On August 20, Lorde dropped her third studio album Solar Power. The album arrived four years after its predecessor, Melodrama, and was highly anticipated in its debut as Lorde’s fans had been anxious for her new music.
However, the album has received very mixed reviews since the release of the first single to the entirety of the album. Some fans have been critical of Lorde’s shift in style and theme, while others have embraced the change and supported her musical evolution.
While my reviews are generally pretty exhaustive, I will get to the point now: it is not her best work. And, as a fan of hers, and someone who was extremely hopeful for a new era and to have a whole new set of songs to listen to at the beginning of the school year, I was rather disappointed in the outcome and felt that the album lacks an overall depth that Lorde’s previous albums manifested so well.
The shift in Solar Power’s style is prominent first and foremost in the very artwork that serves as the cover image. The progression of the artwork over Lorde’s three albums is very representative of the styles and her status as a musician. Her first album, Pure Heroine, was very minimal and to the point, with simple white text on a black background. The album itself consisted of very raw, authentic songs of teenage angst, rebellion, loneliness, exhaustion, nostalgia, and heartbreak.
Melodrama’s cover was a lovely watercolor/paint style piece of Lorde laying down. The artistic nature of the album cover mirrors the artistic styles of the songs and lyrics in the album. The blues and purples enhance the vibe of each song on the album, the cool tones enriching the dramatic and emotional pieces.
Solar Power’s cover is much lighter, with Lorde’s body posed on the front, her jumping over the camera on the beach, wearing little clothing. The fun and even risque nature of this cover art is symbolic of the music present within it–it’s experimental, light, and new.
The first single dropped was the title track, and the overall response was not all that positive. I was (and still am) not a fan of the title track whatsoever. The casual nature of the song can be perceived as fun and enjoyable for some, but I personally find it rather cringey and weak. The strongest part of the song is the ending, where she is simply repeating the song title. And even then, this part of the song has been compared to songs included in razor commercials. And honestly, I see it.
The second single released, “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” is a much stronger choice. I actually like this song quite a bit, and it may even be her strongest on the album as a whole. Lyrically and vocally, it is the only song that really reminds me of the Lorde we all have known and loved — a deeper tone, a reflective meaning, and an existential view on life.
The final single released before the album was “Mood Ring,” and while there are many awkward vocals throughout, I think this song is overall very fun and catchy. It is not my favorite song, but it’s one that definitely could grow on me.
Upon the release of the album, my expectations were rather low, but I was hoping there would be more songs similar to “Stoned” that would give the same depth and nuance that Lorde has impressed me with for years.
However, there were not many songs that met those hopes. “Fallen Fruit” offers some psychedelic imagery that I find peaceful and interesting in comparison to others. The summery touch throughout is also very on-brand.
“Secrets From a Girl (Who’s Seen it All),” while I despise this title, is a pretty good song. The opening is fantastic and is reminiscent of Lorde’s previous party-esque pieces. The talking portion, however, (which is also present in “Fallen Fruit”) is cheesy. It always is.
As a fan, I think my favorite part of the entire album is a lyric in “Big Star”: every perfect summer’s got to say goodnight / now I’ll watch you leave through the amber light” and this is because it is a direct call back to a song, “Liability”, from Melodrama: “every perfect summer’s eating me alive until you’re gone / better on my own.”
But truthfully, the rest of the songs on this album are rather forgettable. I think the general theme of these songs is that they work better as background music as opposed to something I actually want to dedicate time to. Lorde has shifted her vocals to something much higher which takes away from the raw depth that she is known for delivering.
My greatest disappointment resides in her lyrics, though. I have always viewed Lorde as such a poetic artist, someone who somehow managed to turn beautiful, chaotic imagery usually saved for poetry slams into actual songs that were wonderful to dance or cry to.
But with Solar Power, her lyrics fall immensely flat. They are often corny, lacking, and just honestly odd.
And, I want to clarify, there is nothing wrong with having a different album that isn’t as deep. Many supportive fans have gone off about how people are just mad that the album is all around “happier” than the two before it. That’s true. It is a happier album. But, that’s not why it’s worse. It’s worse because the songs are simply not as strong, the lyrics are not as intricate, the vocals not as intentional, and the concept lackluster.
Lorde’s ability to harness these summer themes of loneliness, longing, excitement, parties, love, and possibility, will forever be beautiful to me. I love that she has been able to grow as a person and as an artist and that she has paid homage to her past self and songs.
But, that does not mean the album is good. I hope that more songs grow on me, but I do not think that this album will ever rank as my favorite. I’ll be hoping for better content in the future from her. Until then, I’ll be listening to Pure Heroine and Melodrama.