Before there was Billie Eilish or Clairo, there was Lorde.
The New Zealand-born alt-pop star is one of the founding mothers of dark and moody music since her 2013 debut album Pure Heroine, which she put out at just 16 years old. Since then, a new dawn of sadgirl melancholia has entered the scene, taking shape as one of today’s trendiest types of music — just in time for Lorde to seemingly exit in favor of a sunnier approach.
The 24-year-old released “Solar Power” on June 10, her first release since 2017’s Melodrama. On the track, which debuts at No. 64 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week, Lorde sings of sun, sand, ocean waves and summer fun.
Some fans, however, were disappointed with Lorde’s new sound. They took to social media to express their disconnect from the single, preferring the darker sounds of Lorde’s previous albums.
Lorde got me through my first real breakup and through many a tough time… but I don't like Solar Power. 😬
— Rosalie Rubio (@rosalieru6io) June 21, 2021
okay i confess solar power is too happy for me
— richard 🪐 (@ribsonrepeat) June 16, 2021
But on Monday, Lorde rang in the summer solstice with a long-awaited album announcement for Solar Power, coming Aug. 20, complete with a full track list, tour details and a glimpse at new lyrics — lyrics that may suggest that “moody Lorde” hasn’t disappeared after all.
“Music box” versions of the album are available for purchase on her website, where an open lyric booklet is pictured. The open page reveals lyrics to “The Path,” the first song on the Solar Power track list: “Now if you’re looking for a saviour, well that’s not me/ You need someone to take your pain for you?/ Well, that’s not me/ ‘Cause we are all broken and sad/ Where are the dreams that we had/ Can’t find the dreams that we had/ Let’s hope the sun will show us the path.”
The lyrics of the yet-released song resemble fan favorites like “Liability” and “Ribs” more than “Solar Power.” “The Path” could just be a palate cleanser to transition us from Melodrama into Solar Power, or it could mean that Lorde hasn’t completely foregone the downcast themes of heartbreak and self-actualization she’s known for.
It’s impossible to know what the other lyrical themes of the album will be based on the track list alone, but some song titles like “Secrets From a Girl (Who’s Seen It All)” and “Mood Ring” look promising for fans who favor Lorde’s gloomier verses.
“The Man With an Axe” seems like it may be related to manmade climate change, something that Lorde is becoming increasingly vocal about. In the album announcement, which she sent in an email, she explained that the music boxes would take the place of CDs in order to reduce her carbon footprint. “I didn’t wanna make something that would end up in a landfill in 2 years, but more than that, I wanted to make something that symbolised my commitment to asking questions of our systems, and making stuff with intention and sensitivity,” she wrote.
Fans had speculated even before the official album announcement that Solar Power, which Lorde had described as “a celebration of the natural world,” would center on the climate crisis. In fact, she visited Antarctica in December to study the subject and published a visual book titled Going South with photos from the trip.
@holzawnsolar power is still good as a standalone song anyway #lorde #solarpower
We’ll have to wait until August to fully compare Lorde’s lyrical past and present, but lovers of “moody Lorde” probably have little reason to fret. Based on what Lorde has told us so far, “Solar Power” seems to be just one layer of a textured, emotional, holistic album.
“In times of heartache, grief, deep love, or confusion, I look to the natural world for answers,” she said when announcing the sunny song. “I’ve learnt to breathe out, and tune in. This is what came through.”