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Smooth Bananas: ‘Solar Power’

Lorde has been staying out of the music spotlight for several years, but she has returned to the scene with a bright foray into self-reflection: “Solar Power.”

The album, produced by Lorde and Jack Antonoff and released by label Universal, is the third studio album from the New Zealand singer-songwriter. The album has 12 tracks of similar lengths and runs approximately 43 minutes. The album is categorized by a pop or R&B style with many of Lorde’s usual influences.

This album is the natural evolution of Lorde’s style through the lens of the typical development of pop-oriented singer-songwriters. Many of them have an initial album with cliched tracks and uninspired radio rockers followed by a better-but-largely-unrecognized second album. This album is the “self-reflective” stage of a singer-songwriter’s career. You can see this stage in albums by Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift, Lorde’s compatriots in musical stardom. Lorde, of course, is most famous for her 2013 single “Royals.” This album is certainly a long journey from the catchy radio hit that song turned out to be.

“Solar Power” is all about chilling out and enjoying life regardless of the extreme disasters all around us. Listening to “Solar Power” should feel like an escape from the climate crisis, political turmoil, and ravaging pandemic all around us. After her second album, “Melodrama,” the New Zealand singer returned home to Auckland and was rarely seen. She had a strict policy of avoiding technology and social media to “detox” from the stress of her recent world tour. She also made a pilgrimage of sorts to the continent of Antarctica because she wanted to see the effects of the climate crisis firsthand. The experience had a profound effect on her music as “Solar Power” is distinctly informed by the climate crisis and the incredible threat it poses to humanity. The album listens like an aural self-help guide for weathering the coming storm (both figuratively and literally).

“Solar Power” strips down the style typical of Lorde in favor of something much simpler. This is no doubt the handiwork of producer Antonoff who is well known for his work on Taylor Swift’s most recent two albums, “Folklore” and “Evermore.” These albums share the distinctly acoustic nature of “Solar Power.” The music on “Solar Power” favors much simpler ingredients, taking them and molding them into something far more interesting than those same ingredients in the hands of a lesser singer-songwriter. In this album, Lorde isn’t begging for our attention. She’s merely asking for it and it’s hard to refuse her.

Lorde’s lyrics are a striking difference from her earlier career. She has taken a much more poetic approach than in previous albums and it’s evident by the imagery representing things like raw emotions and scenes of nature.

The album is a great way to unwind in a way that causes one to self-reflect much in the way that Lorde did after her second album. This album invites you to put your life in greyscale rather than give in to the incessant march of life. “Solar Power” receives a B-plus rating.

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