Just as Jesus rose again, so has the artist who shares his moniker. Lorde has returned to the spotlight after a four-year hiatus with “Solar Power.” In her highly anticipated third studio album, Lorde packs the sun-soaked sound of a New Zealand summer into her 12-track LP. “Solar Power” explores themes of spirituality, nature, growth and shedding teenage angst for a mature outlook on life and love.
It is no wonder that “Solar Power” skyrocketed to the top of the charts upon its release as fans itched for new content following her Grammy-nominated sophomore album, “Melodrama,” and chart-topping single, “Royals,” that put her on the map. Additionally, she is credited with influencing some of today’s biggest stars including Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo. While Lorde’s first two albums chronicle the highs and lows of teenage years, “Solar Power” is quite the departure. Lorde opts for a more mature meditation on life in her early 20s which her new sound reflects. She swaps synths and heavy beats for the simplicity of an acoustic guitar and harmonious backing vocals akin to the psychedelic and folk rock records of the 60s. Additionally, she sprinkles the album with details such as the sounds of cicadas and the deceivingly complex mixolydian key, often used in stripped-down blues and jam-band music. With a tracklist full of tongue-in-cheek lines and a cheeky album cover, “Solar Power” has made for one of the biggest releases of the year.
While all 12 songs complement each other to make the sound of “Solar Power” unique, there are a few stand-out songs worth mentioning. The titular lead single, “Solar Power,” is the first Lorde song the world heard since the release of “Melodrama” in 2017, making quite an impression. While listeners were expecting deep electro sounds, they were surprisingly greeted by an acoustic guitar progression as Lorde sings about her love for the summer sun and disconnection from the world. With backing vocals by artists Clairo and Phoebe Bridgers, “Solar Power” made for a unique welcome back, hinting at what is to come for Lorde’s new era.
“Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)” touches on themes that Lorde’s music is synonymous with: heartbreak, growing up, loss of a first love and struggles with self-love. However, this is the first time she sings about these themes in terms of coming out on the other side, making it a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-anthem. The song comes off as a letter of advice to Lorde’s younger self as she sings, “Everybody wants the best for you, but you gotta want it for yourself.”
Lastly, the penultimate track on the album, “Mood Ring,” conveys the sly and frustrated lyrics signature to Lorde over a groovy and swirling melody. The track is a satirical take on the pseudo-wellness culture that has become so deeply ingrained in celebrity and wealthy communities.
There is a large array of themes covered in “Solar Power," expertly woven together by the sunny, forward-moving and natural sound of the album.
“I knew that I wanted to kind of incorporate the music of my youth, this kind of early 2000s, sun-soaked thing,” Lorde said in an interview with the New York Times, speaking on the inspiration behind the sound of the album. “‘Solar Power’ is all New Zealand to me. It really sounds like a New Zealand summer.”
With a focus on connecting with the natural world, Lorde announced in her newsletter, in addition to her new album, that she will be going on an intimate tour, performing in theatres and green fields rather than big arenas. “I would much rather have a room with 5,000 people in it who know every word to every song and are passionate about me as an institution — than have 18,000 people who heard two songs on the radio and liked them,” Lorde said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
While the critical response to “Solar Power'' hasn't measured up to its critically acclaimed predecessor, “Melodrama,” that’s exactly the point. Lorde spent 12 tracks rejecting pop-princess status and serving the inner peace she gained in her time away from the spotlight. Nevertheless, “Solar Power” projects the wisdom and power that comes from acceptance from within and love for self and nature. Not to mention, critics took a little time to warm up to “Melodrama,” which is now regarded as the seventh best album of the 2010s, according to Rolling Stone.
Whether you’re a long-time fan of the self-proclaimed “prettier Jesus” or pondering giving her newest release a listen, go into it with an open mind to experience it to its fullest effect. The late rock legend David Bowie considered her to be “the future of music,” and Lorde’s ability to change her sound while maintaining the magic that makes her music special proves it. Pop artists with catchy tunes will come and go; what cements an artist’s talent is the ability to change with the times while maintaining authenticity, and Lorde has proved she can do just that with “Solar Power.”