It’s been four years since her last album, but Lorde is out of hibernation and ready to soak up the sun. Her new song “Solar Power” is a crunchy, acoustic ode to basking in life’s more carefree pleasures: turning your face to catch the sun’s rays, sticking your toes in the sand, throwing your cellphone in the water.
But all of it feels off. When Lorde emerged in 2013 with Pure Heroine, sneering at the rich and famous shilling a life of party and excess over creepy, minimalist drum machines, she brought a much-needed sense of nihilism to pop music. In that moment, the reigning message among the Taylor Swifts, Lady Gagas, and Katy Perrys of the charts was to sell a fantasy of romance and hedonism back to the teen masses, their blaring music fit for stadiums and prom dance floors. But Lorde emerged on the scene with a laidback coolness, her gothic, sparse synth pop about boredom a welcome reflection of real teen angst.
Artists have been copying her for years instead of breaking their own ground, even after 2017's Melodrama rounded out and expanded her approach into grand, danceable pop music. Case in point: the last track on reigning teen pop princess Olivia Rodrigo’s debut, “hope ur ok” layers vocals in a distinctly Lorde way. “Solar Power,” meanwhile, is a sharp pivot from the Lorde audiences are used to.
Gone is the gloomy, caustic Lorde, and in her place is a sun-kissed hippie who sings she’s “kind of like a prettier Jesus.” A lot of references come to mind: the musical Hair, Jack Johnson’s granola folk, the slowed-down percussion of George Michael’s “Freedom! ’90.” The music video features her in a dandelion yellow silk set, frolicking on a sunny beach, and at one point partaking in what appears to be a celery bong, as a crowd of dancers in neutrals move around her. “Forget all of thе tears that you’ve cried, it’s over,” she sings. “It’s a new state of mind.”
The whole thing is shockingly basic, from the tepid, acoustic production, to the canned “enlightened” lyrics. “I want this album to be your summer companion, the one you pump on the drive to the beach,” she said in a press release for the forthcoming album of the same name, adding that the album will be a “celebration of the natural world.” And yet it also seems like Lorde might be fucking with us, just a little bit. “No shirt, no shoes,” she sings. “My boy behind me, he’s taking pictures,” like a slight dig at wellness influencers who curate an enviable life of meditation and relaxation for the ’gram. And, of course, there’s that celery bong. Is this Lorde’s natural state, or is this elaborate satire?