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Lorde – Solar Power reviews: Critics torn over the year’s most divisive album

Critics are completely split over the new album

Sam Moore
Friday 20 August 2021 15:03 BST
Lorde backstage interview

Solar Power is Lorde’s first album in four years, following the release of 2017’s critically acclaimed Melodrama.

Produced with Jack Antonoff, Solar Power sees the New Zealander move away from her electropop stylings towards a more indie-folk sound.

The artist herself has called Solar Power her “weed album”. She originally intended for it to be a “big acid record”, but changed her mind after a bad experience with the drug.

The reviews of the album are now in, a roundup of which can be found below. Has Solar Power been worth the wait? Well, that depends on who you ask...

The Independent - two stars

“Lorde has often spoken of wanting to make music like Joni Mitchell. Solar Power feels like her 21st-century take on The Hissing of Summer Lawns, the 1975 classic on which Mitchell explored the dark underbelly of privileged suburban Californian lives. But where Mitchell spoke deep desperation into her tales of wealthy women hiding spiritual “darkness with a joyful mask”, Lorde just wafts over her pretty, pastichey soundscape without really connecting. More miss than bliss.”

The Guardian - four stars

“There is a chance Solar Power might capture a widespread mood in the same way that Pure Heroine’s highlighting of the gulf between pop’s projection of glamour and teenage life did in 2013. There’s currently talk about the Great Resignation, a post-pandemic reconsideration of the work-life balance that’s apparently led to millions of Americans quitting their jobs every month. Then again, the relatively underwhelming commercial performance of its singles thus far suggests not. Listening to Solar Power, you wonder whether its author wouldn’t actually prefer the latter response to the former.”

Pitchfork - 6.8

“Solar Power leaves so much room to be weirder, wilder, more joyful. I’m thinking of something Lorde said to the newsletter Blackbird Spyplane about why she went to Antarctica and what she learned there: “To go someplace where all you’re thinking about all day is the climate and environment was clarifying, and also kind of mystifying.” Clarifying and mystifying: Is there any other way to feel in the thrall of our only planet?

But there’s just one moment on Solar Power that does. It’s at the very end, “Oceanic Feeling,” after Lorde rambles around for a while, visiting a favorite ocean bluff, reflecting on the lives of her family members and future daughter, on her past self. The beat drops away, the music falls to a murmur, and in a fluttering voice, she calls up a beachside bonfire and ponders metaphoric self-immolation. The implication is that Lorde does not want to do this, not like this, forever; that true happiness will always be out there in front of you, the deep blue shadow over the water.”

Lorde’s new album was inspired in part by Joni Mitchell (Ophelia Mikkelson Jones)

Evening Standard - two stars

“It’s an admirable stance, and wouldn’t we all love to pack in our jobs and escape to the beach, but it’s less fun for the listener to spend time with songs that seem to take pride in their lack of ambition. Even the big single sounds slight, and too many others are satisfied with some acoustic strums and noodled electric guitar notes. It’s pretty, but feels flimsy and will likely shrink her audience considerably. She won’t be sad – it sounds like that’s the plan.”

NME - five stars

“Solar Power, though, doesn’t feel like a record that will suffer that same fate – this is an album that grows in quiet stature with every listen, new nuggets of wisdom making their way to the surface, peeking through its beautiful instrumentation that weaves a stunning, leafy tapestry. Few artists strike gold on every record they create but, for the third time in a row, Lorde has done it again, crafting yet another world-beater.”

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