With the release of Lorde’s third album, there was a fair amount of backlash and criticism from fans who were shocked that their favorite sad girl was now releasing “happy” music. This isn’t speculation; people have gone online to explicitly state that they don’t like “Solar Power” because it’s not as sad as her previous albums. As a result of this, “Solar Power” is very much becoming known as Lorde’s “happy” album — but is it really that happy?
“Solar Power” is admittedly more upbeat and hopeful than Lorde’s previous album, “Melodrama.” But it’s still not a completely “happy” album. Some of its songs and lyrics are, in fact, pretty bleak. “The Path” includes standout lyrics such as “’Cause we’re all broken and sad,” “Can’t find the dreams we had,” and “Saviour is not me.” These aren’t exactly the most uplifting words in the English Dictionary. “Mood Ring” plainly states “ I can’t feel a thing,” and “California” is all about not wanting that “California love.” “Solar Power” isn’t all sunshine. That being said, a good portion of the songs from the album seem to be about the journey towards happiness and the revelation that is in the process of becoming happy.
The first track from “Solar Power” is “The Path,” which lays the groundwork for the theme of the journey towards happiness. Despite its sad lyrics, the song does have a hopeful undertone to it. Overall, “The Path” feels like Lorde reflecting on her life as a celebrity and what she has been up to since we last saw her. It also feels like a confession about past sadness and Lorde acknowledging that her music in the past has been primarily sad. But this time around, she tells us she won’t be making another album for wallowing, hence the reason she isn’t our “saviour.” Instead, she says, “Let’s hope the sun will show us the path.” This path is the first step in the journey; it’s about recognizing previous sadness and looking for a better way forward.
“California” does something similar, with Lorde saying goodbye to the Hollywood lifestyle she had following the success of “Royals”and the Grammy it won her. The song’s refrain is “Don’t want that California love,” where Lorde looks back on her rise to fame and how her life changed as a result of that, and decides she doesn’t want to go back to that way of living. The song’s refrain encourages listeners to look back on and root out their own old habits.
Making such a monumental change can be quite the existential ordeal, which is where “Stoned at the Nail Salon” comes in. “Stoned at the Nail Salon” is about how, compared to touring the world, Lorde’s domestic life is slow. As a result, she begins to face a lot of existential questions, which she deals with by first getting high and then getting a manicure. The song is all about things changing and realizing it’s time to change with them. To move towards a better lifestyle, we have to recognize our lives won’t always stay the same and that sometimes we need to change as well. And hey, if that stresses you out too much, just take a page from Lorde’s book and get high, get a manicure, and mull things over.
Sometimes bettering yourself takes a weird detour into spirituality and wellness culture, which is what “Mood Ring” is all about. The song is Lorde’s satirical yet empathetic attempt at understanding wellness culture, as it pokes fun at the culture’s gimmick-y solutions to problems, like thinking something as trivial as a mood ring can actually help you parse out your feelings. That being said, the song can also be viewed as an attempt at trying to be better and feel better by throwing oneself into various practices, however wacky they may be. “Mood Ring” is the step in your mental health journey where you explore crazy avenues to find what works for you.
When things do start to go your way, and change does start to happen, it’s only natural to look back at how far you’ve come and realize how much has changed. This is exactly what “Secrets From A Girl (Who’s Seen It All)” is about. This track features Lorde talking to the girl who wrote “Ribs,” a song about fearing the future, and telling her younger self about overcoming all the things she feared would never change. “Secrets From A Girl (Who’s Seen It All)” is definitely more upbeat than the other tracks on the album. It’s all about realizing that the things we were once scared of aren’t really that scary and that we have overcome them, and will be able to overcome the next challenges as they arise. This song marks a turning point — the irreversible moment where things have permanently gotten better.
Lorde culminates this difficult work and long journey in the last song on the album, “Oceanic Feeling,” a song about Lorde’s family, her home country of New Zealand, and the end of a long journey. The song seems to be about finding peace with the help of the ones we love, looking back on where we began and where we are now, and also about looking forward to the future.
It’s about getting as close to being truly happy as possible, taking life one year at a time, and enjoying it all along the way. Overall, the final song of the album wraps up the journey Lorde has been on — it’s a song (and album) about finally achieving your goal, getting to that better place, and knowing you’ll be able to stay there.