The cover of the third album from dream-pop mastermind and “prettier Jesus” Lorde is the first clue that the New Zealander is stepping cheekily away from the moody chiaroscuro-amongst-the-bed-linen aesthetic of her last album, 2017’s critically acclaimed Melodrama. While Melodrama presented a philosophy of excess in comparison to Lorde’s Joel Little-produced debut of 2013, Pure Heroine (which spawned the track that started it all, the astonishingly precocious – she was 16 when it was recorded! – Royals), it was the beginning of a partnership which would gild the road ahead; in Jack Antonoff, Yelich-O’Connor found a musical muse who had the capacity to send her own visionary powers into overdrive.
Melodrama was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy, won the New Zealand Music Award for Album of the Year, and elbowed its way onto year-end lists by critics of all proclivities.
In an Instagram story of June 2019 – two years to the day after Melodrama‘s release –Lorde told her fans: “I was such a baby making that work, lots of emotions and learning so much all the time. Feels like I’ve grown a lot since then… I didn’t really know yet that you make a record and get filled up, and then releasing it empties you.” Before her sign-off, she included the tantaslising sentence: “Third one in the oven.”
But plain sailing it was not to be.
Five months after announcing things were well underway, Yelich-O’Connor received a crushing blow – to not just the momentum of Solar Power‘s creation, but to her heart’s core. The musician took to her fan newsletter to explain that work had hit a hiatus, due to a period of mourning. “Pearl came into my life in 2018, and almost immediately changed everything for me,“ she wrote. “As anyone who has had the pleasure of raising a dog can understand, my life grew exponentially. Pearl brought an immeasurable amount of joy and purpose into my world.”
Lorde recalled the pair’s beautiful bond, and Pearl’s adoration for the outdoors, where he “became a blurry speck of gold in the green, far away.” She also revealed that Pearl‘s influence stretched far beyond mere companionship; she saw him as something of a lantern for her music, guiding her down the path of sonic exploration: “He was instrumental to the discovery that was taking place,” she wrote. “I felt he led me towards the ideas. And it’s going to take some time and recalibration, now that there’s no shepherd ahead of me, to see what the work is going to be… But when this great loss crystallises inside me, and my chest rebuilds around it, hopefully I‘ll be able to finish up, and share it with you, and we‘ll all grow together, as we always do.”
And she was right: Solar Power is completed, and it’s as wide and bright as anything Yelich-O’Connor had ever made.
It seems her creative co-op with Antonoff is bearing ever juicer fruit. The album’s lead single and titular track is sun-kissed from all angles, and Lorde relishes every sibilant moment in its lyrics as if she’s biting into one of the “overripe peaches” of her beach picnic party.
In a newsletter accompanying its release, she wrote: “There’s someone I want you to meet. Her feet are bare at all times. She’s sexy, playful, feral, and free. She’s a modern girl in a deadstock bikini, in touch with her past and her future, vibrating at the highest level when summer comes around. Her skin is glowing, her lovers are many. I‘m completely obsessed with her, and soon you will be too.”
She later described the track as “the first of the rays” which emanate from the album as a whole.“It’s about that infectious, flirtatious summer energy that takes hold of us all, come June (or December, if you‘re a Southern Hemisphere baby like me).”
The track is the bach door opening on the record‘s world, a place which is, at its very kernel, deeply attuned with the natural environment. “The album is a celebration of the natural world, an attempt at immortalizing the deep, transcendent feelings I have when I’m outdoors,” Lorde explains. “In times of heartache, grief, deep love, or confusion, I look to the natural world for answers. I’ve learned to breathe out, and tune in. This is what came through.”
Solar Power by Lorde is available August 20, including on JB-exclusive sun-marbled orange vinyl (pictured above), via Universal.
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