From Royals to renewable energy, the self-confessed shape-shifter of sound, Lorde, returns with decidedly cool, calm, and charming chapters in Solar Power, proving that as with anything in life, less is definitely more.
And just like that, Lorde has come again. Emerging from a self-assigned sabbatical, one that followed the release and worldwide tour blitz of her last musical effort, Melodrama, she went off the grid. No, really. Promptly shedding her pop star extension, the Kiwi singer and songwriter retreated to her hometown in New Zealand, even going as far as Antarctica to reconnect with herself. “I realized that I’m always going to be someone who needs to retreat from being a pop star to be able to make something and undergo a transformation that makes me want to write something new,” Lorde says, recalling how the idea of her latest release, Solar Power came to be. As with any spark of creativity, it happened out of nowhere, just the idea manifesting in her consciousness—no music, no lyrics, just the guiding light of the words and of nature itself.
Of course, there is a lot to it than just a stringing of haunting melodies, sharp storytelling, and heaps of self-awareness. A catharsis years in the making, roughly two in her pace, she decidedly strips her sound down, filtering through the angst, grit, and reckless abandon that has been signature to her adolescent ruminations. Centered and conscious, Lorde significantly scales things back in Solar Power, reducing this chapter to just the bare essentials. This shift in gears is definitely jarring for someone who holds an almost religious reverence to her music, dutifully caterwauling to the progression of Pure Heroine and Melodrama. However, just like changes that are part and parcel of life, it takes time to settle.
Just like the light that Lorde has taken quite a liking to, Solar Power trickles in slowly and surely, warming up the senses with its cast of yellow and gold. “I really wanted everything to feel like it had the sunshine in it,” reveals the singer. “There’s a couple of like greens and blues. [But] for the most part, it’s a gold record.” Once coddled in the cocoon of comfort, it begins to hit you, this is the soundtrack of spiritual awakening.
A Conversation With Lorde
“It’s lots of thinking about my past and my future…thinking about my family, about loss and sort of moving on from loss. It’s pretty deep,” details Lorde of the journey that is Solar Power. “There’s a lot to it and lots of different emotions for sure, some sad songs, you know, but it all sounds like nature to me that’s the unifying feature.” Parallel to the passive and peaceful resistance of the Flower Power era, Lorde documents her evolution from tenuous to tranquil in a collection of chapters that are cool, calm, and charming all at once.
As if catching up with a long-time friend who you haven’t touched base with for a while, Lorde essays Solar Power like a conversation from start to finish. Brimming with evocative details, delicate emotions, and visceral imagery, the 12-track album is, if we were to sustain the biblical predilections of her name, a testament of self-discovery. While it in no ways stands in for a therapy session, a lot of self-help is outlined within, which isn’t indicative of the big, buoyant, and banging sound of some of her previous singles, it certainly makes up for it in depth.
In a broad stroke, Solar Power is still, solemn, and somber, which if you think of it, is a reflection of the times we are in. However, it isn’t an Eeyore moment of gloom and doom on after another, especially each track is primarily a guitar-driven offshoot inspired by Abbey Road by The Beatles, “a bit of the 60s-70s, California, kind of folk sound,” and a reference to early 2000s radio pop. Here, we get reacquainted with Lorde on her own terms. “I really just wanted it to feel light and free, those were my thoughts,” she says of crafting the spectrum of Solar Power. “Everything I just wanted to be lighter and lighter, you know, feels like you can just float away.”
And Suddenly A Quiet
Detaching herself from the big city sounds of her previous undertakings, one that were a mix of electronic pop and 80s music, Lorde liberates herself in Solar Power, this time with the unequalled joy of being outside in nature during the daytime. Carrying its own definition of variety, she strums through her stories with ease and grace, but not without a sense of joy and quiet woven within.
“I think of myself as a real shape-shifter, you know I try and come back with a really different sound each time, because I think that’s how you excite people, challenge them, and kind of freak them out. I really want to be someone who you know you can’t necessarily predict where I’m going to go,” Lorde explains of her conscious decisions in Solar Power. “I think I have become someone who sees the world a little bit more clearly…I feel like I have seen so much and have a much better understanding of different things, all sorts of things. So yeah, I guess my world is a lot broader now, and I try to be a lot more understanding. Now, I try and be open to, you know, lots of perspectives on things.”
This understanding is manifested clearly as Lorde walks the tightrope of dissonance in Solar Power. With standouts such as the titular track, California, and Stoned At The Nail Salon, and Secrets From A Girl (Who’s Seen It All) that make up its big sound, and meandering on the other, illustrated in the likes of Fallen Fruit, Leader Of A New Regime, and Oceanic Feeling, the entire transmission is an act of restraint that finishes with a flourish that is characteristically Lorde—cheeky, well thought of, and explicit in feelings.
The Gospel Truth
It is fairly easy to draw conclusions on the indications of change. Whether it be as tangible as a hair cut and color, a drastic assumption of a different sound, or an extreme departure from social media, a lot of questions will be raised. Furrow brows all you want, because for people going through this conscious transition, they aren’t the least bit bothered.
“I think it was a bit of a process or a moment, and I just sort of moved through it. It was different, as with anything when you maybe quit something or make a change. At the start, it can feel like that just became something that I got used to and grew to really love you know. I think it’s like a full time job staying connected, as I’m sure you know,” shares Lorde, coming full circle into the becoming of Solar Power. “So, once I kind of removed myself from that a little bit, I ended up feeling really good and made me feel okay about, you know, not necessarily being the person with a finger on the pulse. It’s a small price to pay for, for feeling free and content, and you’re not, you have to be doing something.”
In her return to fine form in Solar Power, Lorde is firm in what lies ahead: she is expelling her energy when and where it matters—through her pockets of quiet and in the focus of her music. “As I get older making pop music, I realize that so much of it. and this is why I love it…it’s about context. So, you know, these projects don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re in conversation with culture and current events, and everything else that’s happening. That can be a good thing as an artist, or it can be a weird thing,” she says. “I feel like as I get older I understand that more. I am able to take it all as it comes in terms of, you know, I can’t decide where people are going to be at, when they get an album of mine, but I just trust that eventually, they’ll be in the right zone for it and you know, it’ll do what it needs to do for them.”
Now isn’t that the gospel truth?
CONTINUE READING: LORDE JUST BLESSED US WITH A LOOK INTO HER SACRED NOTES APP