The Freedom of ‘Feral Girl Summer’

Lorde is getting “a little bit feral” with her new album ‘Solar Power.’ As the United States reopens, she’s not the only one.
Bettina Makalintal
Brooklyn, US
album cover for lorde's solar power in front of a colorful gradient
Album cover courtesy Universal Media Group

In 2019, on the heels of the definitive hot girl album Fever, Megan Thee Stallion fans changed the collective lexicon with the phrase “hot girl summer.” Hot girl summer, according to Megan’s fans, is all about: “living your best life and being carefree,” and “doing your thing and not giving a fuck about what anyone thinks. It's about trying new things and taking on a new persona that you wouldn't usually consider.” 


But this summer, hot girls can take a seat. Now is our chance to go feral—let Lorde explain. The New Zealand singer is ending her four-year hiatus with August’s long-awaited Solar Power. Its cover, teased this month, features Lorde’s butt, seen from below, as she jumps over a friend at the beach, and the music video for its title track shows Lorde and her crew dancing oceanside. When asked about the album cover on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert this week, Lorde said, “It’s a little hardcore, but it was so joyful to me. It felt innocent and playful and a little bit feral.” 

Being “a little bit feral” is a recurring theme in Solar Power’s promotion. As Lorde’s official album announcement read: “There’s someone I want you to meet. Her feet are bare at all times. She’s sexy, playful, feral, and free. She’s a modern girl in a deadstock bikini, in touch with her past and her future, vibrating at the highest level when summer comes around. Her skin is glowing, her lovers are many.” Lorde promises that when the album comes, we’ll all be obsessed with her—because who among us doesn’t want to be sexy, playful, feral, and free during this summer of all summers? 


People have been tweeting about “feral girl summer” since 2019, as “hot girl summer” turned into a meme (it spawned “hot girl walks,” “Christian girl autumn,” and so on) and as the tale of the 30-50 feral hogs took over the internet. The idea of a “feral girl summer”—or of “going feral”—hits harder now though, as many of us tear through the reopening world with vaccine antibodies, too many espresso martinis, and a renewed verve for life coursing through our veins. Writer Calvin Kalsulke, who has written for VICE, pointed out this phenomenon in a viral tweet back in March: “Half the posts I see are people planning to go completely feral this summer and the other half are folks concerned that they'll be permanently agoraphobic. I, for one, will be doing both.”


According to Twitter, “feral girl summer” can apply to almost anything including: jumping into a pool in your underwear while drunk at 2 a.m., not shaving or brushing your hair, telling off men who’ve wronged you, posing for kissing pictures and posting them on the internet, and buying new lingerie. Spotify playlists would suggest that “feral girl summer” involves doing these things while listening to Taylor Swift’s “betty” immediately followed by 3OH!3’s “Don’t Trust Me,” or while dancing to Megan Thee Stallion, Nelly Furtado, and Britney Spears. “Feral girl summer” isn’t about a single action or song or outfit, but rather, a tongue-in-cheek headspace about how to reemerge in the world. 

Part of it is freedom from the norms that dictate how we look and that we’ve slowly separated ourselves from over the past year. “To me, it’s a light-hearted way of reclaiming the idea that summer is a time of extra pressure for women to be ‘bikini ready,’” said Katie, a 31-year-old in California. “Whether I actually go full-body-hair or not, I’m fully behind the idea of a ‘feral girl summer’ because it’s an assertion that after the rough year-plus we’ve all been through, we should allow ourselves to go without the societal expectations this summer (and forever more).” Of course, being a “hot girl” and being a “feral girl” aren’t mutually exclusive; as Lorde’s Solar Power description suggests, being a little feral is hot in itself. But to own the idea of a “feral girl summer” is to free one’s self from the conventions of what is required to be hot.

For Carey, a 24-year-old in New York, “feral girl summer” is all about “getting the [chance] to be unhinged and wild and to feel freer after spending over a year pent up and shut indoors.” While “hot girl summer” also offered an opprtunity to be wild, “feral girl summer” allows that wildness to tap into deeper emotions and to allow ourselves, at times, to even be a little ugly, Carey said. “There’s a side of it, to me, that involves being really in touch with your emotions at a base level, particularly some of the more intense ones, the stuff that’s usually considered uncouth for girls to go around expressing loudly.”

Certainly, it’s not just Lorde who’s inspiring “feral girl summer” feelings. “My friends and I joke a lot about how certain songs that are really emotive and evocative [make] us feel feral (“Hot & Heavy” by Lucy Dacus and “Winnebago” by Samia, for example), meaning that they make us feel very raw and intense and a little crazy,” Carey said. Lorde, however, has struck the right moment: “I think Lorde’s music in general tends to fit the bill perfectly, but this new album, to me, feels like it has the perfect potential to tap into the ‘feral girl summer’ vibe.”

Right now, we are all animals who are looking to roam freely once again, and as we engage our most basic desires—presumably while Solar Power plays in the background—it’s going to get a little wild. Let the feral girl summer begin.