After a four-year hiatus between albums, New Zealand alternative pop singer/songwriter Lorde returns to the spotlight with her third studio album ‘Solar Power’.
Lorde first hit stardom with her 2013 single “Royals” when she was 16 years old, becoming the youngest female artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 in 26 years. Now Lorde, at age 24, has released ‘Solar Power’ to the public on Aug. 20 of this year. She was assisted in production by American musician Jack Antonoff, who also aided in her previous album ‘Melodrama’.
Upon first picking up/streaming the album, perhaps the most notable feature would be the vulgar album cover. The cover, showing Lorde wearing only a yellow long sleeve shirt, angles the camera from the ground up, showing off Lorde’s naked bottom half as she walks along the beach. Whenever the album needs to be shown on a family television show, like on her recent performance on ‘Late Night with Seth Meyers’, a solar flare will be placed over her exposed bottom.
The blunt cover, as well as viewer’s reactions to it, speak volumes about feminism. However, it mostly serves as a statement about how she is a grown woman now, with the freedom to do what she wants with her music and her body.
Age is a pretty consistent theme throughout the album, especially considering how she and many of her once young fans have changed over the years. In “Stoned at the Nail Salon”, for example, she sings about how “all the music you loved at sixteen, you’ll grow out of / and all the times they will change, it’ll all come around”. And again, in the track “Mood Ring”, she asks, “Don’t you think the early 2000s seem so far away?”
But this change is not treated as a bad thing. ‘Solar Power’s’ focus on summer delights in the nostalgia that time might bring. Everything about the album immediately gives off calm, summer vibes, with every little detail adding onto that feeling. In the title song, she reminds the listener that things can, and will, change: “Forget all of thе tears that you’ve cried / It’s ovеr […] / The girls are dancing in the sand / And I throw my cellular device in the water”.
Lorde’s gloomier lyrics contrasting with the album’s summer feel allow the listener to remember that things have changed, and that they will still change.
Though Lorde has been making world-renowned music for years now, her new album has gained her new fans. Loren Jones, the Entertainment/Features editor for the Student Media Center, has recently given the album a listen. Despite being a relative newcomer to Lorde’s music, Jones believes ‘Solar Power’ has a different, transcendent sound from Lorde’s previous hits.
“I think that she has changed her genre from a funk pop to more soulful in a way[,] with her lyrics having more meaning than before,” said Jones.
This is definitely the case in her final track, “Oceanic Feeling”. In it, Lorde circles back to the nostalgia of growing up and changing in a song directly dedicated to her younger brother: “Baby boy, you’re super cool. / I know you’re scared, so was I / But all will be revealed in time”. Her calm voice, even as it turns into echoes, is both fully aware and fully accepting of its limits. To know yourself is to know your limits, and, even though that can be a frightening prospect, it can also be a reassuring one.
François Bérubé, a longtime fan, noted the album’s themes while commenting on Lorde’s Facebook post about the album: “‘Solar Power’ is now a self-growing album, […] a recovery, a spiritual and existential contemplation and therapy by [its] nature. It feels like how [we come] to know our personal limits.”
Bérubé hit it right on the nose. In life, we change. We get hurt and we grow in many ways. Lorde is not 16 anymore — she is a woman who has been in the spotlight for years because of her musical talents. She has grown a lot as a person, and the melancholy of that change shines through. With ‘Solar Power’, Lorde seems to hope her fans and listeners embrace change as much as she has.