When Lorde broke on the scene in 2013 with “Royals” the song was met with positive critical acclaim and the singer immediately built a huge fan base that embraced her minimalist sound. That sound is somewhat deceiving though, because even though the backing track doesn’t contain many elements, Lorde’s vocals are far more complex than you might think from a casual listen. Take a listen to the isolated vocals to see what I mean.
As an interesting aside, the song’s title and lyrical hook is actually named after the Kansas City Royals baseball team. Lorde saw an image of the Royals hall of fame great George Brett on a 1976 copy of National Geographic and decided the name was cool (how she saw such an old magazine is unclear), and it provided the inspiration for the song.
Here’s what to listen for.
1. Check out the nice delayed reverb. The delay is pretty long and so is the reverb tail, which is pretty much needed to fill the spaces in a minimalist arrangement like this one. It’s also pretty dark so it adds a nice glue to the track.
2. The background vocal arrangements are very sophisticated and Lorde is excellent when it comes to singing with herself. There are also some difficult harmonies that she pulls off perfectly.
3. The vocals are pretty compressed, and you can hear the compressor pulling during the choruses, which are sung with much more intensity than the verses.
4. The second verse develops nicely thanks to a combination of simple and stacked harmonies, as well as a slight melody change.
5. Unlike just about everything on the charts today, the lead vocal isn’t doubled, which is very refreshing sound.
6. You hear the finger snaps and lots of phasing artifacts throughout the video. I suspect this isolated track was created by playing with the phase of the track to eliminate everything but the elements that were panned to the center during the mix. The phasing sound is byproduct of the process.