The last time we heard from Lorde, she was dissecting her first major heartbreak in one of the best break-up albums of all-time. While there were moments of 2017’s ‘Melodrama’ that lifted you up (the house party based ‘Homemade Dynamite’, the euphoric ‘Green Lights’ and closer ‘Perfect Places’), there were also parts that brought you to your knees weeping (the very specific memories of ‘Hard Feelings’; the tender acoustics of ‘Liability’).
Four years on, Ella Yelich O’Connor is back and sounding all recovered. “I started going back to the studio in December, just for something to do, and to my surprise, good things came out,” she told fans in a surprise newsletter back in May 2020. “Happy, playful things. I felt my melodic muscles flexing and strengthening.” ‘Solar Power’, the first single from her upcoming third album, is the first evidence of that. It’s a sun-kissed ode to starting anew and doing it in one of the best places for it – soaking up the rays on a glorious beach.
“Forget all the tears you’ve cried, it’s over,” Lorde sings. “It’s a new state of mind.” The message is clear – if ‘Melodrama’ was an album coming to terms with Earth-shattering change, this new era finds the New Zealand star with the blues firmly shaken off and ready to drink in the light.
‘Solar Power’ is a quietly but supremely confident return. At one point, Lorde adopts the role of a seaside pied piper, calling on her shoreline neighbours to gather round and listen to her talk. “Lead the boys and girls onto the beaches,” she begins. “Come one, come all/ I’ll tell you my secrets.” Then comes the kicker, the iconic line that is destined to take on a whole new life online: “I’m kind of like a prettier Jesus.”
One big decree ‘Solar Power’ hints at is that of getting untethered from our pocket portals and return to focusing on nature. “I throw my cellular device in the water,” she purrs. In a giddily mocking tone, she teases: “Can you reach me? No, you can’t.” Set to this gorgeous, laidback track, it sounds absolutely liberating.
Musically, the track is also a departure from the musician’s last era. It rides along a ‘Screamadelica’ shuffle, the groove building as Lorde’s vitamin D levels soar. Elsewhere, there are elements of Lana Del Rey’s Laurel Canyon folk era – and, therefore by extension, calls back to the queen of that sound, Joni Mitchell. The lush, ornate harmonies also harbour similarities to those Wolf Alice have adopted since their 2017 album ‘Visions Of A Life’.
As ‘Solar Power’ enters its final throes, Lorde delivers another instruction that’s more than easy to follow. “Come on, let the bliss begin,” she coolly commands. “Blink three times when you feel it kicking in.” You won’t even get 30 seconds into the track before your eyes are flickering in triple time.
Where Lorde will go after this remains unclear, but her third era has started off on a beautiful, summery tip. All that’s left to do is get down to your nearest expanse of water, douse on the SPF and do as Ella would – cut loose, lay back and get free.