When covering a new franchise or artist, I like to go in prepared by either watching/listening everything leading up to this new project. In this case, I decided to go in as blindly as possible. This is my very first Lorde album and the only songs I had heard beforehand were ‘Royals‘ and ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’. I only just now got into ‘Green Light‘. The point is, considering how much I loved and adored the lead single from ‘Solar Power‘, it made me curious to see how a non-Lorde fan would react to an album that is seemingly very divisive within the Lorde fandom. Weirdly enough, I came out with plenty of the same critiques only they’re coming from a different place.
From what I gathered, ‘Pure Heroine’ and ‘Melodrama‘ are both production-heavy pop albums. If the singles I heard are anything like the albums they’re from, then it goes without saying how different this new era is for Lorde. There was a ton of hype surrounding her return to music and when she dropped ‘Solar Power’ (the single), it felt like an event. I decided to check it out and I honestly didn’t care for it. However, I started noticing myself hum the chorus whenever I felt happy. It evoked such a genuine sense of joy and happiness that I decided to relisten to it and I guess something clicked. If I told you I heard this song at least once every day this summer, I would not be exaggerating. I am probably the biggest ‘Solar Power’ (the single again) stan there is. Lorde’s energy is such an infectious blast. We needed something like this and it’s a genuine shame that there wasn’t the same love for it as there was for other songs this summer. The follow-up ‘Stoned at the Nail Salon’ only clicked when I heard it within the album and it’s now a favourite. It’s honestly crazy how much a relisten can help. That being said, the album doesn’t necessarily follow the same pattern.
The biggest problem ‘Solar Power’ (the album this time) faces, is that it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. With a title like that, you would think it would focus on nature, climate change or even Lorde’s love for the environment around her but the truth is that it feels like random diary entries with a gleam of a potentially even greater album. The biggest praise that I can give the album, however, is that when it connects, it does so in a truly magical way. Songs like ‘Solar Power’ and ‘Mood Ring’ have connected with me unlike a lot of songs have this year. It’s a damn shame that I can’t say that about the rest of the album. It’s very short and very quaint but I feel like there’s something missing. Overall, the album never reaches the epic highs of the singles. Whether it’s a bigger focus on the theme or a bigger push on the production, you could tell that the album needed something else. I knew something was off when the opening track ‘The Path’ didn’t lead into ‘Solar Power’ but instead faded out. It was so easy to envision an epic opening that sounded like the singles and would’ve still kept it cohesive and we just never got it. The album finale, titled ‘Oceanic Feeling’ is almost seven minutes long and I cannot remember what it sounds like. It has so much going for it, the great title, Lorde herself and it just never materialized into something memorable. Outside of ‘Mood Ring’, I can only remember what the first six songs sound like. It’s very bizarre that this is the same album with THE ‘Mood Ring’ and yet I can’t remember what most of the songs sound like. It’s not even reminiscent of Ariana Grande’s ‘sweetener‘ album because even the bad songs there had something memorable to them. To put into simple terms, ‘Solar Power’ feels like one of those Lo-fi videos you would put on to relax; enjoyable while listening but completely forgettable upon recollection.
Lyrically, ‘Solar Power’ details very intimate experiences with what is near and dear to Lorde’s heart and soul. However, as a cohesive body of work, the only cohesive element about this record is the production. Ironically enough, nature isn’t really a crucial part of the album. After the lead single, Lorde never really discusses the wonders of nature ever again. The closest thing we get is some of New Zealand’s nature in the back of ‘Oceanic Feeling’. The theme of climate change is definitely present but its overall place within the album is very odd. Tracks like ‘Fallen Fruit’ and ‘Leader of a New Regime’ carry an intense amount of climate anxiety with them yet they don’t necessarily sound alarming. If you didn’t read the lyrics, you wouldn’t assume what Lorde is even singing about because the instrumentals don’t match the lyrical content at all. As a person with intense climate anxiety, I cannot listen to those two tracks without getting my heart rate up and I just know that they won’t connect with others. It is such a shame because ‘Fallen Fruit’ is definitely a standout on the album but unless it’s a single I honestly don’t see how it can carry the sense of urgency and faithlessness to bigger ears. Obviously, this album shouldn’t and definitely will not be responsible for restoring climate balance. It’s a ridiculous idea to even think of putting our fate into the hands of a celebrity let alone a millionaire with the money to do something but a brain that can’t. It’s just that considering the album is titled ‘Solar Power’, the theme of climate change felt more like an afterthought. The placement for ‘Leader of a New Regime’ doesn’t really turn the album’s gears into climate change. It’s just there. The same goes for ‘Fallen Fruit’, the songs are just there. It’s an iffy subject to discuss how much celebrities can do about our political situation because there will always be a sense of hypocrisy. By no means should this album have been a preachy album. Lorde herself opens the album by saying that she’s just like us, she is no saviour. It would be unwise for the album to be that type of preachy record. That being said, the album doesn’t incorporate the little times that it does talk about climate change the best that it could which is ultimately disappointing.
Overall, the album has grown on me significantly since the initial listen. This is definitely an album that demands repeat listens but even then, it can’t change the fundamental flaws within the album. The simplistic production is the sole cohesive element present and while Lorde’s lyrics are truly beautiful, they’re not enough to hold multiple songs on their feet because of the lacking production. It’s definitely not a bad record by any means, it’s definitely something that I think will be dissected and analyzed like her previous work. Is it the album I expected to hear? Not necessarily but if I have to give this album something, it’s that it made me a Lorde fan out of me. Her performance was consistently entrancing and her presence literally breathed life into this project. Honestly, all flaws aside, this is the only album ever to exist to feature ‘Mood Ring’ and for that reason alone, it’s a win.
RANKING OF SONGS:
1. Mood Ring
2. Stoned at the Nail Salon
3. Solar Power
4. Fallen Fruit
5. The Man with the Axe
6. Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen It All)
8. The Path
9. Oceanic Feeling
10. Big Star
11. Leader of a New Regime
Lorde’s ‘Solar Power’ is now available to stream and to purchase only on Vinyl or digitally.