when it’s too smart. To me, it’s just like a gangster movie. In a gangster movie, you don’t want to see polite guys; you want to see them do horrible shit. It’s a movie, it’s entertainment, and, at the end of the day, music is entertainment. It might reflect what has happened, but a lot of times it’s an art form of telling stories.

I originally wanted to do the “Thrift Shop” song by Macklemore, but someone else did it.

AVC: Yep. Al Madrigal from The Daily Show.

CA: Can I ask what he said?

AVC: He basically said that his kids really like that song, but he hates it because it’s dirty. He doesn’t like seeing his kids emphatically rapping the word “piss.”

CA: Well if you don’t want your kids saying, “My cock is big,” or whatever…

AVC: Why don’t you like “Thrift Shop?”

CA: Again, I kind of feel like it’s confused. There’s that one line where they’re like, “That’s a cold-ass honky.” I really don’t like that line. First of all, it’s a racist word. I feel like white people, when someone says something racist against them, they’re not very offended. They’ve never had to deal with racism so it’s almost a kind of white guilt, or a subtle kind of action.

My problem isn’t the fact that he says “honky,” though. It’s that he puts “honky” in a black person’s mouth and they actually say it instead of him. He put a racist term into a black person’s mouth and had it thrown back at him to satiate his white guilt. That’s the way I look at it.

I go to thrift stores a lot and it’s sad to see them get torn up by everybody because he tried to popularize thrift stores. But it’s fine.

I don’t know if I’ve been able to convey true hatred for this Lorde song well enough. Someone was telling me they were an assistant for her at some kind of fashion thing and—again, I wasn’t here for this—but she was complaining about the designer clothes they were bringing. I’m pretty sure when she goes to those award shows she’s wearing designer clothes and stuff like that. So now, I guess, she’s probably in the royals. I guess that’s the ironic bit. I bet she’ll be rolling in tons of money now.

AVC: If she called Black Lips and was like, “Hey, do you want to do a song together?,” what would you say?

CA: We’d probably say no. We’ve said no to stuff like that before. Sometimes I’ll try to open myself because some things will be so ridiculous that I might actually do it, but I don’t think I’d do it with her. Kesha asked us to go on a tour a couple of years ago and we didn’t go. Her music is totally opposite to us, but we came to her with the idea of doing a track and we talked with her about it, but we never did it. I don’t think Lorde even makes the cut; I don’t think she’s as far opposite as Kesha is. She’s straight in the middle.

The other thing is she’s kind of mediocre. “Royals” is catchy enough, but it’s not mind blowing. I like bad music better than I like mediocre music, because at least I remember the bad music. 

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