Lorde: Solar Power review – Unsettling, macabre, pretty pop

Fri, Aug 20, 2021, 05:00


Solar Power


Universal Music


Following the lethargic cynicism of 2013’s Pure Heroine and the coming-of-age bitterness of 2017’s Melodrama, the sunny disposition of Lorde’s long-awaited third album is like seeing Wednesday Addams smile. With nary a synth in sight, Jack Antonoff returns and co-produces with her for a folk-pop outing that airs harsh truths in broad daylight.

Before anyone accuses New Zealander Ella Yelich-O’Connor of releasing a “happy” album, The Path shoots deadpan daggers, assuring us that nobody is safe when her pen hits the page. “Born in the year of OxyContin,” the 24-year-old whispers – informing us that she is from the industrially dazed generation – before witheringly observing the behaviour of her celebrity peers at the Met Gala: “Supermodels all dancing ‘round a pharaoh’s tomb, now if you’re looking for a saviour, well that’s not me”. Armed with sacred sacraments – fashion magazines and clothing by Simone and Céline – on Leader of a New Regime she’s on an ironic quest for meaning in a scene where there is none.

If her debut album observes the pill poppin’ teenagers in her hometown of Auckland, then Solar Power takes digs at the crystal worshipping, coke-addled parishioners of Los Angeles. “I heard that you were doing yoga with Uma Thurman’s mother,” she drawls over the light sway of Dominoes, dissing the trends of the soul-searching elite, “...it’s strange to see you smoking marijuana, you used to do the most cocaine of anyone I’d ever met”.

Outrunning inner turmoil on Mood Ring, she prescribes burnt sage and in the title track’s music video, she dances on golden sands and breathes in sunshine like it’s an addiction. “I hate the winter, can’t stand the cold,” she sings, instructing us to throw our phones away and follow her lead as a “prettier Jesus”.

When droves of people dodge reality by investing in New Age remedies, Lorde presents common sense as if it’s parody. In a wonderful handover from one sad pop girl to the next, Swedish singer Robyn steers some sense our way as she plays pilot on Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen It All): “Welcome to Sadness, the temperature is unbearable until you face it… Your emotional baggage can be picked up at Carousel #2, please be careful so that it doesn’t fall onto someone you love”.

Famous since she was 16, she snaps out of the cult of celebrity and advises us on Oceanic Feeling that if you want enlightenment, all you have to do is look to the sky. Unsettling but pretty, her macabre pop still casts a shadow on even the brightest of days. All hail Lorde.