Music

Lorde – ‘Solar Power’: Album Review

Solar Power reveals a more mature position from the New Zealand sensation, fusing adult-contemporary tones with psychedelic seasoning.

It’s been 8 long years since Lorde released her debut album Pure Heroine, influencing a legion of alt-pop-folk fans all over the world.

In fact, it’s been 9 years since the song that started it all – the smash, anti-materialist anthem Royals – went to No. 1 in pretty much every country on the planet. This impressive global debut paved the way for countless awards, collaborations and film features that continue to this day.

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Image: ‘Solar Power’ music video. YouTube.

But while Lorde had firmly established herself as a pop icon from the beginning – solidifying this further with her 2017 bop, Green Light – her third studio effort, Solar Power shows a more mature position, fusing adult-contemporary tones with psychedelic seasoning.

As the singer explains, the record is a tribute to her happiest memories of summer growing up in her homeland of New Zealand.

Naturally, the album is loaded with peaceful auras, presented through lush string arrangements, beachy minimalist percussion and some of the happiest harmonising we’ve heard in pop music in the last few decades!

This marks a big change from her last effort – 2017’s Melodrama – where an unapologetically literal title warned us of the music within.

No. Solar Power is a happy record. Peaceful. Tranquillising. Medicating.

You with me?

Originally dubbed her “acid” album, before the singer later decided it was better to call it her “weed album, it’s all one big musical trip.

“I thought it was going to make this big acid record, but I don’t think it was an acid album,” she told NME shortly before the album’s release.

“I had one bad experience in this album and was like meh, it’s a weed album. It’s one of my great weed albums.”

And the singer makes no effort to hide it. I mean, it’s kind of the point. After all, drug references aren’t uncommon for the New Zealand sensation. Her debut was called Pure Heroine, remember?

I don’t think she was ENTIRELY referring to herself as a saviour.

“The references are so deep (on Solar Power), conjuring that slight sort of cult leader, ‘take the drug I’m about to put on your tongue’ sort of world… I say, ‘let the bliss begin’, like, I’m a maniac.”

Maniac or otherwise, this might be Lorde’s most contained release to date.

Clocking in at a bitter-sweet 43 minutes and 13 seconds, it’s a remarkably concise and consistent record – which is pretty darn impressive.

I mean, not many artists today can find that perfect blend of consistency and variety, leading to an album where every track is essential in forming a whole. But here, Lorde does this perfectly.

From the opening arpeggios on track no.1, The Path, the tone is set.

The spiralling, phasing guitars echo the cruisy vibes from Lana Del Ray’s 2019 single Doin Time, informing us that Solar Power will be an exploration in smooth, acoustic serenity.

Every song features lush strings, both clean electric and soothing acoustic, with the most gentle vocals Lorde has ever hummed at the mic, dashed in reverb for added heavenliness.

And don’t even get us started on those harmonies.

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Image: New Satesman

While Lorde’s backup vocals have always been profound in her music, Solar Power takes them one step further by embracing guest vocalists, adding a fresh new dynamic to the mix. Pop sensations Clairo and Phoebe Bridgers are just a couple of the many wonderful guest singers that make up this uniquely human release.

Every song is drenched in healthy atmosphere, with angelic, progressive and entrancing chord progressions, straying far from pop conventions – bringing us closer to the psychedelic sounds of late-era Beatles.

Like we said, it’s a trip. For an artist who had pretty much dived headfirst into the electro-pop circuit, this is a surprising, but entirely welcomed change.

Lorde even shared in an interview with The New York Times that 60’s coke commercials became an inspiration on the album.

But coke bottles, K-holes and acid trips aside, at the core, Solar Power is really a homage to Lorde’s youth and innocence.

In the interview with NYT, Lorde cited Len’s Steal My Sunshine as a starting inspiration for the album’s energy. For anyone who grew up in the 90s, that song pretty much epitomises nostalgia.

One can’t help but picture their early youth, sitting in the back of their parent’s car, drenched in seawater and swathed up in a beach towel, the hot sun beaming down and warming them like the sweet melodies travelling through the speakers.

It’s an interesting angle for Lorde to point out, as it’s not immediately obvious.

Listening to the album over and over, we’re still very much in a psychedelic land. But one can’t deny the feeling of innocence and love that immerses you in those soul-touching 43 minutes.

“I’ve grown a lot, done a lot, I’m happy, I work out a tonne, my body’s hot, I’m feeling good, life is good, you know, and I’m bringing you in on where I’m at right now and I hope people get that.”

In fact, she’s in such a good place that she doesn’t even care about album sales, as she plots a downsized tour and an eco-friendly version of the album that won’t count towards her sales.

“I have zero anxiety about it,” she told the Wall Street Journal.

“I had this conversation with my manager. I said, ‘I have more money than I could ever spend in my life. I own a home. I have some lovely rugs and great furniture and can buy whatever I want at the grocery store. Like, we’re good on money.”

Let’s not forget, too, that between Solar Power and Melodrama, that not only did Lorde tour the world – she travelled to its very outskirts in Antarctica, which was so inspiring for her that she released a book on it the following year!

It seems like Lorde has seen everything now, and she’s ready to celebrate.

“Forget all the tears you’ve cried. It’s over. It’s a new state of mind,” she sings on the album’s namesake lead single.

“Are you coming, my baby?”

Yes, lawd! We are!