Lorde's not sad anymore. The long-awaited followup to the perfectly-titled Melodrama is called Solar Power, and it's kind of a double entendre -- it's not talking about the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, it's talking about the power the sun has on our lives. Melancholy, introspection, and programmed beats have been replaced by sunny acoustic guitars, featherlight psychedelia, and new age spirituality, with lyrical references to nature, California, Woodstock, flowers in your hair, mood rings, astrology, and marijuana (some a little more try-hard or surface-level than others). It's the warmest, brightest, most organic sounding music Lorde has made yet, and it's the most nostalgic too, with lived nostalgia for Lorde's own teenage years and imagined nostalgia for the 1960s. Lorde began her career as an alt-pop futurist, citing James Blake's innovative minimalism as a core influence; on Solar Power, she's out of step with the latest trends.
In the time since Melodrama came out, Lorde's influence has been everywhere -- from Billie Eilish to Olivia Rodrigo to Taylor Swift's folklore and evermore -- and if you were hoping Lorde would come back to reclaim the downtempo pop throne, you might be disappointed in Solar Power's new direction. There are moments that veer closer to the Old Lorde -- like the somber ballads "Stoned at the Nail Salon" and "The Man with the Axe," or the spoken word guest verse on "Secrets From A Girl (Who's Seen It All)" by Robyn, who Lorde was compared to early on -- but those looking for another "Green Light" or "Royals" should look elsewhere. (And Robyn's not the only notable guest; there are also backing harmonies on several songs by fellow Jack Antonoff collaborator Clairo and Phoebe Bridgers.) Solar Power might not be the Lorde album you hoped for or expected, but in the long run, it's usually better to take a risk on a new sound than make the same album twice. Of all the things you might accuse Lorde of doing on this album, repeating herself isn't one of them.