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Lorde Has Always Been Ahead Of Her Time

Three years later, her Solar Power is finally kicking in.

Elite Daily; Joseph Okpako/WireImage

It’s been a sunny year for the pop girls. After soaking in Ariana Grande’s Eternal Sunshine, embracing Dua Lipa’s Radical Optimism, and sipping some of Sabrina Carpenter’s “Espresso” by the beach, fans have noticed an undeniable trend. The new aesthetic for pop music is brighter and more uplifting than ever. It’s a vibe a certain singer served up years ago... but nobody seemed ready for it until now.

Lorde’s 2021 album Solar Power was one of the biggest swings a pop star has made in recent years. After building up a reputation for her dark and moody confessional bops, the then-25-year-old singer tucked away the melodrama and hit the beach to deliver an album full of breezy summer anthems. The persona shift was too overwhelming for many critics at the time, who wrote off Solar Power as “loose and textureless” and “too laidback.”

But in 2024, laidback, sunny pop is all the rage. Song of the summer frontrunner “Espresso” may be hookier than anything on Solar Power, but Carpenter’s breezy vocals and happy-go-lucky beachside visuals are ripped right out of Lorde’s blonde era. Lipa may be more concerned with partying than communing with nature on Radical Optimism, but the solidly uplifting message and glaringly bright vibes are familiar. And while Eternal Sunshine may not contain the sunniest lyrics, it still glows with an idealistic elation and hazy vocal layers reminiscent of Solar Power.

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Of course, Lorde’s impact on the current music scene is broader than just one album. When Gracie Abrams dropped her latest single “Close to You” on June 6, the comparisons to Lorde’s 2017 album Melodrama were instant. It’s clear at least part of the inspiration had to come from the dizzying synthpop that became a hallmark of Lorde’s sophomore album. Unlike Solar Power, the culture understood Melodrama for the first time, and it’s still acclaimed by many critics as her greatest work.

By mixing soft, confessional verses with anthemic, belting choruses on standouts like “Green Light” and “Supercut,” Lorde set a new standard for pop music by injecting raw ethos into club-ready party songs. It’s a sentiment Taylor Swift embraced on The Tortured Poets Department, employing hyperactive synths to cover her deep depression in “I Can Do It with a Broken Heart.” But it’s really Swift’s 2022 album Midnights that sounds most like Melodrama, a similarly late-night, reflective work of pop that delves into self-deprecating ruminations on lost love.

Of course, it’s impossible to ignore the elephant in the room when comparing Lorde and Swift’s sounds. Melodrama was the first album by a pop star that Jack Antonoff produced (nearly) in full. Since then, he’s become Swift’s go-to producer on all her releases, and has had to dodge claims about his work with the two artists sounding too similar.

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But Swift and Antonoff aren’t the only major singer-producer duo who seem to be carrying on Melodrama’s legacy. Throughout their career, Billie Eilish and her producer brother Finneas have embraced soul-bearing lyrics over booming synths. In fact, Eilish’s discography pretty closely mirrors Lorde’s own musical evolution. Her 2019 debut When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? was compared to Lorde’s Pure Heroine upon release, with both albums exploring a dark bedroom pop sound that felt zeitgeist-y in the 2010s. Then, Eilish pulled a full Solar Power by dying her hair blonde and easing up on the synth-y production for 2021’s Happier Than Ever.

To continue the comparison, Eilish’s latest release Hit Me Hard and Soft would be her Melodrama, which feels apt. The heartbreaking self-deprecation on “The Greatest” harkens back to Lorde’s “Liability,” while the sparse, clicking groove on “Lunch” echoes the production on “Hard Feelings/Loveless,” even if the subject matter couldn’t be more different.

Obviously, none of these pop stars are copying Lorde at all, but especially with the music that’s been released this year, her influence is definitely felt.