The Lorde album cycle comes as infrequently as a leap year, but when it does, it lands like a meteorite. Her debut album, 2013’s Pure Heroine, surprised critics with her almost bizarrely mature critique of self and society, as she gazed at the wider world in vivid detail from her bedroom window in Auckland.
Then, after being dubbed the future of music by none other than David Bowie, its sequel Melodrama once again recalibrated its vision: it details the sourness of a relationship through electro-pop synths and imagery. of a house party gone wrong and landed high on best albums of the decade charts around the world.
Then there is solar energy. While its third and most recent offering may have split reviews down the middle, it feels like a record that can age better over time, once we’ve all had a summer worth shouting about. As writer Douglas Greenwood recently tweeted, “Solar Power is actually a great album, it’s just not the album you asked for.”
Ahead of Lorde’s return to the UK for The Solar Power Tour this week, her first tour here in almost five years (!), let’s take a look at some of the star’s best – but most underrated – work. estimated.
The opening song for Lorde’s 2021 album Solar Power, his first in four years, was a reintroduction of a now independent star. “If you’re looking for a savior, well it’s not me,” she tells her fans, putting some distance between herself and the glitz, glamor and divine status that comes with being a popstar. It’s Lorde kissed by the sun, roof down and heading to the beach for the answers. She urges us all to do the same.
“Hard Feelings” is a thrilling depiction of the harrowing days, weeks and months of waiting for the embers of a lost relationship to finally die down. Sometimes, however, after a breakup, it’s the smallest actions of self-care that help us build a bridge to well-being. “I light all the candles, I cut flowers for all my rooms. I care about me like I cared about you,” Lorde hums, before the song reaches a crescendo of screaming metallic synths. “Hard Feelings” joins the likes of “Liability” as one of the most tender moments of Lorde’s career so far.
“Ribs” is certainly not underrated among Lorde fans, having become a nostalgic cult anthem for those who grew up alongside him. Written by teenage Lorde the day after she threw a house party while her parents were away, “Ribs” is a rush of chills and fears to leave the safety net of childhood and dive your toes in adulthood. “I want them back, those spirits we had,” Lorde laments, her voice swelling and blossoming in a kind of one-woman chorus as the reality of growing old sinks in.
In a 2021 Consequence ranking of all songs produced by Jack Antonoff, Lorde’s Solar Power album track “California” somehow sank to last place. Lyrically, yes, it’s not the most relevant of his catalog, focusing only on his jaded take on California and its clouds that “don’t hold back the rain.” But beneath Lorde’s pensive disdain for Hollywood, “California” is a sweet, melancholic ode to leaving a once-lived life behind and choosing the path to happiness that’s best for you.
If “Liability” is the Uber’s song coming home from the party, drunk with tears on her cheeks, “Liability (Reprise)” is for the next morning, sunlight peeking through the blinds. The fiery doubt and inflated sense of responsibility begin to fade on sister song Liability, as clarity sets in and Lorde recalls in her signature rasp, “You’re not what you thought you were “.
“Magnets” with disclosure
Despite the combined might of Lorde and Disclosure, this 2015 single wasn’t quite a worldwide hit. It’s a wonder why not: Lorde’s production and vocals are smooth and slinky, resulting in one of the most radio-ready offerings of his career to date. It’s fun, seductive, and we’ve yet to see Lorde release another track quite like it.
‘One World Alone’
On the one hand, the closing song from Lorde’s debut album is a reflection of the singer as a 16-year-old, tentatively exploring the gap between childhood and adulthood. We talk about fake friends, driving cars with boys and being brought up on the internet, delivered over soulful guitar chords. On the other, it’s Lorde contemplating the small space she occupies in the world and how one day it won’t mean anything at all: ‘Someday the blood won’t flow so willingly’, sings she. “One day we’ll all be quiet.”
“Hold No Grudges”
It’s easy to see why “Hold No Grudge” was relegated to one of Solar Power’s two bonus tracks. Sonically, it’s a cohesive addition to the album, all watery acoustics and smooth, hazy rhythms. Lyrically though, it’s a step away from the album’s summertime escapism, instead exploring the feeling of maturing and letting go of relationships gone wrong. “I know some bullshit has been said and done,” she sings, before reflecting on how the pandemic may have changed her perception. “It’s such a different world now, I can’t hate anyone.”
This slice of breezy late summer trip-hop was a surprise addition to Lorde’s debut, arriving a few months after the album’s release. Describing the lazy, carefree weeks as the seasons blend from summer to fall, layered over increasingly heart-pounding synths, this track deserves as much praise as the rest of Pure Heroine.
“Writer in the Dark”
It’s a shame that ‘Writer in the Dark’ is now probably best known for being the song Lorde performs during silence his fans, considering it to be the most dynamic and offbeat vocal performance in his discography. The verses are whispered over delicate piano strokes, before the histrionic choir takes flight, imbued with a chirping of Kate Bush. If Melodrama is a play, this is the climax.
At the center of Pure Heroine is “Buzzcut Season”, a song that describes the complexities of watching the world burn from a comfortable distance. Airy, spare production puts “Buzzcut Season” on the map as Lorde’s most haunting song to date, and its message remains as relevant today as ever. “Explosions on TV, and all the girls with heads in a dream,” she sings. “So now we live by the pool, where everything is fine.”