“I’ve got big dreams baby” sings Ellie Goulding on “Don’t Panic,” a track on her newest album Delirium. It’s been three years since the world has seen a full-length album from Goulding, but she was kept occupied by a 2013 reissue of her sophomore album Halcyon (originally released in October of 2012), numerous soundtrack singles for major motion pictures — including Divergent and 50 Shades of Grey — and worldwide tours. Somehow in the midst of all this chaos, she’s managed to record Delirium, her first foray into mainstream pop.
It’s clear from the start that this record is far different from her previous efforts. Long gone are the folk-y roots of her first LP effort Lights, along with the dramatics of Halcyon. Goulding now focuses on huge choruses, expertly crafted lyrics, and single-ready material. While Goulding tries to please everyone with this new record, the 28-year-old British songstress that the world has come to know and love has seemingly been lost in the mix.
Delirium looks intimidating at first glance, with the deluxe edition containing a bulky 22 songs, something that has almost been expected of Goulding (her previous release had 16 songs, not even including the 10-track reissue). Kicking off the 22-track record is a mysterious and haunting prelude, which is meant to say farewell to the sadness and bitterness of Halcyon and transition to the brightness of the new record. The album truly begins with “Aftertaste,” a booming opening track that tackles the feelings of a lost relationship. As the album progresses, it becomes easier to see the evolution of the once-timid pop star. Songs such as the aggressive and almost hip-hop-infused “Don’t Need Nobody,” the Lorde-inspired “The Greatest,” or the whistle-driven “Keep On Dancin’” show that Goulding is ready to display her newfound confidence to the world.
On this album, Goulding also shifts away from being the main writer on every track and toward collaborating with A-list producers. Working with the likes of house-pop duo Disclosure and Max Martin (who is best known for his work with Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, and many others), Goulding sets her sights on a far more mainstream approach to her songwriting to please a more mainstream audience. The first single, “On My Mind,” is far more open and personal than any previous single of hers, being a response to Ed Sheeran’s single “Don’t,” which was a song written about her. Other album highlights include “Army,” a track that’s reminiscent of the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack single “Love Me Like You Do” (which is also included on Delirium), and “Lost and Found,” which has Goulding toying with a top-40 mindset while also trying to stay true to herself.
While Delirium has a lot of strong highlights, the main issue that the album encounters is simply the tracklisting. Many tracks fall flat, which is bound to happen in such an expansive tracklisting. Songs such as “We Can’t Move to This” and “I Do What I Love” are a misstep for Goulding, with cluttered production and lackluster lyricism. Other songs, including the tracks “Paradise,” “Don’t Panic,” and “Devotion,” are just simply album fillers, leaving the listener with likely no emotional response to them. The album would have been far stronger if the tracklisting was condensed to 14–16 tracks like albums past.
Being a huge Ellie Goulding fan, I had extremely high expectations for this record — most of which were met. Delirium is exactly what it’s title states: a wild excitement. The album shows Goulding reaching new levels and incorporating new sounds into her music. While the album has many highs, it also has a few lows that could’ve been left off (though I will continue to listen to them, as I am such a fan). The album is far from her best, but I don’t believe that’s what she was attempting with this. I believe that Delirium was meant to and will likely provide a great platform for her to expand and grow, helping her achieve those aforementioned big dreams of hers. And, based on the record, those dreams will soon become a reality.
3 out of 5 stars.
— Jake Johnson, Music Blogger