Lorde ushers in a new era with ‘Solar Power’

Lorde stands in front of the ocean, her arms spread out.
(Selena Lopez • The Student Life)

Twitter user @evermored_ perfectly sums up Lorde’s newest album, “Solar Power”: “hating on solar power=mad cuz lorde got over her depression and y’all didn’t.” 

Certainly a polarizing album, hardcore stans and casual listeners alike absolutely love — or absolutely hate — Lorde’s third studio album. The dissent is understandable; “Solar Power” is an admittedly far cry from the New Zealander’s past albums. Lorde’s Grammy-nominated debut album “Pure Heroine” was 16-year-old Lorde’s synth-heavy, piano-laden outcry about materialism, youth and mainstream culture. Lorde’s sophomore album, Grammy-nominated “Melodrama,” grappled with post-breakup heartbreak and solitude alongside drums and a pulsing dance-beat. 

Meanwhile, “Solar Power” — in all of its stripped mellifluousness — adds an entirely new dimension to Lorde’s musicality. Common complaints center around the lack of vigor, the meandering melodies and slurred, indistinct instrumentals. If you were expecting “Melodrama” 2.0 or an “I’m not 16 anymore” take on “Pure Heroine,” I understand why you’re disappointed. Is “Solar Power” an album to sob and scream to? No. But it doesn’t want, need or try to be. 

“Solar Power” distinctly lacks any hint of hit-chasing. Lorde isn’t scrambling to one-up “Melodrama” and birth another iconic piece of music. Instead, it’s obvious that Lorde is creating what she wants — and perhaps needs — to create, shedding her status quo in favor of an album that reflects the more mature, possessed woman she’s grown into during her time in, and out of, the spotlight. 

Made to be consumed as a whole, “Solar Power” is truly a collection of work, not an album that you pluck songs from (though that definitely didn’t stop me from putting “The Path” and “Oceanic Feeling” on all of my playlists). While some songs — “Stoned at the Nail Salon” and “Leader of a New Regime,” in particular — may seem underwhelming or aimless on their own, “Solar Power” shines most when it’s listened to from start to finish.

Another common complaint is that “Solar Power” is unrelatable — most people were unable to retreat to New Zealand, smoke on the beach and chill for three years like Lorde did, particularly during the pandemic. It’s a stark difference from the “we” mentality that hallmarked Lorde’s early work. Backtracked by powerful melodies, Lorde put words to our collective heartbreak, frustration, sadness and anger. We can all understand disillusion with consumerism and cliches, but disillusion with fame? Not so much.

While relatability is certainly one of Lorde’s strengths, it isn’t her only one; branching out into the absence of relatability grants Lorde the freedom to experiment with a new sound (enter: Grateful Dead guitar), a new zeitgeist (blunts! And beaches!) and a new album that is for Lorde, by Lorde. 

“Solar Power” can’t, and won’t, be consumed on your terms. It’s ’70s psychedelic pop with a pinch of bittersweet reflection, cast under the haze of a day at the beach. It’s slowing down; it’s “cherry black lipstick gathering dust in drawers”; it’s cicadas and baking in the sun. “Solar Power” quietly grows with every listen, powerful not in its synth beats and choruses but in its subdued assuredness. 

Lorde got over her depression, and she’s ready to strum, sing and sway about it — whether you can relate or not. 

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