6 November 2015
Pop Princess Ellie Goulding’s third studio album, Delirium, demonstrates just how far Goulding has evolved since she was crowned BBC’s Sound of 2010 five years ago. Long forgotten are Lights’ folk-twinged, wispy-voiced ballads, replaced with full-blown, club-ready electro pop that first emerged on her 2013 album Halcyon and confidently progresses here on Delirium to define Goulding as a well-established figure in mainstream pop, up there with the likes of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.
The transition to electro-pop and indie dance has been done effectively, and it is encouraging to see that the best of Goulding has not been lost along the way. Lyrics of heartbreak and relationship struggles, which epitomise her heartfelt storytelling, remain, but are weaved in with more confident, sophisticated production. This polished sound can perhaps be attributed to collaborations with industry legends Max Martin and Greg Kurstin, who further legitimise Goulding’s place among the pop elites – Martin has worked with Taylor Swift and Delirium is, for Goulding, a move not unlike Swift’s transition from American country girl to international pop star.
‘Intro (Delirium)’ is an impressive opening to the album, with Goulding’s vocals sounding hauntingly beautiful; however, ambiguity surrounds the song. It is an unusual opening in that it sounds like an ending – perhaps it is a Goulding letting go as she fully embraces mainstream dance.
EVERYTHING SHE DOES HAS A ‘KIND OF HEARTBREAK’ TO IT
Here embracing of pop begins with ‘On My Mind’, the album’s anthemic lead single. Most of the tracks deliver similar pop perfection. ‘Around U’ is a super catchy song that captures the feeling of falling in love and wanting to be accepted and needed in return; Goulding repeats that ‘I just want to be around you, is that too much to ask?’. The production and backing vocals are Swift-like and thus parts of the album are easily mistakable for a 1989, but in a really good way. The 80’s vibe does make ‘Around U’ feel a little out of place, though, compared to the darker tones of some of the other tracks, such as ‘Codes’. Equally reminiscent of Swift, the flirty and sexy language actually hides an underlying insecurity of wanting to put a label on a relationship, a vulnerability that keeps Delirium classic Ellie Goulding.
Underlying darkness is a common theme, and something Goulding herself has commented on, saying that everything she does, no matter how happy it makes her feel, still has a dark side or a ‘kind of heartbreak’ to it. ‘Something In The Way You Move’ and ‘Keep on Dancin’’ are both ravey but equally dazey, tinting them with this darkness. On the other hand, ‘Lost & Found’ and ‘Devotion’ have a lightness that lend them a Eurovision feel. Swedish artist Lelah co-wrote ‘Lost & Found’, a song of female empowerment that Goulding holds close to her heart. ‘Devotion’ is Euro-pop for other reasons – more contemporary Eurovision perhaps, think Loreen-esque – with its use of old-school techno beats, making it the most experimental song on the album.
Overall, Delirium feels like a natural progression for Goulding as she manages to turn relationship issues into shimmery and powerful pop. Some may argue she has sacrificed part of herself to get here – none of the tracks quite match ‘Starry Eyed’, and there has obviously been very deliberate deliberation over how the tracks will transcend into live performance, which really commercialises the album – but the best of her remains as she continues to make music that, although ‘kind of heart-breaking’, manages to be uplifting.