The Lorde has come to bear the gift of music
Lorde released her third studio album, Solar Power, on August 20, 2021. | CREDIT: PINTEREST
If you plugged in your headphones on August 20th with the hope of encountering a spiritual guide to tell you what to feel, you had better go look to the sun, because Lorde is not the one to deliver that message.
Lorde stepped back into the scene, beckoning bright rhythms that allowed listeners to feel like they were sitting in the sand beside her, skin golden and heads bobbing to the beat. For an album released during the peak of August, there was not much more one could hope for.
However, summer doesn’t equate to radiant pop sounds for all. Instead of a gleaming new collection of music to project their own emotional baggage onto, fans were – for lack of a better word – blindsided by the announcement of an album built around a light source, rather than a gloomy path into collective melancholia.
Lorde’s sophomore album Melodrama in 2017, focused on an entirely different feeling: a grown-up teenage angst sequel diving head-first into the many facets of young-adulthood. Songs like “Green Light,” felt like a step into the disco-lit party of teenage dreams while “Liability,” provided a more somber perspective, filling headphones with what felt like the background music to a breakup scene in a coming of age film. That is to say, we were all patiently waiting for Lorde to provide her devoted fanbase with an album more similar than not.
Lorde was set to deliver the highly anticipated follow-up to the widely adored “Melodrama” sometime in 2020, but the release was prolonged indefinitely after the passing of her beloved dog, an instrumental part in her album-making process.
Lorde’s announcement was met with tender understanding. Though as the delay pressed on, fans gained plenty of time to let their minds speculate over the theme of her third record; many built up an unfounded expectation that the new album would speak as a sequel to Melodrama. Spoiler alert: It didn’t.
Angsty fans wondered how they would relate to a supposed symphony of sunshine. Some theorized the album was titled Solar Power to create a guise of chirpy positivity, though would actually be a commentary on the effects of global warming, as they expected she had reached a form of enlightenment on her recent Antarctic journey.
Though album release day soon came, and to many listeners' surprise, there was no beguiling turn of phrases to condemn the dismal environmental state of the world. Although her reemergence from the land of melting polar ice caps created some impact on her songwriting, as seen in songs like “Leader of a New Regime,” where she jokes of “wearing SPF 3000,” – I mean...we're getting there – the topic of climate change was not the focus point of Solar Power. Rather, Lorde took this album as an opportunity to make it known that there should indeed be a leader of a new regime, but people should not be looking to her to take on that position.
Lorde aims to make it known that she offers the world the gift of music – not of a savior or a compass to look at when feeling emotionally confused. This gift holds an exploration of the meaning of fame, the power brought by recognition, and an apparent personal deep dive into Lorde’s own experiences with it all. The songs “The Path,” “California,” and “Mood Ring,” critique both celebrity and wellness culture, with the latter's music video zoning in on the cultish practices pictured through somber colors, synchronized body movement, and self-help books.
In “The Path” Lorde alludes to her own struggles as a “teen millionaire having nightmares from the camera flash.” A few lines down she assures us onlookers that if “you need someone to take your pain for you – well, that’s not me.”
In “California” she bids farewell to “all the bottles, all the models, bye to the kids in the lines for the new Supreme,” referencing some stereotypical Hollywood staples; though, she makes it known that regardless of the blossoming mental image of the golden state whenever she smells tequila, she doesn’t want “that California love.”
Finally, in “Mood Ring,” she takes on the persona of a bleach blonde, Cali-native seeking out existential awareness through sun salutations, crystals, and sage. By playing this character, she condemns the attempts typically made by the upper class to garner a deeper attachment to the world when they are used to being tethered only by materialistic things; nevertheless, it tends to go over these wellness-guru-types' heads that they are still buying into capitalistic culture by buying the newest items of supposed healing.
The album may not be bursting at the seams with emotional discourse over lost love and dissipating feelings like its predecessor, “Melodrama,” but it also does not carry exclusively positive emotions in its storytelling. She invites us into a “new state of mind” - one in which we’ve forgotten all the tears that we’ve cried – in the title track “Solar Power.” However, she also utilizes the velvet narration by Swedish singer Robyn, to tell us to let in our negative feelings, as she purrs, “welcome to sadness, the temperature is unbearable until you face it,” in “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All).”
After the 2020 pandemic, artists took time for introspection that may’ve been hard to come by during their otherwise consistent stay in the limelight. As a result, the art tends to contain more unrelatable content, leading some fans to coin the new era a flop.
Still, the groovy sound and delicious divulgences such as stealing a fork from the Met Gala are more than enough for me to name Lorde’s Solar Power a triumph. And even though Lorde is somewhat happier than in her Melodrama era, does not mean you have to be... just go grab a mood ring.
Jillian Rodriguez is an Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine. You can find her sat in her bedroom under a mirrorball listening to Taylor Swift, sipping Dunkin’ iced coffee, and contemplating which seemingly mundane moments from life to add to her many drafts; maybe you’ll show up in her writing one day. You can reach her at @jillygabrielle on Instagram for more info.