Review: Lorde’s 'Solar Power' shows flashes of brilliance

In her latest album, Lorde's music style changes but her identity doesn't

For over four years, Lorde fans have been longing for a new release from the famously unpredictable artist. And finally, with "Solar Power," Lorde delivers.

Whenever an artist I like drops a new album, I skip around when listening to it, my nonexistent attention span flickering like a light bulb on the verge of going out. However, Lorde’s “Solar Power” commands my focus, but it requires a certain mindset to fully enjoy it. 

Lorde fabricates a world where growing up and changing are simultaneously sad and exciting concepts. If you're familiar with the sensation of leaving home for the first time, you'll find this record relatable. 

Lorde collaborated with producer Jack Antonoff, whom she’d worked with on 2017’s “Melodrama,” her Grammy-nominated sophomore album. While “Solar Power” carries over much of the same flair, it also tones things down, veering away from the chart-oriented hits of Lorde’s past. 

In an interview with the New York Times, Lorde defended the album as solely her creation, saying, "I haven’t made a Jack Antonoff record. I’ve made a Lorde record and he’s helped me make it and very much deferred to me on production and arrangement ." 

She also expressed distaste at the sexist notion that working with Antonoff, who rose to fame with his work on records by other female artists like Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo and Lana Del Rey, among many others, would diminish her value as an artist while elevating Antonoff's. 

She also explores writing certain songs and music videos from the perspective of other exaggerated “characters" that take elements from her life, contrasting her personal lyricism in “Melodrama."

Two promotional singles preceded the release — the eponymous “Solar Power” and “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” which charted at six and 15 respectively, on the Billboard Hot Alternative Songs list, with the album entering the Billboard 200 at no. 5. 

The album's strength is powerful and deceptive. 

“The Path” is a fitting beginning to the album, with lyrics that showcase Lorde’s disillusionment with Hollywood celebrity culture, a theme that recurs throughout much of the record. (“If you’re looking for a saviour, well, that’s not me”).

This sentiment is echoed once more on “California,” a summery guitar song with sorrowful lyrics that give voice to the feeling of being out of place. ("Goodbye to all the bottles, all the models"). 

“Solar Power,” the album’s namesake, is unapologetic in its joy. The song paints a picture of freedom, as Lorde sings about throwing away her phone and starting on a path to happiness and bliss. 

The sun, a metaphor for new beginnings, and the sheer confidence and exuberance in Lorde’s vocals led me, at the moment, to feel as though I could run forth into the light. 

In the video, Lorde's character dances freely on a sunlit beach. The sun serves as a reminder that Lorde — and maybe even her fans — are ready to turn over a new leaf.

“Stoned at the Nail Salon” is a testament to Lorde’s exemplary lyrical talent, an ode to growing up as the odd one out, accompanied by a gentle guitar (“'Cause all the music you loved at 16 you’ll grow out of”). It’s sad but realistic (“I'd ride and I'd ride on the carousel/'Round and 'round forever if I could”).

In contrast, “Fallen Fruit,” while similar in its crooning vocals to the rest of “Solar Power,” features a spoken-word verse that almost harkens back to the intense, aggressive beats of Lorde’s first album, the indie-pop “Pure Heroine.”

Many of the songs take inspiration from and are reminiscent of 2000s-era pop by the likes of Natasha Bedingfield, of "Unwritten" fame. Both “Secrets from a Girl” and “Mood Ring,” some of the more upbeat songs on the record, are especially reflective of this. ("Don't you think the early 2000s seem so far away?”)

In an email to fans, Lorde discusses the way the lyrics in "Mood Ring" parody toxic, often unachievable “wellness movements,” manifesting a character obsessed with them. (“I'm tryna get well from the inside/Plants and celebrity news, all the vitamins I consume”).

The album finishes out with "Oceanic Feeling," a lush tune that neatly wraps up the album's story, an open-ended goodbye.

Ultimately, the album's strength is also its ultimate weakness. As a single unit, consumed from beginning to end, the record shines, but conversely, some songs can’t hold their own. Songs like “Big Star” and “The Man with the Axe,” while providing thematic consistency and maintaining the album’s overall sound, fall flat.

In its mellow instrumentals, echoey vocals and wistful lyricism, "Solar Power" evokes a certain feeling, like saying goodbye to an old friend — unsure of where the journey will take you — but sure that it’ll be somewhere good.


Reach the reporter at srkrish5@asu.edu and follow @shradhakrish on Twitter.

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