With Lorde’s third studio album Solar Power showcasing a softer, lighter and more slow-burning sound than that of her previous work, the people are divided.
Whilst Pure Heroine and Melodrama carried long, dripping chords of teen angst and heartache, Lorde devotees are somewhat taken aback by the smiling sound of Solar Power. Moving away from the grief and unsteadiness at the heart of its predecessors, this album is a humid reverie of joy, peace and laughter.
In her beloved and uniquely personal newsletter, Lorde herself described Solar Power as “a celebration of the natural world”, revealing that “in times of heartache, grief, deep love, or confusion, [she] looks to the natural world for answers.”
Indeed, this album is characterised by its focus on groundedness and the natural world, with Oceanic Feeling announcing the importance of simply “breath[ing] out and tun[ing] in”. But Lorde sends these overarching ideas awhirl in her track Mood Ring, the eleventh song on the album.
Sonically, Mood Ring retains the breezy and hedonistic sound of Solar Power – but lyrically this track is perter and more tongue-in-cheek than the rest of the album, as it plays satirically with contemporary wellness culture and pseudo-spiritualism.
The second chorus opens with Lorde claiming “I’m tryna get well from the inside,” but it’s not long before she declares her zippy critique of what this means for an Instagram-obsessed, sage-wafting, rose-quartz-wielding generation. She continues: “Plants and celebrity news / All the vitamins I consume / Let’s fly somewhere eastern; they’ll have what I need.” Brazen and bold, this line speaks to the (very white, very millennial, very problematic) idea of ‘finding yourself’ through the pursual of material items or bought experience.
What this Mood Ring does so brilliantly is explore that dizzying intersection between capitalism and patriarchy that young women find themselves stuck at. The concept that if we buy enough crystals off amazon, drink enough green smoothies, perfect downward facing dog and gua-sha and mediate and journal every single night, that maybe – just maybe – we will be happy and pretty and okay.
The pressure to buy into wellness culture is a force that women feel increasingly in today’s society (intensified by the sinister and vindictive little goblins that control the TikTok algorithm, no doubt). Wellness culture has seeped into every aspect of our lives. Even language around food and dieting has changed, as the kind of headlines about ‘shedding weight’ or ‘dropping dress sizes’ that were ubiquitous not 10 years ago have undergone a strange mutation.
Now, the media urges us to embark on an ambiguous journey to ‘wellness’ achieved by ‘eating clean’ and striving for an ‘empowered’ body. The way we regard food and body image has not improved; it has just been cloaked in the fallacy and illusion that is wellness culture.
Lorde nods to this parallel in Mood Ring, as she smirks “Don’t you think the early 2000s seem so far away?”, suggesting that under the thinly veiled guise of becoming moralised and ethical, our attitudes remain just as toxic as they were during early 2000s diet culture, and our self-esteem lower than ever.
Mood Ring is also alert to the consumerist nature of today’s pseudo-spiritualism. In fact, this is precisely where the title of the song comes from. In an interview with Genius, she explains that particular elements of wellness culture – horoscopes, crystals, reading tarot, etc. – are principally very similar to the way we view mood rings. “There are certain things that we ascribe meaning to,” she states, “because we have to. Because we need to, to feel well and whole.”
This kind of lighthearted satire pervades Mood Ring. Lorde sings: “You can burn sage and I'll cleanse the crystals”, and underneath the warm, beachy sound of the song a deeper meaning swells: critique of the modern tendency to lust after material things with ascribed spiritual value.
Stream Mood Ring here.
Words by Editor-in-Chief, Alice Graham