What Happened To Solar Power?

By Paige Duane

Best known for her hit single “Royals”, New Zealand pop singer, Lorde, was experiencing astronomical success in the mid to late 2010s. With her two albums Pure Heroine and Melodrama being heralded as modern classics, most of her fans expected her to release more music of similar themes and sounds. However, at the peak of her career, she left the industry. 

After a four year hiatus, she announced in 2021 that she would be releasing her album: Solar Power. Her fans rejoiced, celebrating the promise of new songs. Despite this anticipation, when the album was released, it was met with a disappointing reception. 

What most people were expecting from the album was a continuation of the story told in her previous works, a third installment to the Pure Heroine and Melodrama duology. Eagerly they awaited another collection of songs detailing her struggles with fame, youth, and connection. 

But that wasn’t what the singer had in mind. 

Instead, Solar Power was about healing and coming to terms with oneself. Intermixed an appreciation for the natural world, Solar Power told the story of growing up. Through songs such as “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)”, “The Path”, and “California”, Lorde described how she learned to accept herself and seek out the simple things that made her happy. Underscored with imagery of sun, sand, and warmth, the album mimics the feel of lazy summer days spent outdoors in the sweltering heat. Overall, Solar Power was a very cohesive piece about finding a place in the world. 

Still, upon its initial release, it received a largely critical response. The album was so different from her prior ones. In a viral TikTok, it was even criticized for sounding like background music for a women’s shaving commercial. 

“That response was really confounding and at times painful to sit with at first,” Lorde explained in an interview. “It’s clearly one of those works that gets made between peaks, the kind that’s necessary for makers sometimes, no less precious, in fact, there can’t be peaks at all without such works.”

Which is not to say the album is without its merits. Lyrically, it is just as sound as its predecessors, similarly using rich imagery to describe her state of mind. Its production is where most fans tend to fall off. 

A largely acoustic album, Solar Power differed greatly from the two albums that made Lorde famous. Unlike the tightly sprung pop of Pure Heroine and Melodrama, Solar Power utilized a slower pace to approach the topic of self reflection. Its production was vastly different to highlight themes of acceptance. 

Solar Power was a widely underappreciated album. Perhaps the release timing was off, maybe the audience wasn’t there. Regardless, this album is nothing short of a masterpiece and deserves to be valued by the pop music community. 

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