Ellie Goulding is no stranger to the pop music scene in which she seems so steadfastly stuck. While Halcyon (2012) was released to to commercial adoration, Goulding failed to properly carve out her own unique space within pop; unfortunately on her latest album, Delirium, she just sinks herself further into a mess of unfocused music that tries far too hard to cover the pop bases for mass listenability.
While Halcyon was a striking—albeit conservative—record, it was at least interesting in its unique sound. Delirium, on the other hand, suffers from a dire case of being totally mundane. Beginning with the rather unconventional, “Intro (Delirium)”—a song consisting of a wailing Goulding multilayered to create a supposed atmospheric sound—ends up sounding like something that would feel at home on a B-side album of a corny knock-off Lord Of the Rings soundtrack. In its attempt to take itself too seriously, it loses any credibility and instead becomes almost laughable.
What follows are 16 tracks—a pompous and unnecessary 25 on the deluxe edition—that are, at large, so utterly unmemorable that they verge towards being offensive due to their total lack of creativity, personality, or even likeability. Lead single, “On My Mind,” starts off okay—the ’80s-esque guitar riff wouldn’t sound out of place on a La Roux album—but then Goulding begins to sing, in her typical whisper-come-annoyingly-quiet-voice, before the chorus hits, in which she unemotionally says, “Boy I got you on my mind,” a total of eight times. Eight. This use of repetition is something that heavily plagues the album: More than half of the songs force the listener to sit through choruses that offer nothing more than repeating its’ title over and over. Delirious? After mindlessly repeating the same words, it’s not surprising that she was.
The only obvious highlights—“Something In The Way You Move,” Lost And Found,” and Goulding’s contribution to the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, “Love Me Like You Do”—stand out for their sheer simplicity. The latter of the aforementioned three highlight tracks sees a surprisingly direct vocal transform from barely a whisper over a pulsating and skeletal beat, to a crescending epic final chorus in which she lets it all go, introducing layered background vocals and echoing drums. By not sounding like the rest of the album, it stands out as a winner, avoiding the ‘anti-pop’ mentality that plagues every other track.
Though the songs provide a hopeful glimpse into a possible future Ellie Goulding—someone who is in command of her own music, finally letting the lyrics do the talking while avoiding getting so caught up in being ‘pop’ that it erodes her own artisticity—it’s hard to actually conceive how she made a record this arbitrary and faceless. There are so many topics to sing about; so many production tricks—heck, even Katy Perry succeeded in creating a more interesting collections of songs on her 2013 album, Prism, than this.
Put simply, the album already feels dated. And annoying. And utterly pointless. For an artist who claims to “have big dreams, baby,” (see “Holding On For Life”) she should have actually acted on them. Instead, she’s left tirelessly belabouring “I got you on my mind,” but after listening to this record, it’s anything but what listeners should want to have on their minds
: “Something In The Way You Move,” “Love Me Like You Do,” & “Lost And Found.”
: “I get so caught up in the city cloud / But this place is still my first love.”
: A lost and lifeless Ellie Goulding.