A Review of Lorde’s Solar Power

The artist’s third studio album charts a new and compellingly introspective course.

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Image courtesy of Lorde Store

The alternate cover of Solar Power, Lorde’s third album and a significant departure from her previous work.

Virginia Lucas, Staff Writer

Lorde was sitting in her parents’ living room when she realized that her life had changed forever.  Only 16 years old at the time, she watched with disbelief as her song “Royals” gained listeners by the thousands on Soundcloud.  In 2013 her first album, Pure Heroine, debuted to rave reviews and international success.  The album’s themes of celebrating youth and critiquing popular culture resonated deeply with listeners.  Lorde was quickly propelled into superstardom and the accompanying world of sold out stadiums, exclusive parties, and Grammy awards. 

She returned in 2017 with her sophomore album, Melodrama, which ruminates on growing up and the end of a relationship.  With Melodrama came additional critical acclaim and an international tour.  Following this success, fans waited eagerly for the next interview or song.  Instead, abandoning social media and retreating from the public eye, Lorde was silent for three years.  Finally, in June 2021, she emerged with a single: the title track from her new album, Solar Power.    

Lorde, overwhelmed with the culture of materialism and the expectations involved with existing in the public eye, has cut life down to what she believes are its bare essentials: family, love, and nature.”

The central idea of Solar Power is a quest for renewal and meaning.  Lorde, overwhelmed with the culture of materialism and the expectations involved with existing in the public eye, has cut life down to what she believes are its bare essentials: family, love, and nature.  She reflects on her time spent chasing fame and acceptance as her life became increasingly disconnected from reality.  However, the past few years — with all the heartbreak, joy, and growth they brought — have pushed her out of the busy city and into nature and the arms of her loved ones.  Lorde now desires depth and authenticity instead of perfection.

The 14-track album contains many smaller threads that branch from the main idea.  In the floating and hypnotic track “Fallen Fruit,” she imagines a utopian future while lamenting the failed goals of idealistic past generations.  In “Mood Ring,” she looks satirically at modern-day wellness practices that appropriate ancient traditions.  In “Big Star,” she mourns the loss of her beloved dog Pearl and celebrates the lessons Pearl taught her.  “California” features Lorde, over a backdrop of surreal vocals, rejecting an ex-love and the lifestyle of excess and pretension he represents.  And in “The Man with the Axe,” she delivers an intimate and poetic look at a relationship that is abounding with hope yet tinged with melancholy.

When discussing Solar Power’s influences, Lorde notes the genres of psychedelic pop and folk, while also mentioning groups such as The Mamas and the Papas and The EaglesSolar Power contains the same minimal production as her earlier albums, although it switches the electronic beats of Pure Heroine and the piano of Melodrama for a guitar.  The soft and understated sound landscape directs all attention to the lyrics, which flow like poetry.

The critical reception to Solar Power has been mixed, with some reviewers praising the lyrics but not finding anything revolutionary about the production.  This criticism is, to some degree, valid.  Anyone hoping for inventive production tricks and flashy instrumental solos will be disappointed by the album.  However, by dispensing with the need to create catchy or danceable hits, Lorde has created something raw and powerful in its subtlety.  This album is the sort that requires several listens to appreciate fully, but it can reveal an entire world of introspection, beauty, and possibilities.