When British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding first arrived on the music scene, she was an unknown electro-pop singer. Flash forward six years, and Ellie Goulding is one of the biggest names in music. She won a Brit Award before ever releasing a full-length album, wrote and recorded a song for the cultural phenomenon “Fifty Shades of Grey” and is a notable member of Taylor Swift’s girl squad. Now, with the release of her third studio album, Ellie Goulding is a force to be reckoned with.
Prior to the release of her latest album, “Delirium,” Goulding stated that she wanted to experiment with her sound and create a big pop album. With each of her previous releases, she has skirted the mainstream pop spectrum and carved her own unique musical niche. However, with the team of pop heavy-hitters Max Martin and Greg Kurstin contributing to this album, Goulding more than delivers on her original promise.
Although this album is a change sonically, it is still very much an Ellie Goulding album. Her distinctive vocals and personal lyrics help her own the stylistic change. Goulding’s light, lyrical soprano flitters across every track, and her signature vibrato leads every song, however generic, closer to her niche. Where “Delirium” succeeds, it does so because the songs manage to capture the ethereal sound that has made Goulding’s music stand apart from the normal pop fare.
Goulding shares writing credit on all but one track off the album, and it is easy to see why. On “Delirium,” her evocative lyrics channel the emotionally tangible theme of love into a feel-good, even inspiring, synth-pop album. “Around U” talks about just wanting to spend time with the one you love; “The Greatest” centers around how one’s own relationship tops everyone else’s; and “Don’t Panic” eloquently speaks to the hardships of relationships with the punchline lyric: “Just cause love isn’t playing out like the movies doesn’t mean it’s falling apart.” Although the theme of romance is a common one for pop albums, Goulding gives it a unique spin by rarely hyperbolizing the topic, opting instead for straightforward and meaningful lyrics.
“Keep On Dancin” is by far the most experimental track of the album. With the mixture of whistling, clapping and synth beats, the track has a lot going on, but it all comes together in a gratifying way. “On My Mind” brings out an uncharacteristic sass that is reminiscent of Taylor Swift’s “1989” or Adele’s “21.” The track, thought to be a comeback to Ed Sheeran’s smash hit “Don’t,” talks about the awkward situations that occur when there are differing expectations in a romantic relationship. The lyrics—“You were talking deep, like it was mad love to you / You wanted my heart but I just liked your tattoos”— cut right to the core of the issue.
“Army” is yet another highlight of the album. The song looks back on a teenage relationship spent getting drunk in a caravan and feeling on top of the world. With a breathy, ballad feel, this track showcases Goulding’s vocal abilities. The somewhat anthemic chorus, “When I’m with you I’m standing with an army,” illustrates Goulding’s power to draw the listener in and make a song relatable.
“Delirium” comes to fruition with the track “Codes.” The song, with its combination of the Top 40 pop and synth sounds, perfectly transitions Goulding’s signature sound into a surefire radio hit. “Codes” kicks off with a heavy snare beat and builds into a synth beat that is heart-racing. Although the lyrics are somewhat coy—“Tell me black and white / Why I’m here tonight / I can’t read the signs / Stop talking in codes”— the message is clear: “Can we please label this relationship?” With killer lyrics and a clear-cut and vulnerable vocal delivery, “Codes” is by far one of the most memorable tracks on “Delirium.”
Although there are many highlights, there are also many songs that fall short of greatness. The track “Heal” is a wannabe power ballad that falls short due to its lack of vulnerability. “I Do What I Love” features an immense disparity between the verse and chorus that will make the listener question how this song was even put on the album. And while the tracks “Paradise” and “Scream it Out” are both decent songs, they lack Goulding’s niche sound to make them memorable.
For the most part, on “Delirium” Ellie Goulding has found the sweet spot between today’s current pop music trends and experimentation. However, there are a handful of songs on the album that begin to blur together due to their generic nature and evoke thoughts of other major players in pop music. That being said, every song on “Delirium” has the potential to be a Top 40 pop or club hit.
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