6/52: You Can Call Me Green Bean

February 2, 2014

So apparently, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences agrees with me. Lorde’s song “Royals” just won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year. It joins the good (“Single Ladies”), the bad (“Wind Beneath My Wings”), and the downright forgettable (“Sunny Came Home”).

While this honor actually makes me like the song a little less, I thought I should strike while the anachronistic trophy is still hot.

I first heard the song on my way to the Oakland Airport. After hearing it, I remember trying to hang on to a few lines so I could Google it later. For those of you completely perplexed by my enjoyment of this song, I am offering a line-by-line breakdown that will someday be used against me in a court of musical taste.

I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh
I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies

This intro hits you with a thumping snapping instantly catchy beat. The opening lines are James Bond-esque in style. But then she hits you with this…

And I’m not proud of my address,
In a torn-up town, no postcode envy

Wait, is this a pop song about being poor? “Postcode Envy” is a pretty awesome phrase.

But every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room,

I had to Google “Grey Goose” which is apparently a type of vodka, but I get the drift of her song now. I’m liking the alliteration and the parallel verbiage with “trippin'” and “trashin'” along with the repetition of “bathroom” and “hotel room” to end the lines.

We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams.

I would deem this the weakest line of the song. Maybe it’s because I am unclear of what exactly “Cadillacs” connote. If the speaker doesn’t really care, then why is she chasing something in her dreams? I know Cadillacs were once seen as the thing to roll in, but maybe this has changed and the statement is ironic.

But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.

From a purely lyrical perspective, this is one of the tightest sequences I have ever heard from a song. The use of assonance with “like/diamonds/timepiece/islands/tigers” compares favorably with Eminem’s use of the technique in “Lose Yourself”. “Diamonds on your timepiece” and “tigers on a gold leash” have such specific imagery and connotation, but the sound similarity between these two lines is crazy good. Meter (trochaic). Syllabic count. Sound similarity. Errrything.

We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair.

This line seems to be a lot more consistent with the overall message of the song than the “Cadillacs” line. It’s one of the few rhymes that one could probably see coming, but it’s a smooth turn of phrase.

And we’ll never be royals (royals).
It don’t run in our blood,
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.

I like the slant rhyme/assonance of “blood/luxe/us/buzz” and really wouldn’t have necessarily expected any of those. I also think this line refutes the claim by one Internet article that decried this song as racist. While the earlier verses do allude to a hip-hop culture, it is also the mass-marketed image of a party lifestyle (though not on a boat). And this reference to the Royal Family (or any royal family) would indicate that the speaker isn’t just getting her bargain knickers in a bunch about a certain skin color.

Let me be your ruler (ruler),

Aside from the word wizardry, this song’s message struck me as interesting. Usually pop lyrics are so vapid and predictable. I love you so bad. You hurt me so bad. I still want you so bad. I can’t go on without you. I’m going to destroy your car for cheating on me. Yadda yadda yadda. But this song is saying something else. I don’t need all the fancy stuff, I don’t have power, but I definitely want something. I want to be the one in control. That is kind of messed up, but it isn’t disingenuous. It’s rather disturbingly honest.

You can call me queen bee

The title of this post comes from the fact that Alice overheard this song (or my rendition of it), and translated “You can call me queen bee” to “You can call me green bean”. What isn’t lovable about a line that can me misheard in such an adorable fashion? On the flip side of things, there are frightening parallels between the urges of the speaker and the urges of a toddler.

And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule.
Let me live that fantasy.

By now, you’ve probably figured out that I am overly enthusiastic about the sound of words. Sometimes this can be bad, like when I thought it would be a good idea to write a poem that started, “I once believed in talking trees”. You can probably also deduce that the words “leaves” and “green” figured into that treasure. However, these lyrics are so much more clever. In saying “I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule” and overlapping the sounds over themselves, she creates an effect that sounds like the howl of a wolf, which is such an alpha thing to do. That was probably the tipping point for me.

My friends and I—we’ve cracked the code.
We count our dollars on the train to the party.

I like how the solution involves counting dollars on a train. It’s a very non-American image, and also very antithetical to the typical pop song. Even “Lazy Sunday” talked about “Droppin’ Hamiltons” in a “Make it rain!” sort of way.

And everyone who knows us knows that we’re fine with this,
We didn’t come from money.

Not sure if Lorde did not come from money. I know she is just singing a song, but it would be more meaningful if this were true. I guess I should be fine with this.

Ooh ooh oh
We’re bigger than we ever dreamed,
And I’m in love with being queen.
Ooh ooh oh
Life is great without a care
We aren’t caught up in your love affair.

Another great thing about this song is that it ends rather abruptly. When I first heard “Royals”, I remember being a bit disappointed by this. However, this makes so much sense with the lyrics of the song. The drop-off leaves a powerful non-conformist vibe, and leaves the audience wanting more.

Well, if you made it through that tedium of analysis you deserve a Grammy yourself. Unless you just finished it so you could make fun of me later. In that case, you deserve to hear “My Heart Will Go On” (another Song of the Year) on loop for all eternity.

For those of you who need a little more convincing, I’ll leave you with this. One thing that was puzzling about this track was the fact that one singer would use the pronouns “we” and “our” to describe herself (“We’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams”) before introducing the idea of a group. On the initial listen, I thought a girl group was singing the song. But then my punderstanding mind kicked into gear. Why would Lorde use “we”? Well the song is titled “Royals”. Could she be referencing the Royal We? She. Has. To. Be. Let me live that fantasy.



2 Responses to “6/52: You Can Call Me Green Bean”

  1. awningonanouthouse Says:

    Two things: 1) I know every word to “Sunny Came Home.” I refuse to comment on any Celine lyrics because they’ll get stuck in my head and I won’t be able to sleep. 2) The world wants–nay, demands–a pop song parody written by you.

    • teachiro Says:

      I’m gonna have to call you on #1 sometime, maybe at a karaoke-themed party for A or E. On #2 I begrudgingly concur. As for #3, I’ve got a few ideas, but I’ll take guidance if you have any.

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