Pop CultureJuly 2, 2024

Which one of you told Lorde she walked like a bitch? 


Alex Casey goes down the rabbit hole in an attempt to find the local bully who uttered one of the defining pop culture phrases of 2024. 

There’s an Instagram reel I cannot stop watching of Twin Peaks star Kyle MacLachlan stomping around the suburbs to Charli XCX’s ‘girl, so confusing’ version with Lorde. As he paces past council bins, his T-shirt inexplicably inside out, MacLachlan gesticulates emphatically to the lyrics. “GIRL, you walk like a BITCH, when I was TEN someone said THAT” he swaggers, throwing his hands upwards to reveal some damn toned biceps. 

MacLachlan is not alone in this strong physical response to the remix. If you have somehow been colourblind to the slime green seeping through the internet for the last few weeks, the song has come following the release of Charli XCX’s latest album brat, which featured ‘girl so confusing’, a track many assumed was a diss track about Lorde. A few days later, the girls put any confusion to bed in releasing a candid remix featuring none other than Our Lorde herself. 

Much has already been written about Lorde’s bracingly honest contribution, which touches on everything from anxiety (“I was so lost in my head, and scared to be in your pictures”) to body image (“I tried to starve myself thinner”), to the complexity of female friendship and rivalry (“I was trapped in the hatred, and your life seemed so awesome”), and later a meta self-awareness about the current pop girls fervour (“when we put this to bed, the internet will go crazy”). 

There’s a lot to process thematically but, as Agent Cooper and countless others on the internet have proven, no line is more fun to spit out than the following:

Girl, you walk like a bitch’
When I was ten, someone said that
And it’s just self-defence
Until you’re building a weapon

On about my one hundred and twentieth plod down the hallway in my slippers to WLAB (Walk Like a Bitch), a thought entered my head: somewhere out there exists the person who told Lorde she walked like a bitch when she was 10. Have they heard the remix? Have they read the discourse? Have they reflected on their role in this defining pop culture moment? Do they still spend their precious time on this Earth accusing children of walking like bitches? 

As someone once nominated for best crime and justice journalism at the Voyager Media Awards (didn’t win), I had a professional and moral obligation to unearth the truth. Given that Lorde’s only overt clue as to the person’s identity in the song is that they were “someone”, it was clear that finding the “who” of WLAB was going to be an enormous challenge. Perhaps examining the remaining central questions (what, when, where, how) might help. 

An example of Lorde walking

Let’s get the what out of the way: when Lorde was 10, a now notorious someone told her she walked like a bitch. Many years later, she reflected on that moment in a 2024 pop remix, positing aloofness works as a form of “self defence” until one realises that one was, of course “building a weapon” all along. The victim of said weapon in this modern day instance? A “young girl from Essex” by the name of Charlotte Emma Aitchison (Charli XCX). 

What’s more revealing about this is the when of it all. Lorde was born on November 7, 1996, meaning that she was 10 years old from November 7 2006 until November 7, 2007. Helen Clark was the prime minister during this time, and I think we would have heard about it if she told a 10-year-old she walked like a bitch, so that rules her out. And if “bitch” seemed like a crass word to say in 2007, you should have heard who was Auckland’s mayor (Dick Hubbard).

Maybe 2007 in our local pop culture sphere has some clues. Flight of the Conchords were enjoying HBO success in America, likely too busy to assess the bitch walks of local children. Shortland Street’s Ferndale Strangler was unmasked as nurse Joey Henderson, who famously uttered “slags” twice in the climactic episode, but never “bitch”. Fascinatingly, Atlas’ ‘Crawl’ was the highest selling single of 2007. Crawling – the most bitch walk of all? 

The Ferndale Strangler preferred ‘slags’

That brings us to where this atrocity occurred. In 2013’s ‘Tennis Court’, Lorde famously says “pretty soon I’ll be getting on my first plane.” If we are to take her word as fact – and for the premise of this article we simply must – it can then be deduced that Lorde had never left New Zealand prior to 2013. While there is a slim chance she made it abroad on one of her cutting edge pontoons or dinghies, we are going to assume that this is a domestic matter

I’m also going to go out on a limb and say that WLAB probably happened in Auckland. Woke Wellington would never, and someone in the South Island would probably say something weird and fuddy duddy like “stone the flaming crows” when confronted with a precocious 10-year-old’s bitch walk (I live in the South Island, don’t come for me). In the 2006 census, the Auckland population was 1,303,068, which narrowed down the suspect list significantly. 

