Prior to the grandiose pop embarkation of Delirium, I’d honestly given up on Ellie Goulding. Her previously charming, off-kilter electronica had been swamped by EDM pursuits thanks to Calvin Harris collaborations and club designated B-sides from re-issue Halcyon Days. This fact wasn’t helped by the “What the fuck has she done?” feeling I got upon hearing single, On My Mind’s fractured guitar riffs for the first time. Incidentally, that song has grown on me a lot, and I actually think it demonstrates the audacity Goulding has poured into her third outing. Indeed Delirium has traded the empty four-to-the-floors for a biting electro pop sound à la Taylor Swift, offering a corpus of pristinely executed pop tracks. She has stepped away from the low-key indie quality of Lights towards a much larger, stadium driven style epitomised on the closing number Scream It Out.
Delirium certainly exudes copious amounts of energy, even during its softer instances like Army, a twinkly ode to her best friend. Ellie’s haunting, fluty warble penetrates the album’s tremulous title track before crashing head first into the heart-pounding, piano-powered Aftertaste. Similar instrumentals percolate through the faux-gospel aura of Holding On For Life, providing one of Delirium’s more euphoric moments. Indeed every song bursts with an anthemic potential that makes for a record perpetually undulating through darker lows before building to rapturous chorus lines. Goulding returns to the dizzy ethereality of Lights on xylophonic Don’t Panic, while Around U’s drums skip with the same buoyancy of Jessie Ware’s If Your Never Gonna Move.
It’s perhaps a little too easy to see therefore where Ellie has drawn inspiration on Delirium, and there is a distinctly R.E.M. twang to the guitars of Lost And Found. By making these comparisons, the big pop album reveals its principal weakness – it inevitably ends up sounding like someone else. Delirium certainly ticks all the pop boxes: lovelorn lyrics, check; catchy synth hooks, check; recognisable chord progression, check. Goulding even catches herself out by duplicating the swooping chorus line of hit Love Me Like You Do on the galloping Something In The Way You Move. Certainly there is a case of identikit formula being used as the album’s foundation, resulting in an arguably samey feel. Even the faultless production, ironically, results in some of Goulding’s previous emotional rawness being lost.
Having said that, Delirium contains plenty of quirkiness and sophistication to elevate the album away from its princess-y contemporaries. The grinding, R&B slickness of Codes renders it an outstanding track on the album, fully utilising the breathiness of Goulding’s vocals. Furthermore, Ellie engages with grittier dance elements, nodding to an underground rave vibe on the likes of Devotion and Keen On Dancing. She even employs tropical house undertones on We Can’t Move To This giving it an of-the-moment quality. As a result, Delirium reinstates the songstress’s capability to deliver blisteringly good electro-pop tunes, more than making up for her wayward EDM flirtations.