These days, Lorde has been keeping busy. Within two months, she released three tracks and two music videos, along with a new album on the way. In a sense, she’s almost omnipresent on the internet.
But taking a time machine to the days before June would lead you to a ghost town. Fans’ posts were filled with conspiracy theories fed by crumbs left in the Kiwi singer’s email newsletters, her preferred mode of communication. Signs all pointed to her third album “Solar Power,” a record years in the making after her sophomore “Melodrama.”
“Albums take me about two years—start to finish—to write, record, and produce. I do it almost all by myself with one other person. It’s a really intensive process,” she tells us during a press con, just as she recounts the time she started working on tracks during the tail end of 2018’s “Melodrama” tour. “The truth is my albums just take me a long time because I like to have really undergone a personal transformation between albums so I have something really different to say. And that takes a while, obviously.”
“Solar Power” is the result of that transformation, which is, in a way, as different in sound as it is in content. With its golden-themed, nature-leaning motif, Lorde calls it her “sun worship” album. The tracks take on a bit of ’60s Californian folk sounds, mixed with the early 2000s radio pop she grew up with. But according to her, the record’s essence all came together during two different events: during her usual dog-walking bouts at her local park and her famous trip to Antarctica, where the name “Solar Power” popped into her head.
“Through that little routine, I saw the seasons changing for the first time and I saw the morning light every morning and the evening every night,” she says. “I really started to feel the magic of nature and the outside world, even just from going to a pretty normal park.”
The internet’s eco-conscious queen
Even if the album does rely on the natural world, she wouldn’t exactly consider its tracks having any “strong messages” about environmentalism. She isn’t a scientist to convey a topic as big as that, she says. But Lorde’s still doing her part to ease things for a movement that’s close to her—starting from her very merch.
“What I did do is try and reevaluate all of the things that I do in my job, whether it’s something like making a CD or making merch. Over a period of time, I’ve become more conscious of my personal climate footprint. I started composting at home, trying not to throw stuff away unnecessarily, and I also tried to buy less clothing,” she says.
“But I had this realization that I don’t know where my merch comes from, and I don’t know anything about how they’re made. It’s a few things like that which I’ve tried to really redo, and the CD alternative of the music box has been really cool because that’s a fully carbon offset product.”
Just like its packaging, “Solar Power” marks a change in her as an artist, as well as just Ella. If 2017’s “Melodrama” was the post-teen angst of 2013’s “Pure Heroine,” “Solar Power” is her coming to grips with adulthood. And surprisingly, it sounds pretty fun—which could owe a lot to her change as a person.
“I feel like I have seen so much and have a much greater understanding of lots of different things. My world is a lot broader now. And I tried to be a lot more understanding. As a teenager, I was kind of tough. And I would just make a snap decision on something.”
In fact, there’s a track in the album that addresses exactly that: “Secrets From a Girl (Who’s Seen It All),” which is a conversation between her current and 15-year-old self, fresh off success thanks to “Royals.” It’s sad, beautiful, and tender, and it imparts some nuggets of relatable wisdom—something that has echoed with her fans since “Pure Heroine.”
Growing up with Lorde
“It’s such a cool feeling when kids come to talk to you about the journey they’ve been on with your music,” she says, when asked about fans who treat her albums as their coming-of-age soundtracks. “A lot of my listeners were the same age as me when my first song came out. I wrote it because I just wanted to have something that my peers would relate to and the fact that that has continued past that first song is still amazing to me.”
“I can’t decide where people are going to be at when they get an album of mine, but I just trust that, eventually, they’ll be in the right zone for it and it’ll do what it needs.”
She adds, “As I get older, I realized that so much of [making pop music] is about context. These projects don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re in conversation with culture and current events and everything else that’s happening. I can’t decide where people are going to be at when they get an album of mine, but I just trust that, eventually, they’ll be in the right zone for it and it’ll do what it needs.”
As for Lorde, she’s back in the same spot she dubs as her pop star persona, where her “interview” and “photoshoot” hats sit firmly in place atop her head. But while she emerged from hibernation to make rounds on the internet with “Solar Power’s” debut, don’t expect to spot her active in social media just yet.
“I felt so much pressure to be wearing the right clothes, going to the right place on holiday, and taking the right Instagram photo,” she says. “Once I removed myself from that, I ended up feeling really good, and it made me feel okay about not necessarily being the person with a finger on the pulse or the hot girl out there. It’s a small price to pay for feeling free and content.”
Aside from her new record, she’s keeping herself occupied with tracks from her playlist—including Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever” which she “greatly enjoyed”—and fielding questions about potential collabs. Harry Styles is still in the cards, who she thinks is “charming and cool.” Lorde supposes they could do something cool together, but of course, the concept is still up in the air.
While we wait for those what-ifs reserved for the future, “Solar Power” is there to tell Lorde’s side of the story during the long four-year drought. And just like always, you might find it a bit relatable, too.
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Photography by Ophelia Mikkelson Jones, courtesy of Universal Music Group