Lorde entered the musical scene with a bang, winning both Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at Grammy Awards’ 56th edition with her first single. Having started writing songs by herself as early as the age of 12, the New Zealand singer wrote the lyrics to Royals in half an hour at her house.
Lorde describes her writing process to Vevo as starting with “a particular phrase or word” which sums up the concept that has been bubbling in her head. In the case of Royals, a picture of Kansas City Royals baseball player George Brett signing baseballs with his team’s name emblazoned across his shirt was the trigger. The Guardian described the lyrics as a “direct response to the sensation of being overwhelmed by overseas culture, particularly that which glories in excess and wealth”.
Around and influenced by Lorde’s lyrics, musician and producer Joel Little composed the music. The arrangement was described by Pitchfork as being “economical” with “just a few finger snaps and a barely-there beat”. Its minimal character was also noted by Time who described the song’s groove as such. Spin felt the instrumental work sounds like a “mesmerizing void of undead space and unearthly echo”. Royals didn’t sound like “the kind of song that owns the pop charts” to Rolling Stone, but they attributed its success to the fact that it’s both “irresistible and radical”.