Since bursting onto the music scene in 2013 with her debut single Royals, the New Zealand-born Lorde (Ella Yelich-O’Connor) has continually surprised and stimulated her listeners with refreshing, musically complex work. Her third album, Solar Power, was released on August 20th, with a Maori re-recording entitled Te Ao Mārama out today. What better time to look back at the 24-year-old’s short but incredibly illustrious career?
Almost every one of my friends would call Pure Heroine (2013), Lorde’s debut, a formative album in their lives. It includes hits such as Buzzcut Season, Team, and the unsung classic Ribs, painting a beautiful portrait of the uncertainties and confusions of growing up. Lorde and I go way back to my Junior Cert days. Listening to her singing about the headaches and heartbreaks of teenage years, I felt validated in my angst. 14-year-old me loved her wild frizzy hair, her frantic hand movements during her stage performances, and her dark lipstick. She was effortlessly cool, and I was instantly hooked.
The release of her second album Melodrama– what many consider to be her best- came in 2017. Although more of an upbeat, party album than Pure Heroine, Lorde somehow manages to dive deeper into introspectiveness. Songs like Liability, in which she describes thinking she’s just a little bit ‘too much’ for other people to handle, are perfect for those drinking-a-glass-of-wine-and-staring-at-the-ceiling nights. While Melodrama may not have the same emotional associations for me, the pulsing beat of sad party anthem Sober is guaranteed to get me dancing.
Having heard mixed reviews of Solar Power, I was a little nervous to dive in. Literally, as it happened: my first listen took place on holiday while sunbathing beside the pool in what turned out to be the perfect setting. The album is a smooth collection of sun-soaked pop songs, a peaceful reflection on life and love and as the singer herself says, a “look to the natural world for answers”. Lorde appears to have finally found her inner peace: in the song Oceanic Power, she says that “the cherry black lipstick’s gathering dust in a drawer/ I don’t need her anymore.”
I’m happy for Lorde. I really am. But is it wrong for me to want for the return of the heavy lipstick and hard-hitting lyrics? While I am significantly less angsty than I was when I was 14, I still want someone to reassure me that life can be confusing and messy and that music can act as a solace.
If soft summer sounds are what you’re looking for, look no further than Solar Power. But for something a little deeper, I would suggest a return to where it all began…
Listen to Te Ao Mārama, Lorde’s Maori re-recording of Solar Power, here:
Read our review of Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever here: