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Pop Superstar Lorde’s Album “Solar Power” Highlights the Problem With Burning Palo Santo

And she learned about it on YJ! Yes, we're still freaking out.

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After four long years of leaving fans hanging onto her sophomore album, Melodrama, pop superstar Lorde *finally* released her latest album, Solar Power, on August 20. A departure from her dark I’m-still-not-over-this-breakup-sing-along screams (looking at you “Ribs”), Solar Power is a softer album, inspired by the natural world.

The New Zealander weaves themes of climate change, the appropriation of Indigenous culture, and a satire of Goop-style wellness throughout the album. (I mean, her support for environmentalism is in the title.) These three subjects come to a head in her track, “Mood Ring,” where she gives a special shoutout to a Yoga Journal article on the cultural appropriation and environmental impacts of palo santo (well, kind of). Don’t worry—we’re still freaking out too.

A quick briefing on the famous “Mood Ring” newsletter blast

In the lead-up to her long-awaited release, Lorde sent newsletters to her fanbase about her upcoming album. One of these newsletters chronicled the making of the song, “Mood Ring.” “I’ll say it once and then never again: this is satire,” Lorde writes. “She is not me. :-).”

The “she” Lorde refers to is the blonde wellness-loving woman played by Lorde in the music video for the song. However, Lorde also writes of her empathy for the character, a woman who turns to crystals, sage, and yes, palo santo, to feel some connection to… something.

In her newsletter about the song, the singer cites her sources of inspiration, including a link to our piece on the ethics of palo santo. However, this is my admission of guilt: As much as I am a Lorde fan, I was not subscribed to her newsletter (I know, I know), so I had to do some sleuthing to confirm that she is, indeed, a YJ reader. While I was not able to access a living copy of said newsletter with hyperlinks, I did find these two tweets, as well as a Cosmopolitan article citing her inclusion of the article.

Pop star-turned-activist

Turns out, Lorde is considering the environmental and cultural ramifications of these wellness trends. In her newsletter, she mentions the consequences on Indigenous communities. Palo santo, harvested in Ecuador and Peru by shamans for centuries, is often appropriated by non-Indigenous people for so-called “spiritual cleansing.” This is in addition to the devastating environmental impacts the high-demand market for the crop has had on palo santo forests.

On “Mood Ring,” Lorde questions the positioning of some of these trends through the character she “plays” in the video. She sings about everything from mood rings (obviously) to sage, and yes, yoga. She offers to “cleanse the crystals” and calls for her ladies to “begin their Sun Salutations.”

And the New Zealander herself? Well, she admits she does sometimes feel “cozy and connected when someone asks me to  ======set an intention for my practise===== at that start of a Pilates class.”

Well, Lorde, if you ever want to do some Sun Salutations with me and the YJ team, consider this an open invitation. And if you’re now interested in running through Surya Namaskar yourself, here are a few practices we recommend:

A Core-Awakening Sun Salutation for Lower Back Support
A Viniyoga Sun Salutation to Restore Your Body + Soul
Wake Up + Revive: 3 Sun Salutation Practices

Listen to Lorde’s “Mood Ring” now