Anna Gaca, writing for Pitchfork, has mixed feelings about Lorde’s new record, Solar Power.
I don’t envy her the task of putting those feelings down on the Internet; I’m sure she’s had to log off for a week until Lorde’s fans calm down about her going the album a 6.8. Her review is interesting though. She perfectly sums up how I feel about this album too, but what she dislikes, I think I like most of all.
Comparing Lorde’s new effort to her previously jagged and angular album, Melodrama, Gaca writes that,
while Melodrama purportedly unfolded within the confines of a house party, the concept came so naturally you didn’t have to think about it; it just felt like you were there. Solar Power tries to be bigger and smaller at the same time, spanning scenes of domestic bliss and apocalyptic flight without the conceptual architecture to unite them.
Trying for everything makes it all sound a little incoherent.
Personally, I think there’s something quite remarkable in this attempt to bridge scales and experiences without taking a conceptual run-up. For an album implicitly concerned about the climate crisis, surely this makes sense. How do we address the issues facing us without abstraction? How do we connect the domestic and the cosmic?
Lorde’s approach is intriguingly hands-off. “Now if you’re looking for a savior, well that’s not me … Let’s hope the sun will show us the path”, she sings on the first track, before the second song — lead single “Solar Power” — basically contradicts it. But then, this is no doubt the dichotomy of being a megastar within the global pop machine and also just some twenty-something Kiwi. There’s a contradictory sense that, whilst she’s not gonna be saving anyone, she’s in the sort of globetrotting position of influence to change something… Right?
It gives a new perspective to her album cover, which has reminded me of something for weeks now, and I’ve only just realised that it’s the cover I drew for a recent episode of the Buddies Without Organs podcast, where we discussed Deleuze and Guattari’s attempt to do much the same thing — to go for a walk like a schizophrenic; like Georg Buchner’s character, Lenz, who tries to cover the world in a few strides.
Everything seemed so small, so near, so wet, he would have liked to set the earth down behind an oven, he could not grasp why it took so much time to clamber down a slope, to reach a distant point; he was convinced he could cover it all with a pair of strides.
If Solar Power is incoherent, it is surely because Lorde’s own life is. Can’t relate? Who can? How many of us can take on the world in so few strides? To be famous is surely to be professionally schizophrenic — to have one’s domestic existence amplified and scrutinized on a global scale. But it seems that, in unplugging herself from the pop machine in-between projects, there’s a possibility that Lorde’s desire for a normal life in a world that’s not heat-fucked, and her desire to affirm that parochial existence on a global stage, might produce some sort of structure of feeling. Maybe the same is true of its opposite — that a global rallying cry for new leaders and new desires might preserve the parochial existence she treasures more than anything.
Weirdly enough, it’s a familiar sentiment. Though every media plug talks about her absence from social media, she’s got the intensive relationship between on- and offline, home life and world wide web, down to a tee. It’s as if the stakes are bigger for her. The shift is more dizzying because it’s not as simple as logging on and logging off. To send a tweet is like entering orbit, surfing the waves of some global market that wants to consume her utterly.
I wonder if that’s why Lorde is so drawn to the sun. In that classic Bataillean sense, she’s somewhat aware of her accursed share of the pop market. Every album cycle, she dominates the music industry’s nonetheless restricted economy. Then, after making some millions, she goes home, and basks in the intensity of a more general solar economy, which she seems to experience with a similar intensity.
There is a lingering sense that this album is an experiment in dissolving the distinction between the two, only to become more like Lenz. Deleuze and Guattari write the following of his relationship to the world:
Lenz has projected himself back to a time before the man-nature dichotomy, before all the co-ordinates based on this fundamental dichotomy have been laid down. He does not live nature as nature, but as a process of production. There is no such thing as either man or nature now, only a process that produces the one within the other and couples the machines together. Producing-machines, desiring-machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all of species life: the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever.
Lorde’s album seems to interrogate these same connections — in her own way (obviously). She finds herself plugged into the process(es) of production, which are currently — disastrously — out of sync. To combine them again might help us save the world — letting the sun lead the way. At the same time, Lorde seems to want to explicate herself from part of it somehow, but it’s surely too late for that. She’s a little bit hooked on the glitz and the glam; the pop star’s libidinal economy. Who can blame her? But there’s a growing sense that her ability to unplug and engage with nature is a pop star’s prerogative too. And that, at least, is something we can all be encouraged to reconnect with.
We might never be royals, but we can all bask in the sun.
Previously on XG’s love of Lorde…