Lorde is the stage name for a talented 16-year-old New Zealand singer whose sparse and catchy indie pop has gained her significant notoriety over the last couple of months. She is the youngest artist to top Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 26 years, a feat made even more amazing by the fact that most girls her age are spending 4 hours a day on Instagram rather than creating anything new for the world.
Lorde’s chart-topping single “Royals” has primarily driven her rise to popularity. However, in a recent Feministing article, Veronica Bayetti Flores described the song as “deeply racist,” ascribing a hateful intent to the song’s lyrics that, to any reasonable person, simply poke fun at rap’s culture of excess. These are the “offensive” lyrics:
But every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room,
We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.
We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair.
As usual, priviledged American feminists are doing the eminently meaningful work of being offended on behalf of a group they aren’t even a part of. Veronica Bayetti Flores, a white and/or hispanic woman, writes for a major website but apparently does not even know the definition of racism:
Racism: noun: : A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
In the least charitable interpretation of Lorde’s lyrics, she is blasting the hip hop culture for embracing materialism and insisting that her own group (Females? New Zealanders? Indie pop artists?) are not trapped by such vices. It would be an incredible jump in logic to make even the flimsiest of arguments that she is citing her race’s superiority over another’s rather than simply criticizing the behavior of a particular group.
The author’s incoherent diatribe also ignores other parts of the lyrics that seem to reference stereotypically white excess — I can’t remember the last rap video I saw featuring “ball gowns” and “trashing hotel rooms” (a cliché for predominantly white rock-and-roll bands). Are these references racist as well? Most likely, that these are the words of a girl getting into an industry driven by appearances and citing the hypocrisy and ostentation therein.
Even if one ignores the dig at white stereotypes and insists that Lorde is solely criticizing the world of rap, why is it forbidden for a person to critique a culture that is steeped in excess and ostentation while the community that dominates its fanbase remains largely low in socioeconomic status and unable to create wealth? Have we reached a point where any criticism of a subset of a racial group is met with a reactionary branding as “racist” and shamed out of existence?
Other articles have highlighted the sheer solipsism and stupidity of an American feminist viewing the lyrics of a 16-year-old New Zealander through the eyes of American race relations, so I will not repeat that aspect here. I will point out, however, the hypocrisy that Feministing has condemned bullying of other groups but remains complicit in shaming a girl for purportedly racist song lyrics without any sense of nuance or perspective. Does it have anything to do with the fact that, as a young girl in a foreign country just starting out in an industry based largely on reputation and body of work, she makes an easy target? Who could be expected to jump in and defend a pretty white girl against cries of racism from American feminists wielding a self-declared broadsword of faux moral superiority?
In any case, Bayetti’s puerile and poorly conceived hit piece is proof that our level of discourse on race is rapidly decaying to a point of no return, and American feminists are complicit in accelerating the decline. A blanket description of any criticism as “racist” simply for shock value and page views implicitly restricts freedom of speech and degrades the dialogue about race into a space of feelings and “offense” rather than facts, logic, and reason. Then again, those ideals never really were the domain of American feminists anyway.
Read More: But You’re A Good Girl