Self-admittedly, Ellie Goulding set out to make a “pop album” with her latest offering Delerium. While, on its surface, she undoubtedly succeeded; to say that is all the album (released Friday) is is to do it a great disservice. It is both anthemic and accessible, but also incorporates a wide array of influences and showcases Goulding’s growth and versatility as an artist.
Through the success of her hits like “Burn” and “Lights” (and the subsequent Bassnectar remix of the latter), as well as her well-received collaborations with artists such as Calvin Harris, Skrillex, Major Lazer and Seven Lions; Goulding was well on her way to taking her place as the queen of electronic music. That designation would have been equal parts praise and handicap. Delerium was almost a necessary endeavor for Goulding, an effort to avoid being pigeonholed.
This is not to say that Goulding abandoned the electronic influence entirely on Delerium. In fact, in many ways, she’s expanded upon it. There’s still expert vocal manipulation (“Paradise”), the occasional dance number (“Holding on For Life”), and even a “drop” here and there (“Devotion”); but it also even delves into downtempo (also “Devotion”), industrial (“Keep On Dancin’”) and successfully uses house-like builds to further dramatize other efforts; using electronic elements to enhance songs, instead of overpowering them.
Goulding also draws inspiration from many other places, the most eclectic of which can be found on the song “I Do What I Love,” which combines middle-eastern sounds with a dancehall groove and hip-hop swagger. The album draws heavily on synth-pop (see “Something in the Way You Move”), but again, that is only part of the puzzle. A puzzle that also contains elements of R&B, indie, rock, soul, folk and other genres.
A lot of credit has to go to the production team behind Delerium. Goulding again teamed with Greg Kurstin (with whom she worked with on Halcyon Days), but she also worked heavily with pop heavyweights Ryan Tedder (who, along with Goulding, Kurston, et. al., co-wrote “Burn”) and Max Martin. The combination of the trio and Goulding allowed her to emerge out of her comfort zone and into the realm of pop superstardom.
In many ways, Delerium has the feel and function of Taylor Swift’s 1989 (which, coincidentally, was primarily produced by Martin, and featured Tedder on a few tracks). Goulding shows she is capable of stepping out of her comfort zone without losing touch with herself; also delivering a classic pop masterpiece, capable of resonating with varying groups of people for a myriad of different reasons.
Goulding also shows growth both lyrically and vocally. In regards to the former, while she has always been a heartfelt storyteller, she shows a more mature and resonating hand with the pen; as can be seen profoundly on songs such as “Heal” and “On My Mind.” In regards to the latter, she shows a more precise and clean delivery, with great attention paid to tempo and cadence, as seen on “Don’t Need Nobody” and “Don’t Panic.” She also shows much more confidence in her voice. Sure, there is plenty of her signature falsetto, but she shows more control in it and no longer seems to use it as a crutch. She also shows an increased range and more power overall, as demonstrated in “Army” and “The Greatest;” also without sacrificing her unique timbre.
Though the album is long (the deluxe edition contains 22 tracks), it doesn’t really contain any subpar tracks, or what could be considered “filler.” If there is one track that could perhaps be considered a summation of the effort, it would likely be “Scream it Out.” The song has a familiarity that the fans of the Ellie of old should find appealing; but also shows her growth as a lyricist and vocalist. It also has an anthemic, memorable sing-a-long chorus, and pop accessibility.
Some may say that Goulding lost touch with who she was as an artist with Delerium; that she abandoned what made her unique. Those who would offer that shortsighted critique miss the point of the effort. The album still very much resonates as Ellie Goulding, holding true to what was appealing about her previous releases; it just also shows she is capable of so much more.
- Intro (Delerium)
- Something In the Way You Move
- Keep on Dancin’
- On My Mind
- Around U
- Holding On For Life
- Love Me Like You Do
- Don’t Need Nobody
- Don’t Panic
- We Can’t Move to This
- Lost and Found
- Scream it Out
- The Greatest
- I Do What I Love
- Outside (Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding)