Album Review: Lorde – Solar Power
By: Grace Koennecke
[Universal Music; 2021]
Key tracks: “Stoned at the Nail Salon”, “California”, “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)”, “Big Star”
Four years after the release of her sophomore album, Melodrama, Lorde graces us with her presence yet again, with a reinvention of her sound that supersedes the melancholy heartbreak anthems of her predecessors. This time, the vocalist has found inspiration both in her home country of New Zealand and in her love of summer; it feels like you’re on a beach somewhere, eyes closed with the sun blazing down on you.
What’s automatically different from this album’s sound is the instrumentation and production. Solar Power differs from Melodrama and Pure Heroine in its stripped-down nature. Her past synths and pulsing bass have been replaced with strategically layered vocals and whimsical acoustic guitars, making each song seem intimate, like Lorde is singing just to you about her Grammy-wins and lost friendships. She intended for the album to sound like this, hoping fans could realize the new state of mind she’s achieved: true happiness and serenity.
The beginning of the album is like an update on how Lorde’s been doing these last four years, alluding to the time she spent away from social media and taking time for herself to recharge, which makes the first couple of tracks feel like the soundtrack for a summer road trip. Once settled into the album, one of the most powerful tracks, “California”, shows the singer self-reflecting on her almost decade-long career, including her lack of interest in fitting in with other artists in her field and the insecurities she felt about her appearance. The melody is one that will make you sway back and forth, and the lyrics create an open discussion between the Lorde and the listener, almost as if she’s begging you to take time to self-reflect as well.
Lorde recently told Vogue that her albums can be distinguished by the drugs she was using at the time, and for this new era, it was cannabis. It’s especially apparent in songs toward the middle of the record like Stoned at the Nail Salon”, a lyrically existential track. “Spend all of the evenings you can with the people who raised you / ‘Cause all the times they will change, it’ll all come around” may just be the most tear-jerking line on the whole album, yet it could also serve as a warning to cherish the time with the people you love most. Both meanings will most likely cause you an existential crisis of your own.
The album ends with two key tracks, “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)” and “Big Star”. The lyrics from these two songs are some of the singer’s strongest on the album. They are witty and heartfelt, creating a magical feeling of warmth and comfort as we come to the end of Lorde’s 12 track journey of self-discovery. These songs remind you of just how poetic Lorde can be. At the end of “Big Star,” you wonder if this whole time you were in a lucid dream or just a musical high.
While this album has extremely well-thought-out production and quite a few stand-alone songs that highlight the ecstasy of Solar Power, a lot of the songs do tend to have the same structure and feel, making it harder to sit down and listen to without getting confused to exactly which song is playing. Overall, the themes of this album are important and evident with each listen, but it does become less Lorde-like after the first couple of songs.