Solar Power, by Lorde
This is an album I feel obligated to review out of necessity, as a critic of how Lorde has composed herself in this album era. Not being the sort of person to judge someone without having heard their case, rarely have I looked forward to an album to review less, except for those albums that others have sought to force upon me (more on that later, I suppose). Lorde is three albums into her career, and this album marks a serious turn in her art from music that relates to large groups of people to music that relates only to those people like herself. And while I certainly could relate strongly to both of her first two albums, this album leaves me without an obvious personal hook. I know people who can probably relate to this album and its vibes, but this is an album for me that can be appreciated only for its music and lyrics, and without the additional relatability that her first two albums had, this album falls noticeably but lamentably short.
What sorts of songs do we get here? The Path opens with an honest self-examination where Lorde questions her own ability to provide answers. After that we get the title track, a pleasant enough and slight enough slice of life of a privileged hippie seeking freedom in isolation from the world going to seed outside. This is followed by California, which feels representative of the life of leftist and somewhat elite young women like Lorde’s friends (and probably Lorde herself). After that comes the downbeat Stoned At The Nail Salon, and its gloomy musings on popularity. Fallen Fruit has a surprising (and probably unrecognized) almost biblical feel about the singer’s unhappiness. Secrets From A Girl (Who’s Seen It All) comes off as being, like Taylor Swift’s 22, a know-it-all effort from someone who does not in fact know it all. The Man With The Axe is more relationship unhappiness, framed from an unpleasant generational perspective. Dominoes comes with a look at the druggie nature of popular cultural figures, something that is less interesting to outsiders than it might seen. Big Star also reflects a world-weary perspective on the loss of fun and excitement life has provided for Lorde. This is followed by the brief messianic ode in Leader Of A New Regime that seeks for political solutions to the author’s dissatisfaction. Mood Rings then hits the mood of privileged crystal-gazing young women once again. The album then ends with the lengthy navel-gazing Oceanic Feeling and more gloomy musing about generational relations.
In order to properly evaluable an album like this, it is important to know where it is coming from. This album comes from a world-weary young woman who is sick of the popular appeal she got from her debut album and is simultaneously mocking but also representing a particular sort of privileged existence as as young woman who relaxes by being stoned at a nail salon, seeks a solar powered commune in Antarctica where only good vibes are allowed and where people much like herself celebrate various new age gurus and the power of crystals and commune with penguins. This is the lyrical content that one finds, and the music is stripped and bare bones in a way that recalls her debut album, but in a way that speaks of emptiness and self-satisfaction and not the daring simplicity that it seemed to present before. Perhaps with time this album will be viewed charitably as a step that Lorde needed to take to be authentic to her own experience as a young woman who became famous too soon in as toxic a culture and in an age as evil as our own. But for the moment, this album feels like an immense disappointment and is being harshly judged accordingly.