Give Solar Power Another Chance!
Posted on January 25, 2022
In June of 2021, Lorde released the anticipated lead single “Solar Power” off of her album of the same name, which would later fully release in August. The title track was recognized as a huge jump from her previous work on Pure Heroine and Melodrama, being sonically similar to pop music of the early 2000s. The internet was quick to poke fun at Lorde’s newfound sound, comparing it to the likes of music heard on television commercials for women’s razors or allergy medication, effectively dubbing it as her most uncharacteristic and unstimulating era of music.
Listeners of music often decide whether they like a song based entirely on its musical vibrations, and ignore the deeper, thematic reasons for its creation. Lorde’s Solar Power is no exception to this: people anticipated her edgy, melancholic electropop, but received happy folk-pop songs with atypical acoustic guitars. The album proved to be a significant change in sound from her past work, which can be attributed to why it wasn’t greatly received or understood by the public. While some might not have liked it for that exact reason, I think we should always try to see past our instinctive, gut reaction and appreciate the work that goes into the creation of media.
At its core, the album is a celebration of the natural world and about rejuvenation through nature, in an effort to deepen one’s relationship with where they come from. Solar Power’s exploration into the music of the natural and organic world has an overlooked, but cohesive and direct relation to the themes of the album. Most notable are the smooth and airy guitars; they constantly strengthen the feeling of calmness and inner regeneration, which is central to the album. The production of the songs was criticized for being untextured and bland, but the mellowness of the songs was an essential aspect for pushing the relaxed and renewed sentiments of the album. Of my favourites are “The Path” and “Hold No Grudge,” which are two soft, easy-listening tunes respectively about self-fulfillment and relationships turning sour. Take a few minutes to listen to them and drift into the soothing backing vocals and faint acoustics of them. These changes may not come as easily to every listener, but respect for the album should be maintained because her experimentation shows her versatility and talent as an artist.
As an homage to nature, Lorde took a different and committed approach on how to merchandise the album. In keeping with her theme of respect for nature, she decided to create environmentally-conscious merchandise in her store. As part of that decision, Lorde revealed that CDs of the album are not being made for purchase because she “didn’t wanna make something that would end up in a landfill in 2 years.” The alternative is a ‘music box,’ which is a discless product containing digital downloads of the tracks, a poster, and a booklet that is all 100% biodegradable. Her clothing merchandise is similarly sustainable, in which everything except for the label is biodegradable. While the garments are expensive, Lorde explains on her website that it’s because she worked with “an ethically-minded, environmentally responsible supplier” that uses 100% recycled materials.
Lastly, Lorde’s praise for her homeland is an aspect that wasn’t given much attention. In September, she released an EP titled Te Ao Mārama, which featured five of the tracks on Solar Power sung in Māori by Lorde, the native language of Indigenous people in New Zealand. Translations of the lyrics, which were done by a team of Indigenous Māori speakers, can be found on Lorde’s YouTube channel. The songs are beautiful to hear, but they add another layer of depth to the messages and bring more insight to Solar Power when the translations are read. These renditions weren’t something sloppily put together as a cash grab or an act of slacktivism; all the proceeds are donated to two New Zealand charities—Forest and Bird, which is an environmental conservation organization, as well as Te Hua Kawariki Charitable Trust, which focuses on Māori cultural education for children.
Despite what the majority of people thought of the album, I think it has solidified its spot as one of my favourites. As someone who loves pop music, especially if it sounds like it’s from the early 2000s, I have every song on Solar Power on rotation almost every day. This album was a needed break from her previous sounds to see the creative capabilities she has in creating music. It was also refreshing to hear something as organic, healing, and blissful as the songs after being stuck in a pandemic for such a long time. Lorde just wants to give you a friendly reminder to breathe out and tune in to deal with the stresses of everyday life.