Happy to see you again?
Has a pop star lately been ghosting us as effectively as Lorde? Since touring the brilliant 2017 album by the New Zealand-born singer-songwriter, Melodrama, wrapped up at the end of 2018, it was touch and go. We would have an update and we would have six months of silence. We heard that work on a third album had started, and we heard it was put on hold as she mourned the loss of her dog Pearl, and then we heard the music was in the works again and was going well, that, to use it deliciously vague wording, “something has started to take shape.” Sometimes she would drop a pin, make appearances in Auckland, and appear in Antarctica, leaving the kind of sporadic, spaced tracks you only leave when you don’t want to be found. More than anyone in her field of work, Lorde stayed out of dodging at the end of the Last Era. (Beyoncé’s updates leave us more concrete details, and we rarely know where she was until days, if not weeks, later.) It makes sense to Lorde. She was, until Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo arrived, one of our youngest A-list pop stars. (The last time Lorde released an album we didn’t know about Billie or Olivia yet!) She deserved the space, the time away from peeping spectators and demanding audiences, time to cultivate the craft that made her world famous at 17. We hope she used it well.
The break is over. With the abrupt announcement and messy leak / release of “Solar Power,” Lorde is back, seemingly well rested, and chanting the virtues of disappearing from the grid and putting herself first. Phones are breathed in open water and plans are canceled. “Can you reach me,” she cooed before a chorus. ” No you can not ! “Solar Power” is a song about the healing powers of quiet beach life. (The video looks like The beach, that Leonardo DiCaprio movie directed by Danny Boyle that you haven’t thought about in years about people living happily in a seaside town until… things happen.) The song is catchy so familiar, a mishmash -mixed with the rhythm of the start-stop acoustic guitar of George Michael’s “Faith” and the psychedelic dance-rock of early ’90s British rave kings like Happy Mondays and Primal Scream. He has a good heart and good taste, “Solar energy”. It’s light and fun, but it almost feels more like a carefree vacation update than the return to success we’ve been waiting for from the simplest times.
Will this leapfrog make its way to the song of the summer charts? Will conservatives who now like to harass pop stars complain about a singer called “Lorde” who claims she is prettier than Jesus? Was George Michael’s estate involved in the editing? Does Jack Antonoff ever sleep? Has Lorde been gone long enough that the conventions of sound, mouth-hungry ASMR vocals and the slippery amalgamation of modern pop and classic singer-songwriter vibes that made the last album a classic? snapshot, to filter through a new class of pop star who’s ready to be present in a way that doesn’t seem to interest him? How long do we have before she makes us cry again? As usual, Lorde leaves us more questions than answers.