It feels like we’ve been waiting an eon for Lorde to come out with new music. The only musician who feels like they’ve taken longer is Rihanna, which is saying something. So yes, it feels like an eon. But Lorde is back baby!!! We’ve been waiting for far too long. But I’ll forgive her, this one time, due to the fact that her new album, Solar Power, is an absolute force to be reckoned with.
In the softest way. She’s moved away from powerful, melodramatic synths and into a soft, slightly sarcastic, deceptively angelic, summer version of her normal winter. Gone is the Lorde of witchy dresses and vampire purple lipstick, and welcome to the new, easy-breezy pistachio and perpetual summer. On her final song of the album, ‘Oceanic Feeling’, she mentions her growth briefly as a sign she’s closed the chapter of the past, “Now the cherry black lipstick’s gathering dust in a drawer, I don’t need her anymore, because I’ve got this power.”
If you’re expecting something dark and edgy like her previous albums and EP’s, then I’m sorry you’re going to be disappointed. A lot of fans had prepared themselves for new goth hits and instead of modern-day Mary-Kate and Ashley, they got Passport to Paris Mary-Kate and Ashley. (If you didn’t watch all the Olsen twins’ movies when you were young… did you even have a childhood?) Similar to Billie Eilish, they’ve moved towards a softer, mellower version of their angsty selves.
Point is, Lorde did something unexpected, and didn’t put one classic synth pop hit on her whole album. Her single from the eponymously-named album, ‘Solar Power’, is the most sing-along break-free with-feeling song on the whole album, and she even makes you wait 2 whole minutes and 6 seconds until the you hear the chorus.
It’s so mellow, and so unlike the Lorde we know, that we feel almost a little put out – like she’s moved on and grown up without us. She’s noticeably happier, more care-free, and more in tune with the world around her. Which is what she wanted to express as her ode to nature, as she put it. There’s even the sound of cicadas used as a backing track!
Apart from her call to nature with tracks like ‘Oceanic Feeling’, Lorde expresses a real push away from fame. As we all know, she’s an incredibly private person, even running under the radar in Auckland, where almost everybody knows each other. In ‘The Path’ she describes herself as a “teen millionaire having nightmares from the camera flash” and to not look to her as a saviour or for answers. ‘California’ she waves “goodbye to all the bottles, all the models … don’t want that California love”.
It’s an inside view of fame as something highly overwhelming, and slightly alarming. In ‘Stoned At The Nail Salon’ she wonders if it was the right thing to veer away from that life of fame and fortune and live more low-key. Especially as an artist in the creative sphere, it’s very easy to fall in and out of favour, and so taking a step back from that life, and even taking 3 years between records is quite a brave move, and definitely something that you might second-guess.
Clearly it works for Lorde, because even though Solar Power is so different to her old works, it feels like a revelation, and I’m sure one she made when she had stepped back from her crazy life and just lived as a human being, connecting with the people and the earth around her.
One thing Lorde made quite an impact with on her new album was her exploring the zeitgeist of wellness culture – with her tongue in cheek.
“That really resonated to me when writing this album. 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. Things like eating a macro-biotic vegan diet or burning sage, keeping crystals, reading tarot cards or your horoscope.”
We all know someone who’s super into astrology, and definitely won’t date a Scorpio because they absolute do not mesh, regardless of what you say. And they would know because they’re an Aquarius.
Lorde is absolutely making fun of these people (as a true Taurus, I’m offended), but can appreciate the sphere of quasi-wellness. Especially in the time of Covid when everybody thinks they’re actually qualified because they know what RNA stands for.
In a time where science and medicine largely dictate our lives, Lorde has totally nailed scientific rebellion of if-I’m-hungover-I’ll-just-get-a-vitamin-drip; if-you’re-feeling-off-it’s-probably-due-to-mercury’s-retrograde-why-don’t-you-light-some-palo-santo?
I love that Lorde is taking the absolute piss out of this, especially with such an angelic tone of voice. Which she did perfectly with one of my absolute favourite songs off the album, one of her singles, ‘Mood Ring’, where (in my mind, don’t know if it’s true or not) I imagine her as one of those heath gurus from LA who eat their own placenta and think algae supplements cure cancer. A woman so hyped up on Xanax to achieve prime health that she has lost all feeling, and really, just needs a mood ring to let her know whether she’s pleased about how much vanilla syrup has been put in her Iced Oat Vanilla Cappuccino with No Foam.
Lyrics like, “You can burn sage and I’ll cleanse the crystals, we can get high, but only if the wind blows just right,” and “Plants and celebrity news, all the vitamins I consume, let’s fly somewhere Eastern, they’ll have what I need” are so ridiculous, but so apt to describe people’s eternal search for health and youth, with things that are clearly going to be no help. The song finishes with a refrain of “Take me to some kind of place (Anywhere)” knowing that escapism and celebrity supplements are not going to fix you if you are numb to the world.
Lorde’s album reminds us to remember our connection to the natural world, and not to forget the place that raised us and gave us life. As well as her environmentally-charged songs, ‘Leader Of A New Regime’, and ‘Fallen Fruit’ about the bad state of our planet we’ve been left with, Lorde is trying to tell us that maybe the way forward to health and happiness is not out there, but a little bit closer to home with the grass under our feet, jumping into cold lakes, and looking to the sun for guidance. As she says to close her first song on the album, “Let’s hope the sun will show us the path.”