Lorde crafts an inconspicuous sound for ‘Solar Power’


Akhila Gunturu

Lorde released her third full album, Solar Power, on Aug. 20. The Sidekick executive news editor Akhila Gunturu thinks the album is impressive lyrically but fails to make an everlasting impact.

Akhila Gunturu, Executive News Editor

If I had to pick one word to describe New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde’s new album, Solar Power, I would select: different. Different from her past releases, different from her contemporaries and different from anything I expected to come from her. 

Even down to the album packaging, Solar Power is different. Instead of an album with a physical CD, Lorde offers four different vinyls and a Solar Power music box with two bonus tracks, a download card, four postcards, a 32-page booklet and a poster in a biodegradable eco box. Lorde’s personal note on the online merch store says the initiative to make a discless album comes from a desire “to create an environmentally kind, forward-thinking alternative to the CD.” 

Solar Power is receiving mixed reviews from critics, with some describing it as a “letdown” and others as “self-aware and scaled back.” To me, the dissatisfaction surrounding the album is understandable. Solar Power comes after almost four years of radio silence from Lorde, who took a hiatus after Melodrama in 2017. During her hiatus, she wiped all of her social media, communicated through occasional emailed newsletters to fans and even took a trip to Antarctica in 2019 to learn about climate change. The expectation for the new album, especially for longtime fans, such as myself, was high. 

But Solar Power isn’t extraordinary. Songs such as “Leader of a New Regime” and “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen It All)” blend when the album is on repeat, and Lorde’s whispery tone and acoustic guitar do little to help that. Solar Power, on the surface level, morphs into one stream of sunlight in a relatively bleak environment. The bright colors of the album and Lorde’s transformation from teenage angst to millennial woes contrasts the muted tones of other contemporary artists, such as Billie Eilish’s WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? and Taylor Swift’s evermore

But upon deeper consideration, Solar Power’s distinctive quality comes from Lorde’s lyrical prowess. “The Path” opens the album by immediately referencing Lorde’s teen stardom with Pure Heroine in 2013, before quickly establishing that she is not the star she is sometimes made out to be. “Fallen Fruit”, my favorite song on the album, with its vocal harmonies and lyrical symbolism, is Lorde’s alternative to a bold climate change anthem. Instead, she speaks to previous generations and laments the impact of their actions. “Oceanic Feeling”, “Dominoes” and “The Man With The Axe” begin and end as a story narrated by Lorde. All of the tracks have a nearly overwhelming lyrical and symbolic depth, a surprising contrast to their musical accompaniment. 

Solar Power is not life-changing. It is not the sort of album built for cathartic emotion release, unlike Melodrama and Pure Heroine, and many of its songs fail to stand out. But Lorde’s desire to create an honest album, in which she delves into her colors, is admirable and in the end, likeable. Solar Power, much like Lorde intended it to, simply exists. 

Follow Akhila (@akhila_gunturu) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.