REVIEW: Breathe out and tune in, feel Lorde’s solar power
Lorde’s highly anticipated third album is mellow, floaty and still brilliantly profound
Returning with a new record, Lorde is all grown up from her “Melodrama” era. Working again with producer Jack Antonoff, “Solar Power” sets a different tone with her light and sunny title track of the same name.
Acoustic strummings, raw instrumentals, a stripped, feral sound that’s a little messy: her new scaled-back feel is unexpected. Much like the styles of her “Solar Power” backing-vocal features Phoebe Bridgers and Clairo, she is aiming to achieve rawness. Less production isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Lorde, as her simplicity mirrors her honesty on this record.
From shimmery percussion to upbeat guitar reminiscent of Natasha Bedingfield, “Mood Ring" hints at influences of early 2000s pop on this record. While the cheerful, bright rhythm of this song is a new sound for the artist, the tune’s juxtaposition with the social commentary on wellness culture is classic Lorde. Evidently, there is more optimism behind her music, but the depth Lorde is known for – and perhaps some of her signature sadness – is not lost.
While it is still an incredibly introspective and self-aware piece of work, “Solar Power” is not a record that will make you sob uncontrollably, much like her iconic songs “Ribs” and “Liability.” The musician is seemingly grounded, instead of the anxious and insecure teenager so afraid of “getting old” that we were introduced to initially. In fact, she seems to embrace maturing, revealing that, with time, she has reflected and found a new perspective.
Having notably separated herself from all social media in 2018, the world barely saw or heard from the beloved artist for about three years. Without a hint of new music, it seemed the “Twitterverse” felt her absence. Throughout her career, Lorde has felt the pressure to be the voice of Generation Z. “Now if you’re looking for a savior, well, that’s not me,” she belts on the opening track, “The Path.”
In a recent interview with The Guardian, Lorde said, “I know enough about how people view me – we’re taught to view famous people as gods now – and I just wanted to dismantle that.”
Lorde continues to acknowledge the trauma from stepping into fame at such a young age in “The Path,” singing, “Teen millionaire having nightmares from the camera flash.”
Perhaps the anthem for letting go of your youth on this record is “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All),” dedicated to giving advice to her younger self, with the help of singer Robyn playing a hazy flight attendant in the outro. Even “The Man with the Axe,” the only love song on the album, still maintains its focus on herself and growth while loving her partner.
Throughout “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” we can hear Lorde processing how much her values have changed, yet questioning if she made the right decision living a domestic life back in her home country, New Zealand.
Still, much of this album is dedicated to engaging with real life and the environment versus the superficial aspects of social media and public persona. Lorde attributes her trip to Antarctica as a major influence to the album’s unmistakable earthy and solar vibe.
Lorde addresses everything from spiritual connectedness to the earth in “Oceanic Feeling” to the real threat of climate change on humanity in “Fallen Fruit” and “Leader of a New Regime.”
“Solar Power” is undeniably far-reaching in its societal and self analysis. On this record, she is spiritual, embracing the sun for life guidance and advising her listeners to do the same instead of looking to her. After all, the artist reminds us that she is one of us; she’s human, curious, youthful and she can be sad. “Solar Power” tells us that Lorde has moved past insecurity, finding solace in her own identity and detachment from others’ idealizations of who she is.