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Sunday June 4th

Column: Lorde's "Solar Power" doesn't produce much energy

<p>Assistant Photo Editor Ira Wilder frolics in the sun during his desperate attempt to recreate Lorde's Solar Power album cover.</p>
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Assistant Photo Editor Ira Wilder frolics in the sun during his desperate attempt to recreate Lorde's Solar Power album cover.

More than 60,000 Twitter users — including myself — have followed @DidLorde in heavy anticipation for the queen of indie pop’s return. Since June 2019, the Twitter account has been dedicated to tweeting daily answers to the question: did Lorde release an album today?

The answer was finally yes on Aug. 20. 

On her last album, "Melodrama" — released in 2017, Lorde sang that she was going to "disappear into the sun" on "Liability." Now, 1,526 days later, she returns with her junior album "Solar Power" — a departure from the synth-pop, angsty Lorde that we knew and an introduction to a more mature, self-aware, colorless Lorde. 

I am immensely happy for her personal growth. She owes me nothing. According to Lorde, her new album is “a celebration of the natural world,” or an ode to happiness, and a reflection on finding joy in simplicity. I have no doubt that countless fans love this album, but I don’t think I have enough peace in my life to do so. 

Thus, I am addicted to the hedonic symphony of "Melodrama" and the smooth rush of "Pure Heroine." In contrast, I merely enjoyed "Solar Power" the way that one enjoys a Joni Mitchell album — without excitement, but with solemn content.

I appreciate "Solar Power" for what it is and not much beyond that. It was a bit of a let-down for me. 

It’s essentially 43 minutes of early Dido tribute music: soft vocals over a simple drum loop and an acoustic guitar. The album poses a sharp juxtaposition to the explosively exhilarating sound of "Melodrama" that grabbed my ears in 2017 and has not let go since. 

I hold Lorde to a very high standard. The work that she has produced in the past has been nothing short of pop perfection and an airtight testament to her drive and talent. "Solar Power" simply doesn’t hold up to these standards. "Pure Heroine" and "Melodrama" are some of my favorite albums of all time, and after multiple listens, I don’t see "Solar Power" making that list. 

However, there are a few standout songs including “The Path,” “Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)” and “Mood Ring.” 

“The Path” is an excellent album opener; the lyrics “Born in the year of OxyContin, rest in the tall grass / Teen millionaire having nightmares from the camera flash” feel like a mighty battle call, as if Lorde is about to lead us on a charge. 

“Secrets from a Girl (Who’s Seen it All)” is a lyrical message to Lorde’s younger self on navigating getting older, the new album's answer for “Ribs” from "Pure Heroine." Of all of the more upbeat songs on this album, this one is by far the catchiest and most magically alluring. With a pun-filled outro by Robyn, the light and air of this song makes me giddy and at ease.

The melodious “Mood Ring” arguably has the best vocal production on the album. Her harmonies echo like a choir exclaiming the breadth of her joy. But more than that, “Mood Ring” is a bright satire on faux spirituality and astrology, and it highlights the importance of finding happiness within yourself rather than relying on external placebos. 

Still, the listenability of the more upbeat tracks cannot excuse the instrumental mundanity of the others. "Solar Power" is Jack Antonoff’s most recent effort to produce another "Folklore." Following the massive success of Taylor Swift’s first mellow cottagecore album, it seems that Antonoff has turned away from his layer-driven, energetic approach to music production. The Antonoff that brought us classics like “We Are Young,” “Getaway Car” and “Perfect Places” is long gone. 

His shift to slow, understated, almost lazy sound has stained the discographies of Lana Del Rey, with the ballad-controlled, facetiously indie "Chemtrails Over the Country Club;" Clairo, with the glacially-paced "Sling" and now Lorde, with the underwhelming, underproduced and overdramatic "Solar Power." 

The album may grow on me in the future, but for now, "Solar Power" doesn’t produce much energy. 

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