Solar Power veers into chill territory as Lorde begins the lead us towards her long-awaited third album

Lorde - Solar Power

I don’t know how long it has been, but it has been too long. Melodrama was a triumph, effortlessly blending the obsession and stagnation of summers of party and obsession with deep introspection and banging pop vibes. It was an album that also translated excellently to the live show, with creative staging giving a visual feast as well as aural. That Glastonbury 2017 set was an experience, let me tell you… With massive international tours, she was on top of the world. Then, she disappeared. A long social media silence ended at the end of 2020 with the sole announcement of a photo book documenting a journey to Antarctica, followed by more silence.

Then came Primavera. Then the announcement of ‘Solar Power’. Now, 5 years after Melodrama, we have new music from Lorde. It is an exciting moment. It is not at all what I expected.

Were I writing for a major publication, I might even take the chance to go fishing for clicks by calling this Lorde’s ‘Indie era’. By which I would mean she has taken a strong turn into acoustic guitar and relaxed vibes, much like Taylor Swift’s folklore did. Maybe Jack Antonoff spent the start of lockdown getting massively stoned and everyone he’s worked with since has had to make music that suits his mood when wants to get baked?

Irrespective of any speculative reasons why, this is a massive shift from Lorde’s past releases. If the filthy, pounding, danceable energy of tracks like ‘Supercut’ are coal, ‘Solar Power’ is, well, solar power. Laid back doesn’t come close. The acoustic takes centre stage in the instrumentation, with a tempo suited for a lazy afternoon at Glastonbury’s stone circle rather than hyping up crowds at The Other Stage. The most electronic we get is a swirly electric guitar that is positively drenched in reverb and phase. I’d call it a soundscape if it weren’t so sparse.

The lyrics have also taken a pretty substantial shift. Where Melodrama dealt with deep insecurities and tumultuous relationships, ‘Solar Power’ continues it’s lean into vibez only. There’s a brief opening reference to possible seasonal affective disorder during the winter, but we quickly transition into ruminations on beach parties in the summer. Lorde portrays herself as the leader of her crystalline cult, leading them into summer and nature “like a prettier Jesus”. The repetitive singing of the title lyric in long choruses resembles Primal Scream’s ‘Come Together’ in building a sense of laidback community and collection, rounding out with a seeming throwback to the history of music akin to how I threw back to Glastonbury…

Really, I don’t think I can express the level of chill through words alone. Good thing there’s a music video too, eh?

As much as I’m enjoying ‘Solar Power’, I do hope that the whole upcoming album, whenever it releases, isn’t just ‘vibes’. Lorde’s ability to beautifully convey a broad spectrum of heavy, complex emotions with lyrics that are almost poetry is part of what makes her such a stand-out song writer, and creating just vibez feels like it severely underutilised that skill. In a vacuum, however, ‘Solar Power’ doesn’t have to hold up to my lofty expectations and is bound to dominate chill summer playlists. Good timing on the release then…

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