Off-Topic: Royals By Lorde and the Rare Phenomenon of Genre-Neutral Hit Music


I’ll never forget the moment when I first heard Royals by Lorde. Steff and I were in the car. As I tend to do, I flip between radio stations playing all different types of music. Stopping on our local alternative rock station, I was caught off-guard by the sounds of Lorde’s harmony over 808 drums. “Why is this station playing this song?” I asked. “No idea,” Steff replied.

Since then, it’s not just our alternative station playing it. Come to our neck of the woods and you can find Royals on our urban station, pop stations, rock stations and even our adult contemporary station. She’s managed to create what I call a ‘genre-neutral hit’.

Very few songs I can think of have managed to do this. Off the top of my head, the only other songs I can think of that defied as many radio boundaries were Crazy by Gnarles Barkley and Hey Ya by Outkast. There’s something about those songs that just has such a wide appeal to them. Did they set to make something with such mass appeal? In these three cases, probably not, which just adds to the coolness of it all.

It’s really hard to work outside of the genre boundaries we’ve set for ourselves. By making something that can’t neatly fit into a radio format, it’s much harder for that song to make its way into the rotation. I guess in all three cases, it’s a testament to making the music you want first and worrying about labels later.


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