After four long years since her last album, Lorde’s highly-anticipated Solar Power was released. The album follows Melodrama, an album that many including myself would consider a masterpiece. The album, unfortunately, does not quite live up to the anticipation.
Solar Power is a very different album than its predecessor. Melodrama was, in some ways, a typical breakup album. However, it has become sort of a blueprint of what a perfect breakup album should be. It is deeply personal and honest while still being well-written and cohesive. Solar Power takes a full 180. This album, on the whole, is much more upbeat. This is also reflected in the visuals for the album; the music video for the lead single “Solar Power” takes place on the beach with Lorde surrounded by her friends.
Now, fans and defenders of the album have brought up the point that the album is so different from the previous one and that the reason why a lot of people are not enjoying it is that many of them never got over their respective “Melodrama” phase.
I do think there is some truth or at least something to take away from this point. Nowadays it feels like many music fans only pine after “sad” music and I do think it is weird how obsessed some people are with the music their favorite artist makes when they’re in a bad mental state. I want to make it clear that I do not mind a happy album and that is not the problem that I have with the album. The problems I have stems from writing and production.
The album is co-produced by Lorde herself and Jack Antonoff, who also co-wrote eight of the twelve songs. This isn’t their first collaboration as Antonoff helped her write her previous record Melodrama.
Antonoff has become a sort of golden boy in the world of producing music as he has continuously worked with some of the biggest artists in the industry such as Taylor Swift, Lana del Rey, St. Vincent, and most recently Clairo. It is clear that many artists are very fond of his writing and producing style. In some sense, it seems that he does bring out the best in the artists that he works with as he has produced some of the most critically acclaimed works of these artists’ careers (for instance, Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell! and Swift’s folklore).
However, that does not mean that everyone is as fond of his work as the artists he works with. If you were to go on TikTok and look through posts talking about Jack Antonoff, you’ll find mostly very angry teenagers complaining about how he ruined their favorite artists. And the fact of the matter is, I’m not sure you can blame them. It is common for songs written by Antonoff to sound similar in terms of the melodies, the instrumentals used, and the baseline.
Listening to the album, my initial thoughts are that it is, frankly, a little bland. Now some songs are fairly catchy and somewhat memorable, such as “Solar Power”, “Mood Ring”, and “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)”. However, even with those, most of the album blends together, making it difficult to tell that any two songs are different from each other.
In addition to that, the songs that do stand out sound a little too much like Antonoff’s other work. For instance, I find it hard to listen to “Stoned at the Nail Salon” without hearing Lana Del Rey’s “How to Disappear”, or listen to the end of “Solar Power” without hearing St. Vincent’s “…At the Holiday Party”, all of which were co-written by Antonoff and each respective artist.
Because of this, the album as a whole feels a bit lazy and cookie-cutter. Overall, I think it fails to be the album that Lorde wants it to be. Lorde has described the album to Genius as “a celebration of the natural world, an attempt at immortalizing the deep, transcendent feelings I have when I’m outdoors.” While the album, at times, has a beachy vibe, it’s hard to see how most of the songs connect with each other and with the desired theme of the album.
Disregarding how the album functions as a whole, its singles aren’t too bad–but they aren’t particularly notable, either.
I have typically been a fan of Lorde’s songwriting, but it is often unclear what points she is trying to make. “Mood Ring” has been described as a satire of how people use eastern practices to try and make themselves feel connected to the world. I’ll admit that a mood ring is a great metaphor for relying on seemingly inanimate objects to make you feel something other than numbness. However, I’m still unsure of what point Lorde is trying to make as she describes using these practices herself, and therefore seems to be the type of person she’s trying to satirize.
With the second released single “Stoned at the Nail Salon”, Lorde sings about growing up and experiencing how different life is for her now that she isn’t a teenager or busy on tour. The lyrics are almost very meaningful, but are ruined when you get to the chorus line, “Maybe I’m just stoned at the nail salon”. This makes it seem like Lorde doesn’t think these thoughts are of any real significance, which simply makes me think it shouldn’t be a song at all.
All that being said, by no means is the album inherently bad. However, it is mediocre, especially when you take into account Lorde and Antonoff’s past work. The record, unfortunately, just doesn’t quite hit the mark.