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Lorde’s third album “Solar Power” has generated a wave of criticism since its release on August 20. With a strikingly different sound from her previous albums, “Solar Power” references the music and culture of the 60s and 70s. This comparison is the most apparent on the track “Mood Ring.”

In a statement, Lorde said, “When making this album I did a deep-dive into 60s, Flower Child culture. I wanted to understand the commune life, dropping out from society and trying to start again…One thing that occurred to me as a major parallel between that time and our time is our wellness culture and our culture of spirituality, pseudo-spirituality, wellness, pseudo-wellness… I was like ‘I think there’s a pop song in here.’ So, this is kind of my extremely satirical look at all of those vibes.”

But is “Mood Ring” satirical? Where does the line exist between self-awareness and delusion? Satire is an artistic form where, “wit, irony, or sarcasm [is] used to expose and discredit vice or folly.” It is “one of the most heavily evoked literary designations and one of the most imprecise,” according to Britannica. There are very few definite rules to satire meaning that it’s a mainly subjective concept. The ambiguity of satire allows space for artists to claim the label without having to necessarily meet specific criteria. However, “it’s unclear throughout Solar Power how much Lorde is in on the joke,” writes music critic James Rettig.

“It doesn’t scan as satire, no matter how much she insists that it is. Satire only works when you’re not completely emulating what you’re satirizing — the language of self-help is already so over-the-top that there’s just not much further you can push it,” said Rettig.

The case for satire in “Mood Ring” lies strongly in the lyrics, specifically the pre-chorus. Lorde sings “Ladies begin your sun salutations, Pluto in Scorpio generation,” referencing how ancient practices such as yoga and astrology have gained popularity in recent years—specifically with white women. She continues, singing, “You can burn sage and I’ll cleanse the crystals, We can get high but only if the wind blows.” Lorde’s calling out the “pseudo-spirituality” that pervades these practices. The insincerity of these practices—specifically those that come from non-Western cultures—often leads to cultural appropriation, which seems like a conversation that Lorde is attempting to engage in with this song with the use of vague Asian and Native American cultural references in both the song and music video.

The composition of “Mood Ring” also plays a role in flushing out the character and satire of the song. The song heavily references and, in some ways, imitates the music stylings of the 60s and 70s. Like much of the album, acoustic guitar softly floats throughout the song. The song opens with harmonies that sound like the opening of “Good Vibrations.” The moment that the music dips into imitation happens when a sitar makes a brief appearance as she sings “Let’s fly somewhere eastern, they’ll have what I need,” which seems to be a reference to the influence of Indian music on pop music in the 1960s with songs like “Norwegian Wood” and “San Francisco.”

Lorde insists that the speaker in “Mood Ring” and in the music video is a character. However, any criticism Lorde has of this pseudo-spiritual movement is coming from an inside perspective. She is a part of the target demographic that’s she also claiming to criticize. Lorde has been vocal in the past about taking apart in Eastern practices such as aura readings and seems to genuinely practice spirituality. The deeper that you dive into Lorde’s isolated and mysterious life, the murkier the differences between the character she plays and herself until all there’s left is a blonde wig. In an email newsletter, Lorde said “Maybe you recognize elements of this character in yourself — I certainly sprinkled some things in that came straight from my life. Literally sprinkled… see chia seeds.”

Lorde is definitely hitting some of the requirements for satire in “Mood Ring.” She’s utilized elements of songwriting to build a character and world that highlights issues within a community that she also participates in. She’s uses wit, irony, and just a little bit of musical sarcasm to point out problems in a facet of modern culture. Are there some clumsy aspects? Yes, and it only gets worse once you start examining the context of the song and the intersection of Lorde’s own life with the world and character building of “Mood Ring.” However, you can’t deny that in its essence, “Mood Ring” is satirical.

Morgan Holder

Alabama '24

Morgan Holder is a sophomore at the University of Alabama. She is a Dance/English major and has minors in news media and the Blount Scholars Program. When she's not dancing or catching up on her assigned reading, she can be found trying to learn Beatles songs on the guitar or watching The Great British Bake Off.
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