Review: Ellie Goulding - Delirium
Ellie's third album promises a new sound for the songstress
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To this effect, the singer has enlisted the help of heavyweight producers and co-writers Max Martin and Greg Kurstin, whose recent hits with Adele and Swift respectively make them a perfect choice for a concentrated effort on the upper reaches of the charts.
With their help, Goulding has become very good at writing catchy and accessible pop songs. Holding On For Life is almost perfect: its yearning and melodic pre-chorus is brilliant sing-a-long material; the euphoric chorus is delivered with gusto; and it flirts with gospel backing vocals and house piano to spice up the radio-friendly sound.
Lead single On My Mind is also insanely catchy, with Goulding dishing the dirt on a below-par lover to the sound of clipped, rhythmic guitars. The rumour mill has it that the single is a response to Ed Sheeran’s chart-topping tale of infidelity Don’t, and if this is true then we have a stunning display of musical insults. ‘You wanted my heart but I just liked your tattoos,’ mocks Goulding. ‘I never saw him as a threat/ until you disappeared with him to have sex of course,’ retorts Sheeran. It’s hilarious.
This playful tone is maintained throughout most of the album, and on the whole it’s good to see Goulding let her hair down after the heartbreak of her previous album ‘Halcyon’. Aftertaste and Around U have a lot more energy than much of Goulding’s previous oeuvre, but you’re left with the sense that the record doesn’t strike any deep emotional chords. Some of the best songs on ‘Halcyon’ were the piano ballads, like Explosions and Joy, and ‘Delirium’ could have done with some slower numbers to vary the tone a little.
The first part of the album is a relentless procession of excellent club-based anthems, but then Goulding tries to go all acoustic and writes some sickly-sweet songs about childhood friends and nostalgia for the countryside (Army and Lost and Found). Elsewhere, Goulding is a little too in thrall to the dance floor, and Don’t Need Nobody and We Can’t Move To This both sound too much like every other EDM floor-filler.
But the odd slip-up is easily forgiven. Goulding’s voice has never been better; her trademark airy vibrato enthrals throughout, and is brilliant at conveying emotion and drama on tracks like Keep On Dancin’. Happily, Goulding’s songs still more often than not end in layers upon layers of her raspy vocals building to a triumphant climax.
It’s also clear that Goulding is now an accomplished songwriter. Don’t Panic calls for realism in relationships with a CHVRCHES-inspired chorus, sagely telling her over-excited lover that although ‘our love’s not playing out like the movies/ It doesn’t mean it’s falling apart’.
‘Delirium’ has a lot more potential hits than ‘Halcyon’ did, but the previous album was much more likeable, and had more interesting edges that have since been shorn off in favour of commercial success. But even if, like me, you’re a fan of Goulding’s earlier material and are frustrated by her losing some of her unique sound, you often ending up liking a good deal of these songs against your better judgement.
So go on. Sing ‘Love Me Like You Do’ at the top of your voice. You’ll be the better for it.