Review: Lorde’s ‘Solar Power’

Lorde, after a hiatus of four years, released her new single ‘Solar Power’, and it’s looking hopeful that her third album is on the horizon. Topping the charts after a long and, arguably agonous, wait- it’s one of the most anticipated releases of 2021. A beachy, guitar-gentle-strumming, light single- it’s markedly different from her first two albums and promises a new era for Lorde.


In conversation with Zane Lowe, Lorde details the composition of ‘Solar Power’, saying that it was ‘totally different to anything I’ve done before’ as her previous albums were made to be as ‘sterile’ as possible. In marked contrast, the use of organic instruments and angelic backing-vocals from Phoebe Bridgers and Clairo, the piece encapsulates summer fun and lightness after the tumultuous teenage years that were detailed in ‘Pure Heroine’ and ‘Melodrama’. Lowe remarked that the song encapsulated a ‘New Zealand summer’ and for a country that is doing remarkably better in their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in comparison to other countries, the freedom and happiness fizzing from the lyrics evidence a breakaway from the wrapped-up-world of social media and anxieties.


In fact, whilst talking to Zane Lowe with Apple Music Lorde remarks that she was not aware of the acclaim received for the single, as, true to the lyrics ‘I throw cellular device in the water/ can you reach me?/ No, you can’t’, as she was detaching from social media for the entire day, recommending others ‘detach’ also. Her first two albums chronicle the angst of teenage years and the crisis of emerging into adulthood- in comparison this single, and what the album promises, seems to celebrate the freedoms and liberations that growing-up can give, as we shake off the worries over what others may think of us and how we may be perceived- growing out of those teenage growing pains.


But fan theories are important, especially after a four-year drought. Despite the breezy and care-free nature of the song, there’s always something lurking beneath it. Lorde told Jo Wiley on BBC Radio Two that the album is a ‘multifaceted record’; ‘As they always are with me, the first single is never all of what it is.’ The music video has been picked apart by fans. Some argue that whilst it appears the single and accompanying video are positive, it’s filled with references and hidden meanings to something deeper. One shot in the video shows Lorde directing the camera away from the litter piling up on the beach, most of the dancers don’t smile and when dancing their movements are erratic (the summer aesthetic matched with almost cult-like forced dancing is slightly reminiscent of the film ‘Midsommar’, as some have noted) whilst Lorde dances with a smile on her face, carefree. It prompts a lot of questions as to what the rest of the record may promise.


Describing the making of the album, Lorde has spoken about the grief experienced by the death of her dog Pearl during recording which delayed the album’s release from summer 2020 to 2021. Combined with the hints decoded in the music video and with this information, expect the album to explore grief, mourning and personal subjects. Described as a celebration of the natural world, it seems that the album, as described by her, to be ‘for the many’ in comparison to her previous records being more diary-like and incredibly personal, her collaboration with Bridgers and Clairo evidencing Lorde opening up her work to be more of a universal experience.


The anticipation for the record and the gap between this and her sophomore album ‘Melodrama’ forays Lorde into a market even more controlled by digital streaming. However, it’s artists like Lorde who can survive a drought with little-to-no media attention. Her regular contact with fans through email enables a strong following and anticipation. In an email to fans timed with the song’s release, she described the album’s character: ‘There’s someone I want you to meet. She’s sexy, playful, feral and free. She’s a modern girl in a headstock bikini, in touch with her past and her future, vibrating at the highest level when summer comes around.’ It’s clear that for Lorde, her grip and influence on the music industry is second-to-none. The wait for the full album will be worth it if the rest of the songs are as stellar as its lead single.

Image: Annette Geneva on Flickr. 

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