In the four long years since “Melodrama” was released, Lorde’s music has drastically changed. “Solar Power” is more peaceful and mature, and has therefore received considerable backlash from fans missing the turmoil that characterized her previous music.
“Solar Power” begins with “The Path,” which contains slow, dreamy instrumentals that sound more organic than anything I’ve heard from Lorde before. She also sings in a higher register than usual, which gives the song a light, tranquil tune, although I miss her raspy vocals. The lyrics reflect past sadness (“We’re all broken and sad/Can’t find the dreams that we had”) as well as optimism (“Let’s hope the sun will show us the path”).
Next is “Solar Power,” which was released as a single in June. “Solar Power” has upbeat guitar strumming and a beachy summer vibe. While it was mocked as commercial music, I don’t think it deserves the criticism it received. I certainly wouldn’t regard it as one of Lorde’s masterpieces in comparison to the powerful ballad “Liability” or the heartbreaking lyrics in “Hard Feelings/Loveless,” but it’s fun and catchy, and perfect for summer.
Like many of Lorde’s older songs, “California” focuses on an ex-flame, but differently. While she misses the ex, she has clearly moved on, and the music keeps the beachy theme. She wishes the relationship goodbye and reiterates that she no longer wants it, proving that she’s grown up since she released “Melodrama.”
In “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” Lorde’s familiar low register is back. She muses about her life and choices, then chalks her questions up to being stoned at the nail salon. She’s said that she used the song as a dumping ground for her thoughts, which is evident, and starkly different from her typical narrative lyrics.
“Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)” most clearly showcases how Lorde has matured and healed, as she compares how going out with her friends has changed. The upbeat guitar and repetitive vocals remind me of early 2000s music. The song is written to her teenage self, and like in other songs on “Solar Power,” she is more accepting of lost loves and bad choices, which is what makes her new music so much more tranquil. While I enjoyed the song, the spoken words made to sound like an airport announcement at the end threw me off.
“Dominoes” is the only song to directly address an ex. It seems that this person has gotten their act together since being with Lorde, but between the carefree guitar plucking and her knowing it’s just a phase, this doesn’t seem to bother her at all.
The last song on the album is “Oceanic Feeling,” which is a whopping six minutes and 39 seconds. Similarly to “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” Lorde said it is a rumination of where she’s at in her life. She references her famous black lipstick by saying she doesn’t need it anymore, and ends the album by saying she’ll know when it’s time to depart.
In a “Hot Ones” episode, Lorde said the color of “Solar Power” was gold, while the color of “Melodrama” was a violet blue. Because of this, I expected happier music, but instead it’s more reflecting on the past. The theme seems to be healing rather than happiness.
“Solar Power” has already received a lot of negative feedback from fans who expected something more like “Pure Heroine” or “Melodrama.” While I don’t think “Solar Power” packs the same punch as “Melodrama,” I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. “Melodrama” perfectly encapsulated what it’s like to muddle your way through early adulthood, and how lonely and scary it can be. “Solar Power” better describes settling down, and healing from and reflecting on that phase, although not feeling fully secure yet. We can’t expect Lorde to stay in that part of her life forever, and we shouldn’t expect her music to, either.