Lorde’s ‘Solar Power’ is love letter to sun, breakup text to past

Illustration of Lorde
Armaan Mumtaz /Senior Staff

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The word around town is that Lorde has finally found happiness — and she thinks you should, too. Already dominating headlines with her infamous onion ring review account and her unfazed downing of spicy chicken wings, the New Zealand singer has now bestowed her loyal fans with new lighthearted music that urges them to find gratification in the little things in life.

Released Aug. 20, Solar Power comes four years after Melodrama, but it couldn’t be more different in both its musical style and sentimentality. Lorde’s latest sunshine pop album finds her backing away from the bravado she exuded in her first two releases as a teenager. No longer a beacon for angsty teenagers everywhere, Lorde has made it clear that she’s now taking a more easygoing, low-key approach to dealing with what life throws at her next.

“The Path” starts the album as a lilting song that’s anything but sleepy. Armed with a falsetto and harmonized vocals scattered throughout, Lorde doesn’t mince words, immediately showering fans with positive energy and kindly chiding listeners that she’s not the one to look at to help them move on from their pain. “Now if you’re looking for a saviour, well, that’s not me … / ‘Cause we are all broken and sad,” she sings, directing listeners toward the sun as life’s designated guide. Fittingly, she embraces the sun on the following cheeky titular track, which helps expand on her new, untroubled way of living.

“California” is another gem on the album, with Lorde’s gentle and dreamy vocals chronicling her love-hate relationship with the Golden State and her dramatic rise to fame. Now, it becomes clear what Lorde’s narrative is: She’s human. She’s moved on from her era as an enigmatic, heartbroken young woman to one that values growth and self-care. On “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” she wistfully sings that “all the music you loved at sixteen you’ll grow out of.” The sentimental lyric stands as a testament that change is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to always be painful. Whether or not she was really stoned while composing the song, Lorde may be onto something valuable here.

Previously having struggled with the ironic solitude that comes with fame, Lorde advocates for healthy escapism on her latest record. She has always shone as a symbol of relatability, whether she’s fleshing out her deepest sorrows or basking in the joys of life. “Secrets From a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)” and “Oceanic Feeling” triumph as relaxing, reassuring tracks accompanied by bright, stripped-down instrumentals. The singer ponders her past before shifting her focus to her luminous future: “Now the cherry-black lipstick’s gathering dust in a drawer/ I don’t need her anymore,” she sings.

Solar Power is no Pure Heroine or Melodrama — it’s not supposed to be. In fact, it’s supposed to be quite the opposite. It may lack the sprawling nature or heavy emotional pull of her former two records, but the inclination toward simple folk is enough to complement her sharp lyricism, which glitters as the true star of the album. With her impressive songwriting, Lorde beckons listeners to follow her into this bubbly and carefree chapter in her life, one in which it’s acceptable to hesitantly test out the waters in front of you before diving in.

While Solar Power may not be too creative instrumentally, often lacking the punchy beats that dominated on Pure Heroine and the emotional compositions pulsing through Melodrama, her latest record’s message deserves just as much recognition. What Lorde makes clear on Solar Power is that she still gets it — she still understands the agonizing trials and tribulations of growing up, but she reconciles that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. For her, the tunnel leads to a warm beach, gentle waves and a worry-free life. Changing the trajectory of your life is possible, and though Lorde may not be there to hold your hand herself, her music will.

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.