Ellie Goulding’s ‘Delirium’: Album Review

The ubiquitous nature of the term “pop music” can be confusing to most, given its intended meaning as an amalgam of sound and records sold (which are clearly not mutually exclusive). It’s allowed the flood gates to open for “pop” acts, while the title of “pop star” has only been handed out to a select few.For all intents and purposes, Ellie Goulding was a pop act in the US, an artist who over the five-year tenure since her stateside entry released a selection of crossover hits, but leaned on a sound and style that kept one foot in the “indie” pond. And it made sense. Goulding’s earliest days were spent working with electronic producer Starsmith, who helped Goulding usher in a sound that blended folky vibes with synths — properly identified as the now defunct folktronica.

Her first offering Lights was a testament to that, flooded with pages from her childhood diary and punctuated with catchy hooks and vocal riffs infused into the production. By 2012’s Halcyon, Ellie branded herself as a dark pop act, someone who could craft music that sounded like it belonged in a club, yet the lyrics were intense and emotional. You could dance-cry to almost every song on that project.

But still Ellie flew under the radar in a sense. Sure, she had big singles — “Lights,” “Your Song,” “Burn,” “Love Me Like You Do”— but they typically arrived either after the project was released or on a project other than her own. It was almost like her American success was an afterthought, but her talent loomed overhead as a reminder of her potential (cases in point: the songs “Lights” and “Your Song” weren’t on the first release of Lights, “Burn” was added later to the deluxe edition of Halcyon and “Love Me Like You Do” was on the Fifty Shades Of Grey soundtrack). This third time around, the formula has been refined and Delirium (out today, ) is a full-bodied pop album, delivered from global pop star, Ellie Goulding.

The first order of business involved production, as Goulding enlisted titans Greg Kurstin and Max Martin to handle the brunt of the beats. The first single, “On My Mind,” is a rhythmic, catchy tune, where Goulding questions why a former paramour still climbs into her thoughts (let your assumptions and imagination run wild here). The follow-up track, less of a second single and more of a sub-single, is “Something In The Way You Move,” a universally dancey tune with Kurstin’s DNA splashed all over the addictive synths.

The magnificent aspect of Delirium is that Ellie for the first time in her career touches on all corners of pop in one cohesive project. She traipses into dark erotic territory on “Keep On Dancin'”, where finger snaps and whistles accompany a “boing boing” beat that could easily mimic bed springs. “Around U,” a breezy song about wanting reciprocity, keeps Ellie on-brand with its intensely poppy production yet poignant lyrics, and that sentiment continues onto “Don’t Panic.”

“Don’t Need Nobody” is pop-R&B, and showcases Ellie’s knack for cool punchlines like “you are the realest thing I’ve never had to fake.” Anthemic cuts like “Army” (an ode to her best friend) and “Scream It Out” are are less about twirling in a tiny club and more about chanting in a packed arena, clearly Ellie’s new trajectory.

For any other artist, a project like this might seem too much of everything, but in Goulding’s case, her versatility was never given a fair shot until now. The results exceed any expectations of what a true pop crossover could and should sound like, especially since almost every song on Delirium could survive as a standalone single. Perhaps Ellie was slowly growing more confident in the musical skin she’s in, or maybe she wanted to sing happier songs because she’s in a happier place? Whatever the case may be, the third time is definitely the charm.

Delirium may be a proverbial farewell to the Ellie Goulding we were used to, but it’s a formal hello to a brighter star who is no longer afraid to shine.

Idolator Score: 4.5/5

— Kathy Iandoli

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