Image: Ellie Goulding
When British musician Ellie Goulding wrapped up her Delirium World Tour in 2016, she announced it would be some time before she would release a follow up album to 2015’s Delirium. Fast forward five years and Goulding has delivered fans with quite possibly her most focused album to date.
Brightest Blue is comprised of two parts. Side A shows the singers vulnerability and explores her journey to self love through synthesised sounds and R&B beats. The record has hints of the sounds Goulding explored in her sophomore album, Halcyon, sprinkled throughout. However, the record takes on its own life and is a new era in Gouldings catalogue. Side B, titled EG.0, features the bulk of the complete albums collaborations, including the recently released Slow Grenade. Gouldings collaborators include Lauv, blackbear, Diplo, Swae Lee and Juice WRLD. Gouldings collaboration with Juice WRLD was released prior to the rappers death.
The album begins with the raucous sounds of cheers and chanting before breaking away into Gouldings ethereal vocals accompanied by a piano. Almost instantly, you can tell Goulding will be taking listeners on a more vulnerable journey. The track, Start, is a swelling hypnotic, entrancing opener. The hypnotic vibe is disrupted by serpentwithfeet’s in the most beautiful way, both singers vocal performances complimenting one another. On Power the singer has built her own one-woman choir through recording a vast amount of vocal harmonies herself. A stand out track, the bass driven, synth heavy track is about being in a relationship where someones superficiality takes over.
How Deep Is Too Deep displays how Goulding’s voice has matured. On the track, she sings of realising you are with a person for the wrong reasons. The spoken-word interlude Cyan is a summary of why the singer thinks the way she does and what makes her who she is. It is an explanation of the following track, Love I’m Given. The track is a self-realisation of imposter syndrome, and wanting to absolve that feeling and feel vindicated. The big chorus is again a great display of the maturity of Goulding’s voice over the past five years. This track is sure to be a fan favourite in a live performance setting.
New Heights ushers in a quieter moment on the record. The piano led ballad is mixed with classic R&B and soul beats and grooves. This isn’t something we’ve heard from Goulding before, but it sounds so right! The track is abut reaching ultimate independence and security in yourself and self love. The albums second interlude comes in the form of Ode To Myself, led by clean guitar strumming with Goulding adding vocals to this interlude. Woman is one of the best tracks on the record. On the song, Goulding sings of her honesty, feelings and her place as a woman. A simple description of coming into womanhood. The piano ballad is stripped of Gouldings usual production, allowing Goulding's impeccable vocal ability to shine on the records purest moment. Also showcasing the singers song-writing abilities.
The record picks up its pace with Tides, where Goulding samples her own voice all over the track. The song has sentimental qualities lyrically, paired with a dance beat and Goulding’s bad ass vocals. It feels very British and there is no chance you won’t be grooving along to the track. The third and final interlude, Wine Drunk, comes across as Goulding’s inner dialogue. The synthesised harmonies are reminiscent of Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek. Acoustic laced track, Bleach, is a song about going back to old habits. There is a simplicity on the track sonically, however lyrically severe. The track talks of erasing someone to be able to move on and not think about them, hence the bleach analogy. Another standout track.
Flux was one of the first singles for Brightest Blue and remains a beautiful moment in Goulding’s career. The track daydreams of what it would be like had you stayed with a particular person. It’s indulgent and heartbreaking and one of Goulding’s most intricate releases, even if the song is purely vocals and piano. There are textures and layers to the raw track that appeal and are identifiable to people. Goulding closes Side A with the title track, Brightest Blue. The song is an exploration of sonic characteristics with Goulding refusing to adhere to any musical boundaries. Heavy synthesised sounds and a gossip choir, rhythmic lyrical cadences and a string section - Goulding delivers on the track.
Side B opens with Overture, a swelling, dramatic symphony led piece. The string section plays melodies featured in the following track, Worry About Me, which features blackbear. Worry About Me, is an empowering post-break-up anthem, that feels like an anti-anthem with the almost spooky production. The latest single from the record, Slow Grenade sees Goulding collaborate with American singer, Lauv. The song documents the difficulty of moving on from a toxic relationship. Close To Me is the first track Goulding released from the record, all the way back in 2018. The track is a collaboration with producer Diplo and features American rapper, Swae Lee. Goulding closes EG.0, a play on the word ego, with Hate Me. On the track, the pair embrace the pain of a breakup and the volatility that an ex-partner can sometimes display post-breakup.
While she still has her raspy, astronomical vocal range, this record perfectly exhibits the strength and maturity of Gouldings voice. On Brightest Blue, Goulding is at her most vulnerable, whereas EG.0 is loud and full of mainstream radio hits. On the record as a whole, she has created two distinct spaces. One where her musicianship is being challenged and proves tremendous growth, and the other where she maintains her pop juggernaut status. Both are equally as enthralling as the other, but the powerful and deep emotions and new sounds Goulding explores and navigates on Side A, are a wonderful new turn for the artist.
Brightest Blue is out now!