Dom Reviews: “Solar Power” (2021)

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Solar Power is the third studio album from indie-pop sensation Lorde. The New Zealand singer/songwriter was shoved practically overnight into the international spotlight thanks to her minimalistic and infectious breakout hit “Royals”, which was one of the most popular songs of the past decade. Both the song and the album it appeared on, 2013’s Pure Heroine, were met with commercial and critical acclaim.

Her sophomore album, Melodrama, saw even greater acclaim and marked significant growth for Lorde. After having listened to both albums over the years, I would consider myself a fan of her music. It’s the type of music that sounds simple on the surface but gets more interesting the deeper you dig. She has this charisma and relatability about her that is so endearing.

We now see even more growth on Solar Power, so much so that it’s almost a completely different direction for Lorde. If it wasn’t clear from the contrast in album titles and even the cover art, Lorde’s newest album pushes the melodrama away in favor of sunshine and a carefree vibe. Unfortunately, Solar Power doesn’t always have the depth, variety, and level of artistry that Lorde has shown she is clearly capable of.


Track by Track

“The Path” is a strong opener with its dreary guitars, plenty of falsettos, and a rich, mystical sound complemented by flutes and organic production focused on real instruments. This organic approach is seen throughout most of the album. The lyrical crux of the song is the catchy and fun refrain “I just hope the sun will show us the path”, which in itself is a great intro to the vibe of this album. When the drums kick in at the halfway point, they aren’t integrated in a sophisticated way, but they at least round out the last leg of the song with some momentum and a lush sound. Additionally, Lorde’s vocals are, at times, too loud in the mix. It’s a great scene-setter for the album despite my nitpicks.

The title track “Solar Power” plays out in the same exact structure as the previous song, which is really concerning this early in the tracklisting. It, too, starts as an acoustic guitar-driven track that eventually resolves with the repeated refrain of the song title and some drums to give it some even greater groove. Lyrically, it’s this cutesy reflection on Summer and the joy it brings Lorde. It’s clear she had a lot of fun recording this song and it always puts a smile on my face hearing her

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performance on this track. She has a newfound confidence in herself on this track that is both refreshing and satisfying to hear. I especially like the line “I’m kind of like a prettier Jesus”. The track slowly adds in some background vocals until the climax of the song and the beat drops to a blissful payoff. I really like that even in the final few seconds of the song instruments keep getting added and more vocal layers are added to give it this choral effect. However, I wish the song didn’t end with a single high-pitched vocal singing the title of the song. It’s an anticlimactic and underwhelming ending to a song that, for a few seconds, felt so grand. It would have been a better finish for a big cymbal hit and a final guitar chord being strummed, both sounds ringing out for a few seconds. 

“California” sees Lorde reflecting on her past and longing for simpler times, a theme that fits well within the confines of this summary, nostalgic album. The lyrics here are tough to get through as they don’t follow a set narrative and are a bit too all over the place. It’s this odd middle ground where she gets really specific but then goes back to being really vague about a variety of memories. I really enjoy the lo-fi instrumentation on this song, particularly the drowned-out guitars. Other than that, this song comes and goes without having much of an identity. The hook isn’t all that fun, catchy, or compelling. The track swells a bit in the outro, but not enough to make me want to come back to it.

“Stoned at the Nail Salon” is another cute, mellow, guitar-driven tune – only this time it’s in a 6/8 time signature. Similar to “California”, it’s a reflective song that follows a stream of consciousness. It, too, doesn’t settle on one single subject, but it’s more forgivable on this track as she rounds out the verses with that line on the chorus where she says she’s probably just stoned at the nail salon, which at least gives listeners a reason for the seemingly random lyrics. Her vocal performance is very warm and inviting. It almost feels like you’re sitting around at a campfire with Lorde and singing along with her. I don’t mind how minimalistic the production is on this track (which mainly consists of her vocals, guitars, and a bass guitar), but its runtime is far too long for how little this song actually gives you in return.

“Fallen Fruit” begins just like pretty much every song so far: guitar and vocals. At

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this point, it’s clear that this album has quickly run out of ideas and worn its summer vibe almost completely thin. The guitars here are almost identical to the ones on “The Path” to make things even worse. Like “California”, the chorus is oversimplified and not compelling in the slightest. The lyrics are a bit nonsensical as well. This track seems to be about disappearing from society and living in nature, but it isn’t even written all that well. Smack in the middle of this song is an awkward trap-style bass drum hit that adds virtually nothing to the track before it snaps back to the organic production. Things at least ramp up to an interesting point in the vocal department in the final chorus as Lorde really belts out some notes, which is not something she does very often. Overall though, this track is a confusing misstep.

“Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)” sounds way too similar to “Solar Power”. Everything from the tempo to the drumbeat to the opening verses and even the simple chorus. The lyrics on this song at least give you a little more meat to sink your teeth into as Lorde goes over growing up, self-improvement, and love. At its core, there’s an uplifting message in this song. However, the heart of this song is all but ruined by the drawn-out and terribly cringe-worthy spoken word outro. I think they meant for it to sound quirky, but it just comes across as incredibly awkward with lyrics such as “Welcome to Sadness/The temperature is unbearable until you face it”. I get that it’s supposed to be like an airline pilot giving you a rundown of your destination before you land on some deserted, sunny island, but to end your song with “We can go look at the sunrise by euphoria, mixed with existential vertigo?/Cool…” is simply facepalm worthy. 

“The Man with the Axe” is one of the best tracks here, mostly thanks to how well-written it is. Lorde gets extremely personal and raw with her experiences with fame, a past relationship, and even her past discography. She compares a past lover to a “man with an axe” and Lorde is the tree that he decided to cut down one day. She also discusses how her old songs are often hard to perform because it makes her relive old painful memories, a topic that doesn’t get explored a ton in music. Instrumentally, it’s pretty much what we’ve been getting for most of the album: lo-fi guitars and quaint drums. However, I think it works especially well here because it really spotlights the lyrics of the song. The chords that were chosen towards the end of the song are a bit twisted, giving the song this off-balanced feeling. Whatever key was chosen for this song works really well.

Unfortunately, we return to mediocrity on “Dominoes”. The lyrics discuss how a

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man she used to love has become someone who flicks through women like you would dominoes, which is honestly a really cool metaphor to describe a heartless man. Lorde is pretty relentless on this song as she goes off on how much of a player this man has become. Despite this, there are still lyrical hiccups on this track. The biggest offender is the opening line: “I heard that you were doing yoga/With Uma Thurman’s mother/Just outside of Woodstock/Now you’re watering all the flowers/You planted with your new girlfriend/Outside on the rooftop”. It almost borders on parody just how much summer and nature Lorde feels she needs to squeeze into every lyric on this album. Additionally, the instrumentation is pretty bare-bones, which wouldn’t have been a problem if we didn’t have a bunch of songs that sounded like this already on the album. At the very least, these are some of the most satisfying guitar sounds on the album with how chunky and sharp they are.

“Big Star” is a heartfelt ode to Lorde’s deceased dog. It’s another helping of the minimalistic indie-folk-pop we’ve been getting this entire time (just a drowned-out guitar and bass). However, it’s one of her better vocal performances on the album and you can actually feel the heart and soul of this song. Still, I can’t help but keep wondering why Lorde keeps rehashing the same ideas on every song. 

“Leader of a New Regime” is a very short, almost transitional song, about a desire for someone to lead a new life on whatever island Lorde has found herself on. It’s the most forgettable song Lorde has ever created. Once again, it’s another slice of incredibly bare production with little to no identity other than “summer”.

Thankfully, the last two tracks give the album the finish it needed to save it from being a complete snooze-fest. “Mood Ring” pairs acoustic guitars with a sharp electronic beat that gives the song this nice groove that’s been absent from most of the songs on the album. It’s also catchy and provides a fun enough sing-along moment as Lorde discusses material possessions and how they anchor us to our existence. I do wish they would have brought out some swelling synths on the final chorus or turned up some of the more organic instrumentation because it’s an extremely vocal-heavy track with how it’s mixed. This one actually feels like a summer song I can vibe with.

The closer “Oceanic Feeling” takes a while to get going, but it does offer a few

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moments of genuine bliss at its climax. It starts with some piano keys and slowly adds on drums, guitars, a bass guitar, and synths in a similar way that “Solar Power” does. I love how the drums are produced on this song. They are super crisp and at a great level in the mix. The real magic here comes in the vocal layering on this song and all of the ad-libs and call and response moments Lorde has. However, the song fizzles out just as it starts getting really good, which left me disappointed. The lyrics are truly all over the place (an unfortunate theme of the album) and are the usual mishmash of summer themes and pondering about life. I’m just glad it wasn’t another guitar ballad.

Final Thoughts

Solar Power knows what it wants to be: a stripped-back, summery album. While it succeeds in being that, it fails in holding my attention when I attempt to listen to the album as a whole. Between the repetitive and uninspired instrumentation and some absolutely cringe-worthy lyrics, Lorde seems to have lost the song quality that initially drew me to her music. If you were to cut out the entire middle section of this album, you’d have a pretty damn good EP. Instead, what we were given is a rather boring album.


Rating Scale: 

0 – 4 = Ranges from “utter garbage” to “generally disliked it”

5 = Indifference

6 – 10 = Ranges from “generally liked it” to “masterpiece”

Final Rating = 4.9/10