Back when 17-year-old international pop sensation Lorde was first making a splash—and I guess she still is, considering how much Pure Heroine continues to dominate my Spotify sidebar—I decided to keep my distaste to myself. If people thought that a teenager rolling her eyes at a life of excess she would soon come to enjoy based on that attitude itself was a game-changer, OK, fine. But “Royals” wasn’t much to listen to till T-Pain came along.
It’s not just that T-Pain’s cover saturates the stingy production of the sour-grapes original with his trademark Auto-Tune glides. He also flips the song’s message on its head, indulging in the very luxuries held out as illusory or empty—all while turning Lorde into the biggest hater of them all. You mad because T-Pain has diamonds in his chain? “Seems like just yesterday we were drinking Crown Royal (Royal),” he croons, mocking Lorde’s suburban realist hook. “We ain’t really give a fuck / Now they tryin’ to hate on us / And I just party on my bus.” Yes, the best revenge for being accused of living well is…continuing to do so.
Ouch. What’s worse, the somewhat racially charged rebuke comes on top of a Tumblr unfavorably comparing Lorde’s looks to those of much older black people. Let this be a lesson to any other New Zealand kid with the bright idea of impugning the flashier aspects of hip-hop culture in a Top 40 track: Nobody can hear you over all that Cristal being popped.