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Lorde’s ‘Solar Power’: Diary of a Song


“Hello” “Hello! Wow!” “What’s going on?” “How are you?” “I’m very conceptual, so I’ll say to Jack, ‘I want to make this kind of record.’” “She basically called me and had a vision about the sun.” “And more often than not, we can go back to that original statement, and it’s pretty much what we end up making.” Singing: “Solar power.” “You have this reputation as a songwriter of being broody, and heart-wrenching, and people like to say that you’re goth in certain ways.” “I mean, look, the truth of it is, like, I was 15 when I wrote ‘Royals.’ Singing: “And we’ll never be royals —” “I was shy. I was protective of my body. I didn’t want people to be able to comment on my body, so I would sort of dress in a certain way. Now I’m 24. Singing: “I hate the winter. Can’t stand the cold.” “Try to take me back to when you first created it.” “I was in New York working out of Jack’s home studio, and I went to Martha’s Vineyard for the weekend to stay with my friend Cazzie —” “When you say Cazzie’s house, do you mean Larry David’s house?” “[laughter] I guess it is, in fact, Larry’s house, yeah. We had a big day of swimming out on the pond all day, and we sort of had, like, the little rest before dinner. And I took this little Yamaha DX, and just started playing with this kind of descending —” Singing: My cheeks in high color, overripe peaches. You can kind of hear me working it out, actually, from July 24, 2019. Singing: My boy behind me, he’s taking pictures. Can you hear that? I came back to the city, played it to Jack, and we started to build it.” “Ella first started telling me the ideas for it. It was so far out.” “I knew that I wanted to kind of incorporate the music of my youth, this kind of early 2000s, sun-soaked thing. I was like, it has to sound like skateboarding. [laughter] “Wow.” “Jack was like, ‘What am I supposed to do with that?’” “I was like, “I don’t know, like — ‘Steal My Sunshine’ by Len.’” Singing: “If you steal my sunshine.” “Or like —” Singing “S Club. There ain’t no party like an S Club party!” “S Club 7, but also like —” Rapping: “Can I kick it?” Singing: “Can I kick it?” “Yes, I can. A Tribe Called Quest.” “But also, ‘Rock DJ,’ by Robbie Williams.” Singing: “Can I kick it?” “Yes, you can!” “But it was a real kind of push and pull that Jack and I had. He was like, ‘So wait, you like this?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, I do.’ [laughter] “She had all these parts she had written on the keyboard. And then she was sort of sending stuff back and forth. And then when we got in the room —” “The song happened super fast. But what took us a minute was the chorus. And I’ll play it to you. So that’s a terrible chorus. So then we tried this. Still, like, a bit of a clanger. No one’s getting excited about that.” “Did she show you that one?” “I was like, uh-oh! Uh — this might be, you know, six to eight months of trying things, trying things. And we’ll get there, but, like, uh —” “Well, I knew everything else rolled. I was very confident in everything else rolling. Jack came to New Zealand in January of 2020. The studio that we were working in belongs to a New Zealand musician called Neil Finn.” Singing: “Hey now. Hey now! Don’t dream —” “He left us this cool guitar. It was a 1965 Fender Jaguar in Lake Placid blue. And we picked it up, and —” “Whoa! That sounds like sunshine.” “It became a massive part of the album.” “You know, I’ve historically hated guitars. And Jack thinks it’s very funny that we played a guitar album. And we managed to crack this chorus, which was so exciting to me.” “One day, I think she was like, ‘I found it.’” Singing: “Forget all of the tears that you’ve cried. It’s over. Over. Over. Over.” “So that chorus worked so well because it’s, like, really floaty and catchy, and there’s all these things. But it doesn’t fight the part before it, which is a really satisfying part.” Singing: “Lead the boys and girls onto the beaches. Come one, come all. I’ll tell you my secrets. I’m kind of like a prettier Jesus. [singing] “‘Solar Power’ is all New Zealand to me. It really sounds like a New Zealand summer.” “Most of what I love comes from a landscape, comes from Atlanta. It comes from New Jersey. I don’t know New Zealand, but I know what it feels like when you hear something that is from someone’s place.” “The sound of a New Zealand summer is the cicadas.” “And those are kind of all over the album. But you can hear waves in the second verse.” [waves crashing] “Those are just recordings of waves that I took on my phone.” “A big part of the secret is this thing, going through this thing. It gets bounced to the big tape machine. There’s very little happening in the song. There’s a tic, there’s the acoustics —” [guitar strums] “At some point, they’re doubled, which actually makes a huge difference.” [double guitar strums] “The backups are a massive landscape.” Singing: “ Solar power.” “Lorde backup vocals is a genre at this point.” Singing: “I can’t stand to be alone.” “I mean, usually, it’s just you. What was the decision like to get Phoebe and Clairo involved?” Singing: “And I want to know what would happen.” “When someone’s the kind of harmony nut that you are —” “Those girls have it. They’re masters of the kind of singing that I think of myself as a master of.” “But it was a bit of a weird pandemic thing. I still, to this day, have not met either them in person. Singing: “Solar —” “The reference I keep seeing for the video is Midsommar.” “Midsommar was definitely a reference. But also, like, ’60s Coke commercials.” Singing: “I’d like to buy the world a Coke —” “End of ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Days of Heaven,’ ‘Zabriskie Point’ — the references are so deep, conjuring that slight kind of cult leader, take a drag, I’m about to put it on your tongue sort of world.” Singing: “Solar, solar, solar.” “I say, ‘Let the bliss begin.’ Singing: “Come on and let the bliss begin.“ [laughter] “Like, I’m a maniac.” Singing: “Blink three times when you feel it kicking in.” “Is that not about LSD?” “[laughter] Well, I thought I was going to make this big acid record, but I don’t think it was an acid album. I had one bad acid experience in this album. And I was like, ‘Man, it’s a weed album.’ It’s one of my great weed albums. Singing: “Solar power.” “The feeling of writing that, it’s like drugs to me. It’s the reason I make music. There’s no better feeling than pop alchemy building in real time.” Singing: “Solar power.” “I’ve grown a lot, done a lot. I’m happy. I work out a ton. My body’s hot. [laughter] I’m feeling good.” “Life is good.” “And — life is good, you know? And I’m bringing you in on where I’m at right now. And I hope people get that. [laughter] Singing: “Solar power.” “Do you remember when I ran into you at the mart?” “I was just going to say —” “We’re almost 99 percent sure that the day we ran into you at the bodega buying your Cool Ranch Doritos, we were upstairs working on ‘Solar Power’ [laughter].” “Chips and candy is my — the two main food groups of my diet.” “Yeah. So you’re a child.” [crunch] [singing] “I just had this idea that I wanted it to bounce.” Singing: “I got the horses in the back —” [singing] Rapping: “Man, what’s the deal? Man, I’m coming through. This your girl, Lizzo. Ah! [laughter]”


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