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Lorde's 'Solar Power' emotionally captures her spiritual growth

Although Lorde is best known for her angsty teen anthems, "Solar Power" offers listeners a softer side to the singer, as she delves into her emotional and spiritual growth as both a person and artist. – Photo by Lorde / Instagram

“Now if you’re looking for a savior, well that’s not me,” is one of the first lines of the alternative singer Lorde’s latest album in four years, “Solar Power.” The 24-year-old native New Zealander released her latest album to her not-so-patiently awaiting fans on Aug. 20. 

Lorde’s new album received a 6.8 on the music review site Pitchfork, for its strong lyrics accompanied by “drab music."

Yet this review doesn’t entirely appreciate the nuances of the album. The soft coos from “Fallen Fruit,” the joyful yelps of “Solar Power” and the laughs from “Oceanic Feeling” mixed with the quiet strums of the guitar offers a magical experience of Lorde’s self-discovery for the listener. The 43-minute album requires almost full volume to listen to on a scrambling Rutgers bus, but is the perfect companion for a retrospective Weekend 1 or 2 route. 

“Forget all of the tears that you've cried/It's over/It’s a new state of mind/Are you coming, my baby?” Lorde breezily asks in the titular song "Solar Power," which she dropped in early June. Almost immediately, Lorde’s fans and critics alike were surprised by the sheer happiness she exuded in the song.

But the former teen singer isn’t anything like she used to be. She’s not the same girl who released hits like “Royals,” which won two Grammy Awards, or the the adolescent-anthem “Ribs.”

Like a true artist, she resents being confined to an easy one-word description. She isn’t the beacon of angst, with crowds of adoring fans, as most people see her. She especially isn’t just another Jack Antonoff record, as she vehemently expressed in The New York Times. 

“I haven’t made a Jack Antonoff record,” she said. “I’ve made a Lorde record and he’s helped me make it and very much deferred to me on production and arrangement. (Antonoff) would agree with this. To give him that amount of credit is frankly insulting."

Instead, she’s a fun, nature-loving appreciator of everyday life. 

In “California” Lorde relays her feelings about moving away from the glamorous life offered on the West Coast as a famous singer. “But it got hard to grow up with your cool hand around my neck,” she sings, explaining why she had to leave to grow.

“Stoned at the Nail Salon,” the second song released before Aug. 20, displays the elements of melancholy Lorde never quite shakes off. She sings about becoming an adult while honoring her past selves, and then disrupts all of this insight by shrugging that maybe she’s just high while getting her nails done. 

“Secrets from a Girl (Who's Seen it All)” is a love letter to her 15-year-old self, and in a way, the Lorde fans who have grown up with her. She reverses the two chords of “Ribs” to create the new song that provides a level of unmatched self-understanding.

“Everybody wants the best for you/But you’ve gotta want it for yourself, my love” she sings, encouraging her past self to trust her own instincts. Two minutes and 30 seconds into the song, Lorde becomes a stewardess of sorts, welcoming the listener to sadness and telling herself and her listeners that pain must be felt in order to experience new levels of emotion and spiritual awareness.

In “Leader of a New Regime” Lorde sings, “Won't somebody, anybody, be the leader of a new regime?/Free the keepers of the burnt-out scene another day/Lust and paranoia reign supreme.” This song is about more than just the obvious shirking of the angsty cult-leader position she’s already said she resents, but a call for a new way of art and life itself that is centered around nature and more positive experiences. 

“Mood Ring” is a brilliant, tongue-in-cheek, up-beat anthem about the commodification of spirituality. The penultimate song of the album teases the many people who believe crystal-cleansing, sage-burning and getting high are the extent of people’s spiritual journey. 

To Lorde, self-acceptance and growth don’t come from something or someone telling you how to feel, but instead reckoning with and accepting our lived realities and taking our place in that.

According to the singer, this comes from feeling emotions that fads often prevent people from truly feeling. Her accurate analysis of people saying they would feel better by going somewhere Eastern is a perfect nod to this culture that proves Lorde still has her finger on the pulse of this generation. 

“Oceanic Feeling” is the gorgeous finale to the journey Lorde takes her listeners on. The magic and light she has exuded this entire time is then demonstrated through her love for her brother, the love for her future daughter and the love for her current self, which establishes herself as a beautiful acceptor of life’s preciousness. She becomes a grounded time traveler, a mystical sorceress who draws her power from the sun, the ocean and her own breath. 

The final lines of the album conclude with Lorde telling us that she hasn’t yet found enlightenment but she’s still looking. She tells us that she’ll know when it’s time for her to stop singing publicly with a brilliant metaphor involving hanging up the royal robes she has referenced throughout her entire discography. 

Royalty itself takes on a new meaning in “Solar Power.” Gone are the singer’s cherry-black lipstick days and green-lit nights. She’s not the leader of a generation of lost teenagers.

Now, as a royal, Lorde doesn’t amass great jewels, but instead, steals time and dedicates it to herself. Lorde’s locked out of all of her social media accounts, doesn’t have YouTube on her laptop or a web browser on her phone. Her three albums are separated by four years, and she centers her life outside of the watchful eye of popular culture. 

Objectively, the album may be “drab” compared to older work or other albums of today —but it’s supposed to lack the pretentious nature of her past. But for the Lorde-listener who has been perplexed by her before, it feels like a privilege to be able to relate to someone who's so grateful and introspective of her experience. Lorde has taken the time and space to understand where she fits in this life, and it’s a treat for those who are attempting to do the same. 

“Solar Power” is the perfect continuation of Lorde’s complex legacy of cool, though it takes a greater level of introspection to understand what she’s trying to say. While booze-filled nights and quick emotional rushes used to be what inspired Lorde, now it’s everyday life and her closest friends and family — her brother doing a kick-flip or the fact that one of her lovers has the same favorite record as her father is now what moves her.

The album cover is the perfect encapsulation of the message Lorde attempts to convey. The cover was taken by a friend, and displays Lorde’s butt cheeks as she hops over her friend snapping the picture. She told Stephen Colbert that she chose this picture because, "It felt innocent and playful and a little bit feral and sexy." 

Lorde’s album shows that she’s entirely grateful and happy with her life. And if you don’t like it, well, you can kiss her joyous ass.

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