By Julia Kemp
On August 20, 2021, alternative singer Ella Yelich-O’Connor (also known as Lorde) released a summer album to lift all of the sad young teenagers out of their depressive Covid slumps and into the sun. In Solar Power, Lorde’s third studio album, symbols of nature and hippie-like energy bring a relaxing, rejuvenating, and fresh feeling to every playlist.
The first track of any album should serve as a preview of the energy and messages of the album to come and “The Path” does just that. This song asks the questions and sets the stage for the answers given in the later tracks. Lorde uses “The Path” as a warning to the listeners, saying, “if you’re looking for a savior, well, that’s not me.” For all of the young, lonely teenagers who depend on Lorde for her comforting and relatable anthems, Lorde suggests that you look elsewhere for she is just as broken and lost as us. Lyricises Lorde, “you need someone to take your pain for you?/ Well, that’s not me/ ‘Cause we are all broken and sad/ Where are the dreams that we had?/ (…) I just hope the sun will show us the path.”
“Solar Power” serves as a relief to all of the sad people of the world. Yes, this year has sucked, but relax everyone, it’s summer now. Advises Lorde, “forget all of the tears that you’ve cried/ It’s over/ It’s a new state of mind/ Are you coming, my baby?” This song is one of my favorites on the album; It’s perfectly refreshing and inviting. “Solar Power” is everything you need in a blissful summer song.
In “California,” Lorde rejects the masquerade of California living. She renounces “California love” and the suffocating, fake energy of fame, relationships, and Hollywood. The calming drums and smooth vocals in “California” provide a beautiful atmosphere and gentle feeling.
“Stoned at the Nail Salon”
One of my favorite songs on the album, “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” describes Lorde’s mistakes and experiences in hindsight. During her trip to the nail salon, she recalls the insanity and chaos of youth and young love. Describes Lorde, “My hot blood’s been burning for so many summers now/ It’s time to cool it down/ Wherever that leads/ ‘Cause all the music you loved at sixteen, you’ll grow out of/ And all the times, they will change, it’ll all come around/ I don’t know.” This self-reflection also serves as a piece of advice to her young listeners. A recurring theme on this album, Lorde uses the pain in her past and weaves it into her songwriting as a way to show her young audience how to truly find inner peace and happiness.
In “Fallen Fruit” Lorde blames the older generation for the destruction of the environment. Using an Eden-after-climate-change metaphor, Lorde explains how the young people of the world are unable to accomplish their goals and find happiness in a world that is left in shambles. Lines like, “To the ones who came before us/ All the golden ones who were lifted on a wing/ We had no idea the dreams we had were far too big /Far too big,” encapsulate the meaning of the song.
“Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)”
And we’ve made it, finally, to my favorite song on Solar Power. “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)” truly encapsulates the theme of the album. Lorde serves as an older sister or motherly figure (A “prettier Jesus”, if you will) who advises the younger generation to trust themselves and their dreams and to allow all of their emotions —including sadness— to be felt. This song ends with a metaphorical arrival to “Sadness.” Lorde serves as our tour guide, and advises that we be careful with our “emotional baggage.” so that “it doesn’t fall onto someone (we) love.” With a quiet transcendental musical background, Lorde leads us into Sadness. “When we’ve reached your final destination, I will leave you to it, you’ll be fine”, comforts Lorde, “I’m just gonna show you in, and you can stay as long as you need to get familiar with the feeling.”
“The Man with the Axe”
What’s an amazing album without a heart-wrenching love song? In “The Man with the Axe,” Lorde describes a deep and emotional relationship through the metaphor of a tree and an axe. Lorde, who is the pine tree in this metaphor, becomes rooted and stuck in the dirt, holding onto haunting things from her past. Finally the “man with the axe and the look in his eyes” allows her to fall and to let go of the things that she was tied to.
“Dominoes,” the most up-beat, acoustic song on the album, describes a person who is obsessed with reinventing themself. Lorde describes the self-care phenomenon in many of the songs on the album including “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” “Mood Ring,” and “Dominoes.” She explains how the younger generation is so obsessed with finding things to fill the holes of their souls, but that they look externally instead of within themselves. Criticizes Lorde in “Dominoes,” “Just another phase you’re rushing through/ Go all New Age, outrunning your blues.”
In “Big Star,” Lorde explains her experience with grief after losing her dog, Pearl. Lorde describes Pearl’s friendliness and how she sees her as a celebrity in her life in lines like, “you like to say hello to total strangers” and “you’re a big star, wanna take your picture.”
“Leader of a New Regime”
In the shortest song on the album, “Leader of a New Regime,” Lorde steps back from her motherly advice towards her young listeners, and instead expresses her fear for the future. “Leader of a New Regime” is set in a “not-so-distant future,” according to Lorde, where the environment and human society has broken down completely.
“Mood Ring,” the song that, in my opinion, is most central to the point of the entire album, is set from the satirical perspective of a young girl who looks in all of the wrong places for happiness. In an interview with Genius, Lorde goes through the thoughts and actions of this young girl, and how she looks everywhere from crystals to vitamins to foreign countries to escape the anxiety and inner chaos of life. Lorde uses the metaphor of a “mood ring” to show how distant people are from their inner emotions. “I can’t feel a thing,” expresses Lorde, “I keep looking at my mood ring/ Tell me how I’m feeling/ Floating away, floating away.”
At the end of this magnificent album, filled with a reflection of her past mistakes, Lorde acknowledges the things that mean the most to her: the earth and her family. In this personal simple song, Lorde describes the cicadas and oceanic rays of New Zealand, Lorde’s home country, and expresses her gratitude for “all the living things under the sun.” Following the theme of the album, Lorde spends the first couple of verses giving advice to the young and scared youth. In this song however, she addresses a specific person to advise: her brother. Lorde ends this song and album in an optimistic prediction of her future. She lets the “cherry-black lipstick” of her era of youth and naivety “collect dust in the drawer.” She’s ready to move forward by “breathing out” and “tuning in.”