As a society, I am sure we could write a long list of grievances against the year 2020, and at the top of my list is adding a fourth year to the elusive chanteuse, Lorde’s, hiatus. Although there is no limit to the number of times I can feel through my deep insecurities and fears while streaming Pure Heroine and Melodrama, I, like so many other stans, was ready for something new. 

The four-year-long hiatus was not complete silence, however. To her most devoted fans (me), she sent periodic emails to provide small updates on her life and drop tiny hints to upcoming music in the not-so-near future. On November 24th, 2020, she sent an email where she shared her experience visiting Antarctica. She writes about her inspiration for this trip by explaining:

 “[Antarctica] started to interest me again in recent years as my environmental awareness went up and up, and questions about how to change my personal and professional footprints on this earth occupied much of my time.” 

On one hand, this mindset is inspiring and serves as an example of how to approach understanding environmental issues and your personal impacts – with curiosity, initiative, sincerity, and an open mind to changing your behavior. From the trip, she created a photobook for sale documenting her adventure. All of the net proceeds went towards scholarship funds for Antarctica New Zealand postgraduate scholars to study the science of climate change. 

On the other hand, it reveals the connection between nature and Lorde’s music, as in the email she notes that she did not write new music since Melodrama until after her trip to Antarctica. The mysterious continent acted as a “great white palette cleanser” for her to move on from Melodrama to a new project in a way that acknowledges nature and its powers. 

In her song Liability, Lorde promises that we are going to watch her disappear into the sun. During her time incinerated in secret within the sun, she seems to have harnessed its energy to create a bright, bodacious, and balmy comeback song titled “Solar Power.” Similar to her cryptic and evasive online presence, the only clue to its release was the single’s cover picture uploaded to her website with the words “Coming Soon” underneath. Then, on June 10th, the song was released coinciding with the date of the only solar eclipse of 2021. The instrumental is stripped back and acoustic, creating a brilliant down-to-earth feeling that is then amplified by the lyrics celebrating nature, summer, and the sensory experience of both. 

As 2020 was a not-so-great year, we are sort of emerging from it in a confusing time where we are trying to navigate how to celebrate outside again. “Solar Power” mirrors this emergence from pain and grief into the light with a possible answer to our confusion. In an interview for Apple Music with Zane Lowe, Lorde describes how she wrote this song right after spending a whole day at the beach. The lyrics follow suit with descriptions like “no shirt, no shoes, only my features”, “acid green, aquamarine,” and “the girls are dancing in the sand.” She sets up a warm and beaming world where the main focus is to connect with nature and bask in what it provides. 

Another lyric from the song reads “throw my cellular device in the water, can you reach me? No, you can’t.” She is calling for an unplugging from the virtual world and to just go outside and enjoy what nature has to offer. It has infinite color palettes to inspire, space to be yourself and move around, and also the potential to heal and offer refuge. As she says, “forget all of the tears that you’ve cried, it’s over,” spending time in and with nature can be a way to come out of this pandemic and emerge from the pain and grief we have endured. 

There is an added importance to this message as it comes through music specifically because of the sense of community it develops. Songs bring people together and there is power in numbers. Lorde is a notorious solo act, having never had a feature on her albums before. However, “Solar Power” is the start of something new by featuring backing vocals from Phoebe Bridgers and Clairo. When asked about finally letting other voices on her music, she explained “this record, more than any I’ve made, isn’t just about me, it’s my friends, it’s my family, it’s my country.” This sentiment echos the environmental movement in that the problems affect everyone so everyone should be a part of the solution. 

When connecting with nature, there is a lot of pressure to find “perfect” parts of it that are aesthetically pleasing or will look good for Instagram. “Solar Power” reminds us to live in the moment and celebrate nature for what we have because, without action, we won’t have it for much longer. This goes for environmental advocacy as well, the pressure to “do the right things” can be immense and heavy when in reality there billions of “right things” to do in this movement. Like Lorde’s “Solar Power,” find the communities and reconnect with nature because, hey, what are Perfect Places anyway?