Story by Elsie Waters
Illustration by Isole Kim
Since she released her debut album, Pure Heroine back in 2013, Lorde has had the element of surprise on her side, never failing to spark conversation and maintain unpredictability. Her work speaks for itself, but her age especially took the world by surprise. Only sixteen when she shared Pure Heroine, and just twenty years old when she released the following album, Melodrama, the words “young talent” and Lorde practically go hand in hand.
Her newest work takes shape in the dynamic album Solar Power. Packed full of intimate stories, a cheerful tone, and beautiful vocals, Solar Power, is a perfect end of August listen. It flawlessly captures the summer blues all encounter at some point or another, and turns the feeling into an entrancing listening experience.
After the release of Melodrama, Lorde stepped away from the spotlight and went off the grid. During that time, she visited Antarctica to learn more about the climate crisis firsthand. The trip affirmed Lorde’s passion about the environment,which is the album’s thematic base. Melodrama was filled with anger and intensity birthed from a recent breakup. Solar Power shares those same emotions, only this time they’re dedicated to the climate crisis.
In the song “Fallen Fruit,” she expresses her frustration “to the ones who came before us,” and how they’ve left us with a planet that’s threatening to collapse. It’s one of the more solemn songs featured on the album. While it begins in alignment with the previous tracks (instrumental, guitar-heavy, soft and heady vocals) the pattern is quickly broken, giving way to a much darker sound. It’s one of the few songs that feels reminiscent of Lorde’s previous albums with the deep vocals fans are more accustomed to.
In addition to nature, Solar Power tackles an array of varying themes, one of which is the bleaker side of stardom. It’s a known fact Hollywood isn’t as glamorous as it appears, and Lorde knows that better than most. As someone who entered the scene at a young age, her conflicting histories with the music industry are integrated into the framework of the album.
The song California provides listeners insight into her experience. At the beginning of the song, she describes the initial moment she was “welcomed” into Hollywood. “Once upon a time in Hollywood when Carole called my name/ I stood up, the room exploded/ and I knew that’s it, I’ll never be the same.”
Her age and career are intrinsically linked, and while the world has shared plenty of their own thoughts on the subject, she hasn’t commented all too much. Her decision to finally share her perspective, and not just through an interview, but through a song makes the information feel all the more impactful and intentional.
Lorde also takes a satirical, yet ultimately relatable approach to her lyrics. In songs like “Mood Ring,” she pokes fun at how our generation’s deep immersion in wellness culture, something that she just can’t relate to: “Ladies begin your sun salutations…You can burn sage, and I’ll cleanse the crystals.”
Solar Power presents itself as one large and cohesive story, featuring bits and pieces of Lorde’s life, external conflicts as well as internal ones, where each song neatly bleeds into the next. With its many themes of love, loss, humor, environment, and more–it feels like a book, each track a different chapter.
However, this aspect of the album can at times come off as anticlimactic. It almost feels as if it should be leading up to something greater, like waiting for a beat that never drops. The most energetic song is the second track, “Solar Power,” is shared so early in the album. The drop never comes, instead eases to a gentle end with “Oceanic Feeling.”
Many fans have voiced their dissatisfaction with the album and that makes sense if you were expecting Melodrama 2.0, full of Lorde’s usual electro-pop. The disappointment is valid, however while it’s not what fans were expecting, the album is exactly what Lorde wanted it to be.
And this expression of autonomy alone contributes heavily to the organic essence of the album. She’s no longer that 16 year old when she released Pure Heroine. She no longer feels the need to prove herself.
Ultimately, Solar Power conveys the encompassing feeling of indifference Lorde holds today. By producing the unexpected, all the while knowing that it may not be as well received as the music her fans are used to, she demonstrates the growth she’s undergone since 2013. This only adds to the carefree effect that Solar Power has on all of it’s listeners.