Solar Power by Lorde

By: Tammy Chang

What a time to be alive. After four years with no new music and near-radio silence, the New Zealand singer-songwriter has surprised us all on this solar eclipse with the first single from her forthcoming album, both titled ‘Solar Power’. As a long-time listener and massive fan, I immediately vibrated out of my seat at this news and rushed to pitch this article to my editor. I’ll be reviewing the single line-by-line with my live listen, but let me first give you some background on what the last few months have been like for Lorde fans:

  • LATE MARCH/EARLY APRIL: Lorde’s mom and “reliable insiders” begin to drop cryptic hints that L3 (Lorde’s at-the-time-untitled third album) is coming. It feels like our long drought might soon come to an end.
  • LATE APRIL: Lorde posts a new onion ring review on @onionringsworldwide. It’s not new music, but fans get excited that this is a good sign of things to come.
  • EARLY MAY: Insiders leak info that L3 will be a “new age hippie stoner album,” inspired by 70s psychedelic rock. As a result, “Lorde” starts trending worldwide on Twitter.
  • LATE MAY: It is announced that Lorde will be headlining the Barcelona Primavera Sound music festival in Summer 2022. Searches for “flights to Spain” skyrocket on Google. Lorde’s merch team also updates fans that the long-awaited book about her 2019 trip to Antarctica, titled “Going South” is set to ship in early June.
  • JUNE 7: Lorde’s website is updated with our first look at the ‘Solar Power’ cover, with the caption “ARRIVING IN 2021 … PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE.” Insiders claim that the first single will be released on June 21 to coincide with the summer solstice.
  • JUNE 9: “Going South” starts arriving for some fans. Inscribed on the back cover are the words “BLINK 3 TIMES WHEN YOU FEEL IT KICKING IN. 2021.”
  • JUNE 10, 5:30 AM CST: @LordeAnalytics tweets that ‘Solar Power’ will be out at 6 PM EST on June 10. The anticipation reaches its fever pitch, especially for those who were expecting a June 21 release date.
  • JUNE 10, around 11 AM CST: Apple Music, Tidal, and other streaming platforms release Solar Power six hours earlier than planned. It’s pulled soon after, but not before a few eager fans get their first listen. At this point, the wait is almost unbearable…

Since Lorde’s voluntary absence from social media, fans have cherished her sporadic and personal emails as welcomed insights into her life and work. In late 2019, she used her newsletter (you can sign up here) to inform that plans for her third album would be pushed back after grieving the loss of her dog, Pearl. She wrote in May 2020 to check in during the pandemic and tease that the “new thing, it’s got its own colours now.”

  • JUNE 10, 5:11 PM CST: Lorde sends out the letter that everyone has been waiting for. In it, she officially announces that the new album will also be called ‘Solar Power’. The single drops on streaming platforms everywhere, accompanied by a new music video.

Without further ado, here are the impressions I got from my first listen/watch of ‘Solar Power’:

I hate the winter 
Can’t stand the cold

I can’t believe this is real… ‘Melodrama’ is one of my favorite albums of all time, and I know it from muscle memory after streaming it all of summer 2017 and onwards. I am so excited for this new era of Lorde and am a little afraid of the emotions that she’ll draw out of me this time around.

Two parallels from ‘Melodrama’ jump out at me during this first line: In ‘Perfect Places,’ Lorde sings “I hate the headlines and the weather/I’m nineteen and I’m on fire,” and in ‘Hard Feelings/Loveless’ are the lyrics “Guess this is the winter/Our bodies are young and blue.” It’s interesting that she uses the weather to define periods of her life, and this seasonal passage of time really reminds me of how a novel might be structured.

Taking it a step further, ‘Melodrama’ was a very “blue” album, both thematically and visually. In the album artwork, Lorde bundles herself up under the covers and faces the viewer with a vulnerable expression. On the cover of ‘Solar Power,’ Lorde is exposed in a much different way (apologies to my friends who had to see her butt cheeks on their timelines via my RTs). She wears a bright yellow bikini that screams summer and freedom, and we see this vibrant theme continued through her music video.

I tend to cancel all the plans (so sorry, I can’t make it)

Very, very relatable…

But when the heat comes 
Something takes a hold 
Can I kick it? Yeah, I can

I love Lorde, but she is very lucky to be from New Zealand, where average high temperatures usually range from 69 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. I’m interested to see what kind of song she would write about Houston’s muggy summers. Also, I love her “yeahs” – they’re such a small signature, but they’ve stayed with Lorde even from her debut album ‘Pure Heroine’.

My cheeks in high colour, overripe peaches 
No shirt, no shoes, only my features 
My boy behind me, he’s taking pictures 
Lead the boys and girls onto the beaches 
Come one, come all, I’ll tell you my secrets 
I’m kinda like a prettier Jesus

Get ready to see every line of this chorus in Instagram captions this summer. I love how rhythmic and catchy the guitar is here and am excited to learn it for myself. Aside from that, I wonder what kind of Lil Nas X-esque backlash Lorde is going to receive for the last line, especially once this song starts getting more play on the radio.

Forget all of the tears that you’ve cried, it’s over (over, over, over)

The way this line comes in is almost like a spell, and I am happy to fall under it. ‘Melodrama’ was a moody masterpiece that I fell asleep crying to many a time, but I’m definitely ready to say goodbye and transition into a brighter period with Lorde’s new music. Speaking of moody, Clairo and Phoebe Bridgers are both credited as backing vocalists on this track and I was not ready for my world to collide like this. I am very much looking forward to seeing what other artists Lorde has reportedly decided to collab with on this album.

It’s a new state of mind — are you coming, my baby?

Yes!!! Yes. I am packing my bags right now. Please take me to your cottagecore-inspired/Lord of the Flies/Midsommar private island, Lorde.

Acid green, aquamarine 
The girls are dancing in the sand

Again, I am very jealous of Lorde’s New Zealand connection here… we don’t really have water like that where I’m from. Will that stop me from trying to recreate this music video with my friends on the beach in Galveston? No.

And I throw my cellular device in the water
Can you reach me? No, you can’t

Trust me – your fans are aware. Despite it all, I’m very impressed by the way Lorde has managed to stay silent on social media all these years — sometimes she’ll write statements via email if the matter is pressing, like during last summer’s protests — and I’m inspired by these lyrics to consider a cleanse myself.

Turn it on in a new kind of bright, it’s solar (solar, solar, solar) 
Come on and let the bliss begin 
Blink three times when you feel it kickin’ in 
That solar power

I want to note that at this verse in the music video, Lorde takes a puff from a bulb of fennel. It’s a little bizarre, but it works. Also, up until this point, the video has been mostly filmed in one take. After the staccato lines of “Come on and let the bliss begin/Blink three times when you feel it kickin’ in” follows a series of jump cuts featuring Lorde and her friends having the time of their life dancing and relaxing on the beach. This is also where the song shifts from primarily acoustic guitar to add in layers of drums, horns, and harmonies in time for the finale.

Overall, this is a big shift in sound and mood for the Lorde we are all familiar with, but a welcome change. The sun has come out, and she is ready to play. In the newsletter mentioned previously, Lorde wrote that she has built an “entire cinematic universe” around the album and that fans have a lot to look forward to this season, especially if they “look to the natural calendar for clues.”

Is it too early to declare this the song of the summer? Maybe, but ‘Solar Power’ will definitely be the first addition to each beach trip playlist I make. I can’t wait to see what’s on the way.