Lorde’s long-awaited return is here, and it’s been a glorious mess

Published on June 17, 2021

New Zealand artist Lorde’s return with “Solar Power” quickly dissolved into a PR nightmare, but don’t let that take away from how good it is

Pop superstar Lorde kept a tight lid on her life and new music over the last four years. She did everything right to conjure a mysterious and righteous return, from taking a long trip to Antarctica to sharing glimpses of her life through thoughtfully written newsletters to her fans. However, like a crack in a dam, the leaking of small details built into an overwhelming force, culminating in today’s unofficial “whoops!” release of her comeback single, “Solar Power.”

Even before the leak, Lorde stan Twitter accounts and deep-diving sleuths leaked early images of the single’s cover art and title, resulting in the official announcement on Lorde’s website on June 7: The cheeky design filled the web screen—and underneath it, the phrase, “patience is a virtue.” But after four years of silence, fans’ patience wore thin. Following its accidental early release in other countries on the morning of June 10, the mp3 for“Solar Power” was leaked on dbree.org, a cloud storage website. From there, dissemination throughout the internet was too easy, with a simple, downloadable file.

But this wasn’t just a slip-up on one overzealous fan’s end. The new single popped up on the music streaming platforms TIDAL and Apple Music, too. A flurry of mayhem ensued as fans scrambled to listen to the new track; in the midst of the commotion both platforms rushed to pull the song from their sites. (The TIDAL song page also revealed other details earlier than anticipated, including backup vocal credits from indie powerhouse Phoebe Bridgers and Claire Cottrill, who performs under the name Clairo.) Lorde’s much-vaunted return after four years dissolved into a PR nightmare.

No artist wants their work to leak and fumble the meticulously coordinated launch of a new era, unless they’re on some Banksy nonsense. A perfectly acceptable response by Lorde would be “[series of expletives],” even if the track was planned for official release today. The main thing that came to mind in the aftermath of the accidental early release was a wry (and unserious, it must be stressed), “Boy, I hope somebody got fired for that blunder.”

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However, despite its lack of a grand entrance, “Solar Power” is exactly what Lorde needed to make a comeback. All of her previous work emulates a certain state of mind coinciding with different phases of life. Pure Heroine captured suburban mundanity and the moodiness of teenager-dom. Her sophomore album Melodrama draws a narrative of the messiness of early adulthood—the burning feelings of love and heartbreak, and how everything buzzes with the potency of new experiences. And now, her fans can once again turn to her for a “song of the times,” joining Lorde in her mid-twenties.

“Solar Power” begins with a declarative dislike for the winter season and the cold it ushers in. That’s a quick way to establish this is a song for the summer, celebrating the transformation that occurs as life begins to warm up again, and how good the sun’s vitamin D feels flooding the body. Lorde offers solace and release from sadness, urging listeners to “forget all of the tears that [they’ve] cried, it’s over.” Similar to Melodrama’s first single “Green Light,” “Solar Power” seeks to encourage ecstasy, but this time leaning into feeling carefree rather than careless. There’s no sense of urgency, just time to soak up the sun’s rays.

It carries signature Jack Antonoff production elements: a steady thrumming guitar line, layers upon layers of chorus vocals, and light moments of intimacy. And the bridge opens in a joyous celebration of what beautiful days spent in the sun surrounded by the ones you love can bring. “Solar Power” conveys the sense that life no longer feels like a candle burning at both ends, but ebbs and flows just like the waves. Her ideal release strategy may have gotten caught in the internet’s riptide, but based on the quality of her first single in years, this is just the beginning of a sunny era for Lorde.