solar power

After enduring a global pandemic, many pop-star artists have felt inclined to forego the moody tones of their previous music in favor of happier, lighter tracks. But none have taken quite as drastic of a turn as 24-year-old indie artist Lorde. 

Her newest album “Solar Power” has a name not unwarranted, despite our assumption her inner goth-girl would continue to hold the reins of her music. Instead, Lorde returns after four years of radio silence with an album that has the vibrancy of summer days, sandy beaches and dancing in the sun. 

Which is not unwelcome, even if some of her lyrics sound like they’re straight off a summer postcard from Tahiti. 

With album opener “The Path,” it’s clear that Lorde’s newest album was crafted in gentle shades of pastel. Her hushed, effortless vocals backed by a dreamy, swaying rhythm are stark contrasts to the moody tracks of her 2017 album “Melodrama.” The tranquil, melancholy “California” follows a similar formula, in which Lorde paints pictures of golden desert flowers and “Kids in line for the new Supreme.” 

More laid-back, folk ambiance permeates throughout the album, conjuring up images of sand between your toes and endless stretches of blue skies. Tonally, the album is consistent with Lorde’s want to escape fame in favor of Mother Nature, and the predominantly acoustic instrumentation allows the album to ebb and flow organically.

A lot of this album feels like a reverie meant to escape the harsh reality that is 2021, but still keep in touch with pop culture today. Self-proclaimed as Lorde’s “weed album,” a lot of “Solar Power” sounds like the musings of a happy yet analytical stoner. The lyrics feel consuming and existential, concerned with growing older and how time passes, and rejecting the idea of a singular “Savior.” The slightly anxious track “Stoned in a Nail Salon,” in which Lorde appraises listeners to “spend all evenings with the people who raised you,” feeds off the most potent of your existential insecurities — like how everything you know or love will eventually die. 

Even if you’re not listening while you’re balls deep in the devil’s lettuce, Lorde supplies plenty of nuggets of wisdom through her lyrics. Understated tracks like “Forbidden Fruit” are one of many contemporary odes to the ongoing climate crises, in which Lorde reminisces about times before the planet became a complete hot box. Lorde’s plea for action continues to burn through tracks like “Leader of a New Regime,” where she croons about “Wearing SPF 3000 for the Ultraviolet Rays.” 

If anything, her timing for “Solar Power” is impeccable. Coming out of a pandemic, amidst a climate crisis, her tracks are timely and relevant. But Lorde’s call for change is nothing new; plenty of artists use contemporary issues for media clout. The difference? Lorde is able to keep it light, to discuss the issues without drowning you in somber and slightly annoying lyrics. 

This album isn’t as explosive or attention-grabbing as its predecessors, and certainly not what fans anticipated — but that’s kind of the point. Just like when she released her breakout single “Royals,” Lorde continues to defy expectations. And after this last hellhole of a year, who can blame her for wanting a little sunshine?