Solar Power by Lorde: Frustration and Genius

April 19, 2022

You might be looking at the publication date of this review and wondering why it’s in the calendar year following the album‘s original release. What, you might ask, happened to us in the intervening months? Well, when it came to doing the end of year 2021 charts, the Supajam team discovered something odd. We put forward our suggestions for best tracks of the year, and your scribe suggested Mood Ring, a song that was both a brilliant summation of our time and a scathing look at fifty years of New Age bunkum. Another staffer suggested Solar Power the single, describing it as the song he turned to at points of stress throughout the year, and we all agreed. Mood Ring made it to number one, and if we allowed acts to appear more than once, Solar Power would have charted.

What, you might now be wondering, is so difficult about that? It’s the fact both these future classic singles came off Solar Power the album, an LP your scribe can’t physically listen to all the way through without feeling ill. It’s an awful album, to me and me only… and doing this end of year list has made me confront why.

Set the scene. It’s early 2021, the world is still mired in Covid, and Lorde hasn’t been seen for a while. The days are ticking past and we know that soon, it will be glorious summer and hopefully we’ll be allowed to walk less than six feet apart in a park… and Lorde unleashes Solar Power the single. It’s a departure from her previous sound and features a video full of chilled out beach hijinks. We have no hesitation in saying Lorde has kicked off the summer season, and off we all go to try and enjoy the middle of 2021. Then, with summer closing, Lorde finishes her album cycle with a track called Fallen Fruit, which in sonic and visual tone brings the summer to an official close and we move into spring. Lorde brought the seasons.

In between, she released Mood Ring, one of my favourite singles of all time, and Solar Power the album which… right, look. All reviews are essentially worthless with streaming because music is a one on one personal connection, and there’s really no point in me trying to claim my feelings on Solar Power relate to some objective reality because there is no objectivity in music. One man’s Mozart is another man’s grinding metal, and you don’t have to spend extra money to find out how you feel, you just YouTube it or use your streaming service. The fact that I find this one sound that’s used throughout Solar Power to be so annoying I physical get angsty and have to turn the album off is my problem. I don’t know if it’s a bass or a guitar which features across an album of mostly similar sounds, because if I did I would have to firebomb the factory.

As you’ve probably guessed, Mood Ring mostly eschews this instrument, and I adore it. Solar Power the album, however, is an argument for internet killing the LP and letting us just cherry pick the good bits. Solar Power is, for me, down there with Arcade Fire’s Reflektor as an unlistenable album that contains some of the artist’s best work. Of course, it’s not like Lorde sat down and thought ‘I’ll find a sound that triggers feelings of sickness and mental pain in a section of society and really fuck them’, and I presume this is what happens when you first play your granddad industrial techno. (He loves it now).

So what’s the point of this? I’m not trying to make some judgement against Lorde. I’m not trying to say I’m right. What I am trying to say is, make sure you listen to this album first on one of the many streaming services before you spend money on a hard copy, just in case you’re like me. Or, maybe you’re not and you love it, which is great and no hard feelings and you’ll but the vinyl, the CD and a poster. There is, and I cannot stress this enough, no objectivity or homogeny in music appreciation.

But for album four Lorde, as a personal message from me, can we switch the sound again please.

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