On Record: “Solar Power” review

Aubrey Smith, Reporter

Acid green, aquamarine and dancing in the sand may seem out of place coming from the girl who once dominated radios with edgy singles such as “Royals” and “Homemade Dynamite.” But for Ella O’Connor, more commonly known as Lorde, her new era of music is a bright and adventurous change well-worth the attention it’s receiving. 

Fans were stunned June 10 when Lorde dropped her first new single in four years. With a significant difference in sound compared to her previous music, the single “Solar Power” displayed Lorde’s extravagant enjoyment of the outdoors. The record, appropriately named after the first single, is an alluring invitation into Lorde’s tropical paradise that leaves you rushing to leave your house, desperate to soak up the sun.

The glistening track “The Path” provides a serene opening to the record with an alluring flute mixed with mesmerizingly hazy strums of reverbed guitar. Coming in soft on the vocals, Lorde announces to the world that she’s “alone on a windswept island, caught in the complex divorce of the seasons.” For the first time of many on the record, Lorde is looking toward nature and the beauty of the outdoors to show her the path. The track is thoroughly composed with all sorts of layers: thoughtfully-placed backup vocals from fellow musicians Clairo, Phoebe Bridgers and Marlon Williams, soft drums and easy-going guitar chords. 

Following “The Path,” Lorde continues to sing about the healing benefits of nature on “Solar Power.” Through powerful acoustic guitar strums, Lorde invites others to soak up the beauty of the world with cheeky lines like “I’m kind of like a prettier Jesus,” and “I throw my cellular device in the water/Can you reach me? No, you can’t.” As the chorus builds up, the anticipation kicks into high gear, and stacks of backup harmonies and vocals from Clairo and Phoebe Bridgers lift the song into motion. When the chorus finally kicks in, it’s stagnant for the rest of the song, aided by the addition of brass instrumentals toward the end. Regardless, the title track is a high point on the record and the ultimate summer feel-good song. 

In “California,” Lorde sings about her time spent in California and Los Angeles. In an interview with Apple Music, Lorde confessed that she finds the area “really alluring and mystical and kind of dreamy” but that it freaks her out. You can hear that reflected in “California” and in lyrical references where Lorde is parting goodbye to “all the bottles/All the models” and to the “kids in the lines for the new Supreme.” You can also hear it within the slightly odd pitched plucks of guitar that carries on throughout the whole song and the hazy compilation of drums, bass and vocals. 

“Stoned at the Nail Salon” was the second song released in anticipation of the album and is quite a change of pace from the first single “Solar Power.” You can hear the emotion in Lorde’s voice when she sings lines like “Cause all the music you loved at sixteen you’ll grow out of/And all the times they will change, it’ll all come around.” Other than the lyrics and Lorde’s vocals, the song is lackluster, and the dry instrumentals leave the song feeling bare. 

Picking up a little speed, Lorde begins “Fallen Fruit” with a spread of melodious vocals and a soft guitar in the background. The harmonies are hauntingly beautiful and paint an eerie picture in the background. On the bridge, the serene guitar solo suddenly comes to a jolt and is met with a deep bass as Lorde sings, “From the Nissan to the Phantom to the plane/We’ll disappear in the cover of the rain” — a hint of “Melodrama” inspired sound. 

Lorde holds a conversation with her younger self on “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All).” Another song with similar instrumentation to previous tracks, the catchy and sentimental lyrics light this song up. As Lorde advises her younger self that “everybody wants the best for you/But you’ve gotta want it for yourself,” the instrumental remains light and upbeat. The song ends off with dialogue from singer-songwriter Robyn, who speaks lines over one of the most interesting instrumental sections of the song.

Slowing down on “The Man with the Axe” and “Big Star,” Lorde sings heartfelt lyrics over faded instrumentals. The lyrics on each track are striking, Lorde even singing about her love for her dog on “Big Star,” yet the instrumentals cause the songs to slip through the cracks when put in between such significant tracks like “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)” and “Mood Ring.” 

“Dominoes” is one of the more mellow and toned down tracks on the record, yet it’s still kicking and doesn’t fall flat. As sirens echo in the background, muted guitar strums carry the almost tropical feel to the song, as Lorde seems to be observing someone who receives second chance after second chance. With references to Woodstock and Uma Thurman, Lorde playfully lays out lines such as “It’s strange to see you smoking marijuana/You used to do the most cocaine/Of anyone I’d ever met.”

Lorde imagines the fate of the planet on “Leader of a New Regime” and paints the picture of “escaping to our far-flung natural sanctuaries to start again,” as she told Spotify. Incorporating layers of ghostly vocal echoes and familiar electric guitars, Lorde cries out for a new leader while tucked away with nothing but old magazines.

Taking a more satirical approach, Lorde sings about the strange concept of wellness culture on “Mood Ring.” Diving into the track on Spotify, Lorde tries to understand why people turn to things like “eating paleo, burning sage, reading tarot, cleansing crystals” to make themselves feel better. 

“A lot of people will look to other cultures for, kind of, spiritual salvation,” Lorde said in an interview with Genius

Closing out the record with “Oceanic Feeling,” soft synth chords start the track as soft drums slowly emerge from the distance. Lorde sings odes to New Zealand, her parents, her brother, her past and her future over one of the most breathtaking and serene instrumentals of the album. A vision of the theme of maturity on the record, Lorde admits on the track that her black lipstick, which was once a staple for her at the beginning of her career, now catches dust in a drawer. She sings, “I don’t need her anymore/’Cause I got this power.” Lorde closes out “Solar Power” acknowledging her past and future, and the track speaks volumes about her growth and maturity as a person. 

With her newest record, Lorde proves she doesn’t need to return to the angsty days of “Pure Heroine” or the throbbing night-life of “Melodrama.” Artists grow, and their art grows with them. On “Solar Power,” Lorde extends an invitation to disappear into the sun with her and experience a celebration of life, growth and the beauty of it all.