Bob Schwartz

Music: Royals by Lorde

Lorde

When you’re a young pop music fanatic, you spend half your time listening. Music is life, life is music. When you get older, you still love it, but it takes its place among so many other occupiers. Which is why some of us who really do care and appreciate end up as “middle of the day” discoverers instead of early adopters.

I nearly had to pull off the road when I first heard Royals by Lorde on the radio this week. I was transported, transfixed, whatever transcendent pop music word you want to use. I am about the five millionth person to find out about this phenomenon, but I don’t care.

This is from the Billboard 21 Under 21 list, where Lorde comes in at Number 6, just a few spots below Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus:

Why She’s Hot: At this time last year, Ella Yelich-O’Connor was an unknown 15-year-old in New Zealand, still two months away from releasing her debut EP for free on the Internet. Fast forward one calendar frame, and one of the songs on that EP, “Royals,” is a record-setting hit on Billboard’s Alternative chart and a Top 5 single on the U.S. Hot 100. Its creator, now known as Lorde, is one of the most fascinating new talents in pop music, with sold-out shows, a beguiling debut album titled “Pure Heroine,” and an astoundingly level head about her heightened profile. The head of Lorde’s record label says that she could be “the artist of her generation,” and thousands agree. It’s time to hail Lorde with a spot in this year’s Top 10.

And if everything else about Royals isn’t already plus-perfect, the song itself, written by Lorde and Joel Little, offers a message about rich pop stars from the common people perspective: “we’ll never be royals.”

I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh
I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies
And I’m not proud of my address
In the torn up town, no post code envy

But every song’s like:
Gold teeth
Grey Goose
Tripping in the bathroom
Bloodstains
Ball gowns
Trashing the hotel room

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

But everybody’s like:
Crystal
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

And we’ll never be royals
It don’t run in our blood
That kind of lux just ain’t for us, we crave a different kind of buzz
Let me be your ruler
You can call me queen bee
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule
Let me live that fantasy

My friends and I we’ve cracked the code
We count our dollars on the train to the party
And everyone who knows us knows
That we’re fine with this, we didn’t come from money

This is the dream for every artist and producer, and for music fans too: something so familiar yet different, something so infinitely listenable and desirable that it is a musical drug. Will Lorde go on to be, as her label says, “the artist of her generation”? They have to say that, there’s a long way to go, and one great track doesn’t make a career. But what a great track and what a great way to start.

Some Republicans Want to Kill the Dog

National Lampoon - Kill the Dog
It is as famous and funnily outrageous as any magazine cover ever: the January 1973 National Lampoon that threatened “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.”

That, in a nutshell, is the Republican threat in Congress: agree to every piece of legislation we’ve been unable to pass over the past few years, or we will kill the country—by not passing a budget resolution or not raising the debt ceiling or both.

National Lampoon wasn’t serious, which is what made it funny. If it was a real dog, a loaded gun and a crazy shooter, it would be a crime and a tragedy. Especially if we didn’t buy the magazine and the dog was actually killed.

Some Republicans aren’t exhibiting any sense of humor about this—or sense of perspective or history or citizenship. There is a loaded gun and there is a serious intention to pull the trigger, despite any likely harm. Which would be a crime and a tragedy and not very funny at all.

Ted Cruz and Joe McCarthy

Ted Cruz - Joe McCarthy
For a while now, virulent anti-Obamaism has looked a lot like the anti-Communist vendetta of McCarthyism in the 1950s. Barack Obama is in fact the scary culmination of the fear that swept the nation fifty years ago. Not only are there Communist infiltrators in government offices; the White House itself is in the hands of a godless liberty-taker—or so it seems to millions.

U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy from Wisconsin did not invent this brand of hate and paranoia. He just perfected it through a combination of extreme showboating, angry rhetoric and, most of all, fear. Nothing could be worse than to be branded an enemy of the state (in McCarthyist terms), which might lead to a loss of a citizen’s reputation, job and career or, more to the point, to a politician’s losing office.

This week, Ted Cruz’s attempt to hog the American stage with his fauxbuster (media are still working on a term for a filibuster that isn’t one) has had a notable effect on some of his Republican Congressional colleagues. Since the 2010 elections, and certainly in the 2012 presidential campaign, there has been a reluctance to publicly break ranks and call an ambitious, self-absorbed blowhard that (e.g., Donald Trump) or a fool a fool (take your pick). In recent days, a few Republican Senators have stopped holding back, realizing that as much as they agree in their opposition to Obama policies, this is not a constructive way to proceed, governmentally or politically. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, a loyal Republican and unassailable conservative, said that it appears that to Cruz and others of that ilk, he is just not conservative enough.

This is the Ted Cruz/Joe McCarthy strategy: if you are not with me, you are against America. To torture a quote from King Louis XIV, “America c’est moi.” (I am America). And if you are not for my definition of America, you are an enemy of the state—even if you purport to be a Republican, even if you are a Senator with many more years than my nine months in the Senate. And if you are an enemy of the state, I and my millions of like-minded Americans will destroy you. That is my mission.

Joe McCarthy’s brief demagogic career ended in ignominy (and ill health from his alcoholism). He went from holding center stage to banishment when more and more of his colleagues and the media stood up to his bullying. It wasn’t that anti-Communism went away; it remained a force for years to come and, as pointed out, lives still even in the post-Cold War era. It was that serious people put up with over-ambitious clowns as long as a common agenda is advanced, but at some point even the threat of losing office takes second place to what’s good for America.

In the end, McCarthyism lost to Americanism. Let’s hope that Cruzism suffers the same fate.