Music Critic Zainab Rao weighs in on Lorde’s divisive new album, Solar Power, arguing that the New Zealander’s music can only improve with age

Written by Zainab Rao
Images by Constanza.CH

After nearly five years since her sophomore album, Melodrama, and four years since her step away from social media, Lorde’s long-awaited album Solar Power is finally here. Whilst critics have been polarised by their views on the album – with many disconcerted by Lorde’s leap from electro-pop to indie folk – listening to Solar Power is certainly a breath of fresh air to say the least.

Influenced by her introspective lifestyle, Lorde’s new album has a much more stripped down and psychedelic feeling than that of her previous, more moodier works. Her rejection of the need to sell CDs and her deliberate exclusion of bridges within her songs is clearly indicative that Lorde no longer wishes to create music intended for commercial listening. In a way, Solar Power is Lorde’s goodbye to the mainstream and an embrace of the organic. In numerous interviews, Lorde herself has told fans that they may not initially understand her vision, but upon allowing themselves numerous listens and time to ruminate on the work as a whole, it will slowly start to make sense. This is Lorde’s album and she is simply inviting the audience to listen to her already undergone journey, rather than experience it with her.

This encapsulates the rest of the release, whereby Lorde repeatedly disregards her past pop roots

The album opens up with the track ‘The Path’, which, similarly to the titular track ‘Solar Power’, begins mellow and whimsical before building to reach a climactic release of vocals mid-song. This encapsulates the rest of the release, whereby Lorde repeatedly disregards her past pop roots. She removes herself from the pressure-inducing pedestal of fame, seen with the lyrics: ‘Now, if you’re looking for a saviour/Well, that’s not me/You need someone to take your pain for you?/Well, that not me.’

This is a theme consistently explored throughout the album, particularly in ‘California’ where she admits that she does not ‘miss the poison arrows/aimed directly at my head’ and that it is ‘hard to grow up’ whilst being relentlessly perceived by Hollywood’s limelight. Though this anxiety towards being seen by the masses has been discussed in ‘Bravado’, from her debut album Pure Heroine, Solar Power delves further into the impact it has had on an otherwise introverted artist. To those who believe that Solar Power is lyrically lacking the intimacy that Melodrama famously held, I would argue you should listen closely to ‘The Path’ and ‘California’ in particular and you will find what you were looking for.

Interestingly, the third single ‘Mood Ring’ sees Lorde adopt a satirised character that appropriates holistic indigenous practises, something often seen in white wellness influencer culture. The accompanying music video oozes the same energy as the movie Midsommar, a purposefully convenient artistic choice. The song itself carries a more upbeat folk-pop sound, without betraying the album’s overall voice. For those who wish to listen to something more palatable to popular music, Mood Ring is your song.

This album’s strong points are clearly the delicate instrumentals and beautiful harmonies

In terms of the albums highlights, it is undoubtedly the sound production that stood out the most – something to be expected when collaborating with music industry genius Jack Antonoff, who worked on Lorde’s Melodrama, Taylor Swift’s acclaimed Folklore and Evermore and Lana Del Ray’s Norman F*cking Rockwell, to name just a few. This album’s strong points are clearly the delicate instrumentals and beautiful harmonies, featuring vocals from indie artists Phoebe Bridgers and Marlon Williams, which ultimately encapsulate the 70s inspired good vibes that Lorde promised. Perhaps the whimsical tunes and sunshiney nature of the album would have proved more impactful had Solar Power been released during the build-up to summer, as it is admittedly hard to wholeheartedly embrace the warm vibes of the music whilst British weather showers us with rain.

Overall, the album is lyrically rich but at times sonically sparse, with some songs risking being forgettable. That being said, upon multiple re-listenings, the songs are already beginning to grow on me, just as Lorde said they would. This is a sonically cohesive album that will certainly age like a fine wine over time. Simply listen to Solar Power the way that Lorde intended and you will not be disappointed.

Rating: 7.5/10

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