Lorde ditches sullenness for sandy beachesTwitter / Viniceo

In 2017, Lorde released Melodrama, an evocative time capsule of what it feels like to be twenty years old. It is melancholic, manic, and nothing short of a masterpiece. The album received great critical acclaim, including an Album of the Year nomination at the prestigious Grammy Awards. However, tied with this praise has come a great deal of pressure, and Melodrama has become something for Lorde to live up to. In the four years since, there has been much anticipation for Lorde to follow up Melodrama with something even better.

This pressure upon Lorde is not a new phenomenon. Her gritty yet melodic debut single “Royals”, which catapulted her to popularity back in 2013, was played anywhere and everywhere that year. Questions arose as to if Lorde (just 16 at the time) would be able to sustain her success. From a global number-one hit, it would seem that the only direction is down, and ‘one-hit wonder’ is the scarlet letter of pop culture. Upon entering the mainstream music industry, the waiting game for Lorde to fail began. Eight years on, I don’t think we’ve ever completely stopped expecting for Lorde’s success to expire.

So for a long while, Lorde hasn’t released anything new. Crucially, by going dark on social media, the artist shaded herself from the public eye, and comfort in replaying her old music has been the closest many fans have come to connecting with her. This means that new Lorde music is now unfamiliar terrain. Just like the artwork for Melodrama — an oil painting of Lorde herself — she has become somewhat trapped within her own art. Though Lorde has aged, changed and developed as an artist, there is still a great attachment to the girl in the picture.

The titular lead arrived with Lorde's sunniest visuals to date

When I first heard “Solar Power”, it was a strange feeling. The wait for new music had finally ended, with not only a new Lorde single, but an announcement that the album of the same name was to be released in August. I was excited, but not immediately in love with the song. Lorde seems to fully embrace summertime in “Solar Power”, but as a listener, it took a little bit longer to warm up to.

"Pure Heroine and Melodrama feel weighted with adolescent angst, but “Solar Power” seems free of all concern.”

My reservation wasn’t that the lead single of Solar Power was bad, but it was different. Lorde’s previous work is set at the moments when the sun has gone down, and the only light source comes from the neon haze of a party scene, or a flickering lamp post on a walk home at the dead of night. Yet, “Solar Power” sees Lorde dancing in the natural rays of the sun. Her previous albums Pure Heroine and Melodrama feel weighted with adolescent angst, but “Solar Power” seems free of all concern. It feels weightless.

Lorde’s new era seems centred on letting go. “Solar Power” is stripped back, with heavy reliance on ethereal backing vocals by Clairo and Phoebe Bridgers, and a chorus that leaves the audience waiting until it kicks in at the very end. The candid cover art is playful and carefree. Furthermore, the choice to not release a CD edition of the album (for environmental reasons) is a detachment also. While I personally wouldn’t have a reason to buy a CD in 2021, it is a bold choice to not give consumers the option. Letting go of things you’ve known can feel unusual at first, but if you are brave enough to stop clutching so tightly to what feels safe, the world may just feel a little lighter.

“Stoned at the Nail Salon” has been the second glimpse into the upcoming album. Soft in its solemnity, it feels more reminiscent of Lorde’s older music, particularly the sobering “Liability”. However, ultimately the song signals a gentle exit from Neverland as it looks towards the future and lets go of the past. It sits in moments of uncertainty, questioning if you can heal from heartbreak or find a light side to loss, but it also carries a mature and hopeful confidence that the sun will rise whenever you are ready.


Mountain View

Review: Lorde - Melodrama

I think my reservations towards fully enjoying “Solar Power” at first link to the times we are living in, as many things depressingly now do. The pandemic has left us with a backdrop of loss, pain and fear, and sweet moments are continually tinged with at least some bitterness. Pure joy feels in scarce supply. Yet, Lorde’s new release offers unadulterated happiness. It feels like an Edenic summer, the kind Hollister tries to sell you whenever you walk into their doors. The sand is soft, not like the kind you find awkwardly stuck in your shoes; the salt of the sea soothes rather than stings.

It is a commonly taught lesson in childhood to never look straight at the sun. Yet, Lorde’s new music brazenly stares directly into the light. “Solar Power” may clash against the pessimism of Lorde’s old material, but maybe the glaze of the sun can be felt just as intensely as the bite of the rain.