Lorde released her third album, Solar Power, on August 20. The 24-year-old produced and wrote the album with Jack Antonoff, whom she worked with on 2017’s incredible Melodrama.
Fans and critics wondered if the duo could produce as wonderful a record as their first, but it seems they missed the mark on this one.
The Promising Lead-Up
Lorde’s first album, Pure Heroine, was released in 2013 when the New Zealand artist was only 15 years old. The album was unique in the pop landscape and earned the young songwriter enormous critical praise.
The work was included on many “Best Of” lists by the end of that year and was even nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 56th Grammy Awards. Songs like “Royals,” “Tennis Court,” and “Team” still get radio play to this day.
Melodrama was released in 2017. Jack Antonoff of Bleachers was tapped to help produce the album, and what came out of that partnership was simply beautiful.
While its songs about heartbreak and hard feelings didn’t break through commercially to the extent the tracks from her first album did, the project received near-universal acclaim from critics.
Of course, dropping two fantastic albums at such a young age put a lot of pressure on Lorde’s shoulders. She declared Solar Power would be a project that would allow her to “just chill out and flex a little bit.”
That sentiment can certainly be felt on the underwhelming record. It feels so chill that it makes one want to tune out, and instead seek the lyricism in her earlier works.
The album is still a beautiful showcase of Lorde’s vocal talent, but it simply falls short of the precedent her first two projects established. This marks the first time this young musical maverick has shown any signs of imperfection, proof that she is indeed as human as the rest of us.
‘Solar Power’ Lacks Energy
The instruments used on this album give the project a distinct sound from her previous efforts. Piano is heavily incorporated, as Lorde recently began playing the instrument.
Critics have described the sound as a blend of folk and psychedelic pop styles. Acoustic guitars also bring elements of soft rock into the tracks.
Lyrically, the album discusses Lorde’s experiences with fame, celebrity treatment, and obvious feelings of discontent with the stereotypical Hollywood world of Instagram influencers and wellness culture.
As much as Lorde tried to position these themes as satirical, however, the flowery record ultimately sounds like an indulgence in the very culture she’s supposedly teasing.
An Album’s Worth of First-World Problems
The Daily Telegraph’s Neil McCormick put it well when he acknowledged the album’s beautiful sound, but questioned Lorde’s lyrics, noting they often come across as “over-privileged, solipsist” points of view.
Indeed, the title alone of “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen It All)” encapsulates some of this album’s worst moments pretty well. Lorde has always had confidence about her perspective, which seemed to indicate wisdom beyond her years when she was a 15-year-old putting out her first project.
But in this work, Lorde’s cheeky cleverness falls flat. The songs of adolescence in Pure Heroine and heartbreak in Melodrama were so close to her real-life experiences that one couldn’t really question her passion and feelings on the subjects at hand.
With Solar Power, Lorde’s attempt to take down the very celebrity machine she’s found herself in feels too uncertain and scattered for the singer to make any convincing points. The lyrical content is a somewhat boring, played-out critique of the celebrity culture we have all been immersed in since the Kardashians essentially became the American Royal Family.
Listen–I’m not saying Lorde can only write from a place of pain, but so far, what she’s written from a place of relative comfort is pretty bland.
Sure, “Stoned at the Nail Salon” sounds quite pretty on the surface, but if you like Lorde’s more personal and passionate songs, this probably won’t be your favorite track.
Give the album a listen and decide for yourself: Is Solar Power standing in the shadow of Lorde’s first two albums, or is it a happy transition into better and brighter things for New Zealand’s pop queen?