- 20 Aug 21
Hot Press cover star strips back the pop frills on introspective third album.
Four years after the release of her Grammy-nominated second album, Melodrama, Lorde has risen – and this time, she’s brought beaches, nail salons, Uma Thurman’s mother, and sun salutations.
The New Zealand star is reentering a modern pop landscape that she played a major role in shaping, from the release of her very first single, the trope-challenging, outsider-rallying ‘Royals’. Still, it’s a world that’s undergone some dramatic changes since 2017. Big statement records have been replaced by a search for intimacy and connection – with many pop artists engaged in an ongoing tug-of-war between escapism and social consciousness. With Solar Power, Lorde is exploring the nuances and contradictions between the two, with poetic ruminations on fame, family, love and growth.
It’s an approach that was evident from the release of the project’s title track back in June. In contrast to the dramatic return some fans may have envisioned, ‘Solar Power’ showcased an artist opting for something more far subtle. After her essential years of teenage angst, Lorde is at a stage where she can step back to look at her life with a wider lens – taking in the beauty and bizarreness of the natural world. This new focus is reflected not only in the organic instrumentation, but also in her candid, conversational lyrical style, as well as her vocals, which feel less affected, and rawer, than ever.
In attempting to find some kind of meaning in the nature around her, Solar Power finds Lorde leaping away from the artificial glare of the spotlight. Just as Billie Eilish did recently on Happier Than Ever, Lorde opens up about her rapid ascension to fame at a young age on opening track ‘The Path’, describing herself as a “teen millionaire having nightmares from the camera flash…”
‘California’ is also rejection of the LA-centred world of stardom, with a reference to Carole King presenting her with the Grammy for Song of the Year for ‘Royals’: “Once upon a time in Hollywood when Carole called my name/ I stood up, the room exploded and I knew that’s it, I’ll never be the same.” Escape is found in the recurring mentions of an island – but there’s also a darkness that looms over the sandy white beaches, as hinted in the subtly climate change-influenced ‘Fallen Fruit’.
Stylistically, Lorde and producer Jack Antonoff explore the parallels between the Flower Power era and the modern age, with a blend of psychedelic sounds and contemporary indie-folk. But there are also nods to ‘90s and early ‘00s pop, with ‘Mood Ring’ sounding just as nostalgic as the title suggests. The track grounds the album, with satirical musings on feeling adrift at a time when the search for meaning is being increasingly commercialised – as meditation, burning sage, crystals and horoscopes all become profitable social media trends.
The recurring seaside imagery returns on closing track ‘Oceanic Feeling’, but this time around, it no longer feels like a place to run away to. Rather, it’s a return to her home, she reveals, as she references a popular rock-jumping spot in New Zealand – finding that the grip of the water connects her to her father, who swam there as a boy.
It’s by no means a clear-cut, full-circle moment, but it offers some sense of closure to a journey that shines in contradictions – balancing polished production against organic, even messy, meandering.
“O, was enlightenment found?” she reflects, finally. “No, but I’m trying.”
The current issue of Hot Press – featuring cover star Lorde – is in shops now, and available to order online below: