The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
In 2013, 16-year-old singer-songwriter Lorde shocked people around the world with the emotional maturity of her debut album, Pure Heroine. Touching on Lorde’s concerns about growing older and feeling self-conscious around her peers, this is an album that transcends expectations that the music industry places on teenage girls. Lorde was unafraid to be critical of the world around her and to express her genuine feelings towards universal teenage issues.
It is no secret that the world has watched Lorde grow throughout the past decade. In 2017, she released her sophomore anthology Melodrama, which was met with widespread acclaim and became her first number one album in the United States and Canada. The release of Melodrama and its preceding tour had Lorde fans anxiously awaiting her next effort for the next four years. Finally, in August, she released her third studio album, Solar Power.
The ambiance of Solar Power is vastly different from that of Melodrama. Melodrama gives listeners exactly what its title advertises; it is a maximalist progression from the minimalist Pure Heroine in that it deals with similar emotions in a bigger and more complex manner. It is truly melodramatic in the most painfully relatable way possible.
Lorde’s age of 24 at the time of Solar Power’s release made it ripe for emotional growth, resulting in an immense departure from her first two albums. It is the kind of album that you would associate with a drive to the beach on your first listen, and with a reflective drive home from the beach on your second. To put it bluntly, Lorde is happier here. She is acutely aware of her growth and repeatedly states it throughout.
How exactly has Lorde’s emotional journey progressed at this point from Melodrama? Is Lorde blindly optimistic and happy in Solar Power? The short answer to the latter is “no,” but both questions can be answered more in-depth through discussion and comparison of both albums.
Melodrama is both my favorite album from Lorde and my favorite album released in the 2010s, a decade that saw artists cycle through trends and immediately throw them away to increase output. Lorde has been blunt in saying this never has been her intention. She released Melodrama four years after Pure Heroine, having matured and perfected her previous sound. It is an album for the heartbroken, dedicated to those who often worry that they feel too deeply and take up too much space. For Lorde, this manifests itself in reflecting on the part that she played in party culture and how, at the end of the day, no amount of distraction will stop her from constantly doubting herself.
Melodrama explores every emotion and every state of being. Lorde worries about being too much of a burden for people and burning too brightly in “Liability,” fades into the party atmosphere in “Homemade Dynamite” and moves on from heartbreak and learns to love herself in “Writer in the Dark.” She even disclosed that the album is a concept album structured around a house party, with each song representing a common emotion that she may feel throughout the night. This is why the album resonates deeply with many introverts; being around crowds of people for extended periods of time can bring out a wide range of emotions and make you hyper-aware of how much space you take up in any given room.
This is where Lorde’s progression to Solar Power comes in. It’s easy to write off the emotional range of this album and disregard its complexity, given its upbeat tone. I’ll admit that on my first few listens, I felt that there was little variety in the sound. It’s an album that takes time, an argument for why it is just as complex as its predecessors. Lorde is wearing her positivity on her sleeve, yet she manages to satirize the toxic positivity behind wellness culture. She hasn’t lost the acute sense of self-awareness that garnered her fanbase to begin with.
An example of satire on Solar Power is the Natasha Bedingfield-esque “Mood Ring,” which touches on her generation’s materialistic obsession with wellness and spirituality that doesn’t acknowledge its origins. This isn’t an overly simplistic album in which Lorde is blindly happy; look no further than “The Man with the Axe,” where she sings “I should’ve known when your favorite record was the same as my father’s, you’d take me down.”
Solar Power is subtler than Melodrama, which dynamically shapeshifts between a variety of sounds and emotions. However, it’s this subtlety that marks where Lorde is in her emotional journey; she’s happy, but listeners are required to dig a little more deeply to see that there is much more emotional nuance to this happiness than we can accept at face value. Lorde’s genius lies in her ability to captivate an audience through a pattern of concept albums that show where she is at a certain point in her life, humanizing her and solidifying her as one of the greatest artists of this generation.