WLAB may have also been a bit of schoolyard banter, in the same way that a boy told me “you have hairy arms” when I was 10 and I still check his social media regularly. Wikipedia says that Lorde was at Vauxhall School in Devonport in 2007, a dainty wee place at the end of a cul-de-sac with a current roll of 270 students. Lorde also won first place in the North Shore Primary Schools’ Speech competition in 2007 – could WLAB have come from a scorned rival

Finally, we need to consider the how. If we return to the lyrics once more – “girl, you walk like a bitch, when I was 10 someone said that” – Lorde has given us two clues. This person said this phrase aloud, and they said it in fluent English. My colleague Shanti Mathias assisted me in extracting deeply valuable data from the 2006 Census breaking down language by region. In Auckland, 1,145,871 were fluent in English at the time of the incident. 

So now we have the what, when, where and how of WLAB, which should help us with the who. After all this rigorous legwork, I was knackered and turned to ChatGPT, which is probably what I should have done at the very start. “In an interview, Lorde mentioned that her mother told her she walked ‘like a bitch’ when she was 10 years old,” the robots coolly responded. “This anecdote was shared as part of Lorde reflecting on her childhood.” 

I just don’t think that Lorde’s nice poet mum would call out her 10-year-old’s bitch walk. Forced to rely on my own cognitive abilities, I thought about what I knew for sure. Number one: it wasn’t me. Like many New Zealanders I am proud to report that I have met Lorde before, and patriotically flubbed, pantsed and botched my way through every interaction we have had. Still, I have never jetpack failed hard enough to accuse her of walking “like a bitch”. 

So that’s another suspect cleared. Next step: my Auckland colleagues

I followed up with the only person to drop a suspicious snail, our newly-minted staff writer Lyric Waiwiri-Smith, who explained her ambiguous response. “You never know who you bump into in this world,” she said. “Six year-old me could’ve seen her walking down the street and said ‘bitch’.” While it was a suspiciously bold assertion to make, my lead on Lyric quickly fell to pieces – she was not in the Auckland region during the specified time period. 

I tried asking an Auckland-based group chat, but nobody seemed to take my request seriously. Some appeared distracted by the fact that others in the chat were celebrating a 33rd birthday amid my frenzied messages, which seemed like a convenient alibi to me. Those who did respond in earnest offered up the same name again and again: the famously foul-mouthed food blogger and Lorde’s personal friend Albert Cho

It’s an interesting idea. Cho is known for his profane-laden restaurant reviews, and is not afraid of the word bitch. In a review of Whittakers oat milk chocolate, he admits to being “a petty bitch” before assessing the “the diarrhoea of shit”. In another instance, he says of a Moustache Nutella Cookie: “I didn’t know it was filled and that bitch is FIIILLLED”. Alas, Cho and Lorde became friends at Takapuna Grammar, which is simply too late for our timeline. 

As I continued searching lorde + bitch on company time, I came across an eerie bitch-based coincidence. When Lorde’s ‘Royals’ hit the charts in America in 2013, she became the first solo female artist to reach the top 10 in a maiden chart visit since Meredith Brooks in 1997. And what was Brooks’ single, released a decade prior to Lorde being accused of walking like a bitch? It was called ‘Bitch’ (“I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother”). 

That wasn’t the only thrilling lead I unearthed over the course of my research. In the eleventh hour, I had a breakthrough: the person who has called Lorde a bitch the most times, by a country mile, is Lorde herself. “‘Look bitch, you’re going to get old – you’ll get wrinkles, your greys are coming in and there’s another hot 17-year-old coming up” she reflected on her own fame to NME in 2021, later referring to her younger self as “a tough bitch!”

The examples just kept coming. “Damn bitch, you’re a scorpio” she said of herself on a podcast with Hunter Schafer in 2022. “I was so ugly in high school now i’m on the cover of Elle, let’s get it!!!!! bitch!” Lorde wrote on her instagram story in 2019. Just last month she posted this of Charli XCX’s brat: “I say it’s an honour to be moved, changed and gagged by her work. There is NO ONE like this bitch.” 

Could the perpetrator have been Lorde all along? Girl, so confusing, indeed. 

Did you say “you walk like a bitch” to Lorde between November 2006 and November 2007? Get in touch (alex@thespinoff.co.nz) and then hand yourself over to police (111)

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