Does The U.S. Crave A Different Kind Of Video?

August 29, 2013

The song “Royals” by New Zealand native Lorde has blown up in the U.S. recently. If you haven’t heard the song yet, you probably will.

As far as the music video goes, there are two versions out there: the original and a newer cut labeled the “US Version.”

The Original

The original video was uploaded to YouTube on May 12. The four-minute video is paired with a touching description from the artist herself. She talks about keeping the video as real as possible so she can sleep at night. It features scenes from her own neighborhood, the train station she waits at every week, her personal friends, one of which is wearing a sweatshirt that belongs to her. It’s all very honest, and explained in a way that makes me feel like she’s talking directly to me.

The video starts in silence, showing a simple, empty bedroom and transitions into the song after about 10 seconds. You spot Lorde for a split second but then are thrown into different scenes that tell a story. Each still a work of art in itself — empty rooms, a boys shoulder, deserted street.

What you don’t see, is Lorde. Not again until the 2:30 mark. Lorde is in front of a blank wall, offset on a wide shot. She sings along for about twenty seconds, and she’s gone again until the very last second. Mirroring the start, you see her for a few short frames, and the song is over. Afterwards, the main male from the video appears again in a 30 second vignette that alludes to her second video, “Tennis Court.”

Lorde's 20 second solo in the original video

Lorde’s 20-second, subtle solo in the original video


The U.S. Version

Uploaded June 18, the U.S. version differs greatly. The song is still the exact same (phew), and the visual pieces of the story are still there, but the focus is on Lorde. She still opens and ends the video, and has her visual solo from 2:30-2:50, but in this version she fills the rest as well, with closer shots on various backdrops. The video kicks off with the song immediately — the 10-second silent opening is gone, as well as the post-song vignette, cutting down the video from 4:03 to 3:21.

Another disappointing loss? The video description. Gone is the heartfelt message from Lorde, and instead you find three cold links to purchase the song, and the copyright.

One of the many close-ups in the US version

One of the many close-ups in the U.S. version


Another close up, livelier this time.

Another close up, livelier this time.


Why the Change?
The original video is an art piece, drenched in the soul and honesty of the artist. The cut-up, cut-down, US version in comparison makes me feel like I’m expected to have such limited attention span that I can’t be bothered with the 10-second intro, 30-second teaser, or 180-word description. Artistic compositions? Interpretive story lines? Nah, lets get some close ups of the pretty 16-year-old starlet.

The video still holds the essence of the original, I’m just disappointed in the “dumbed-down” feeling I got when watching the two back to back. Is the US really that shallow?

In an interview with Huffington Post, Lorde comments on her lack of face-time in the non-U.S. version, saying that so much emphasis is placed on physical appearances these days, and she likes to keep a bit of mystery. She also notes that people have told her its “almost uncomfortable” seeing none of her, and then 20 solid seconds. Her response? “If I can get that kind of response from people, then I think I’m doing something right.”