This past June, I had a bit of a debate with my brother’s friend about whether or not Lorde would be returning anytime soon. I was ready to die on the hill that Lorde would be retiring at 25, forever lost to rural New Zealand, never to be heard from again. And then three days later, the first single from her new album, Solar Power, dropped.
With this album, Lorde brought an entire new mentality with her music. Gone was the moody lyricism of her 2017 sophomore album, Melodrama—it was replaced with the airy harmonies and nature metaphors of Solar Power. One of my favorite parts of this album is that it’s a summer album with not one single “Song of Summer” on the tracklist. When I think of the smash hits of the summer, I think of songs with peppy beats, clearly defined choruses, and generic lyrics. There is nothing like that in this collection of songs. Even the lead single and title track, “Solar Power”, doesn’t hit a chorus until well over two minutes in, completely breaking the format of what is normally heard in the Top 40. But, it still screams summer. The detached perspective it takes about running away from your life to worship nature feels like every year when classes end, you have less responsibilities, and you just want to lay in the sun all day. It’s not the soundtrack for the big Fourth of July party. It’s the album you put on when you are laying in a hammock watching the breeze rustle the leaves above you.
My favorite moments on this album are when Lorde takes a chance and makes more experimental choices. In “Fallen Fruit”, the sounds of an over-blown recorder lay underneath her vocals. When I first heard it, I couldn’t stop laughing, envisioning Jack Antonoff sitting in a studio recording the part. But the more I listen to the song, it really feels like a creative instrumental choice, especially when it’s paired with the layers of harmonies in the song. There is also a spoken word section in “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)” that brings a pause halfway through the album. Lorde’s voice fades out and singer Robyn’s words come in, bringing a message of growing up and bringing your past with you. The sarcasm of “Mood Ring” shows how far she is willing to go on her journey to connect with nature, and for that matter just how far she is not willing to go. By mocking the “yoga millennial” culture, she sets herself apart from what she decidedly doesn’t want to turn into.
While there are some songs on Solar Power that are skips for me—I just don’t have the patience for “Oceanic Feeling”—the album as a whole is a beautiful and cohesive piece of art that I would highly recommend listening to if you haven’t yet. Its release feels so disconnected from mainstream reality right now that I definitely think it is worth checking out. Not only does the album itself feel anti-establishment, but Lorde’s lack of social media use (unless we count onion ring reviews) and the lengths she went through to sing five of her songs in Māori, a language indigenous to New Zealand, makes the whole album experience one we should all have the privilege of living with.