“Do you like Ellie Goulding?” Last week I would’ve said yes. This week, her second full-length album, Delirium, was released and plagued by pervasive repetition, uninspired lyrics and inconsistent production, Goulding has not lived up to the potential shown in previous hits like “Lights” and “Burn.”
Following an out-of-place intro, the majority of the 16-track LP consists of mediocre pop songs with choruses almost exclusively consisting of one or two phrases. “On My Mind,” the strongest of the album’s first four tracks, repeats the lyric “Why I got you on my mind” 28 times in three minutes and 33 seconds. And even though it’s the most repetitive of the album’s first quarter, its polished sound and catchy highlights the inferior aspects of preceding tracks “Aftertaste,” “Something In The Way” and “Keep On Dancin.’ ”
“Holding On For Life” follows the same pattern. In its final verse, the track goes as far as to repeat its title 15 times. Yes, 10 times. And then another five times. Fifteen. The chorus had potential — building with semi-consisted rhyming of “night,” “fight,” “ignite” and “light,” it sets itself up for a booming Calvin Harris-esque bass drop. Instead it regurgitates the same line with the same enthusiasm one would muster for a root canal.
“Don’t Need Nobody” is the final song crippled in the name of repetition. The verses offer cohesive content through a fresh rhythm; however, the chorus effectively consists of the phrase, “I don't need nobody, need nobody but you” manipulated and morphed through auto-tune, moving the sound between Goulding’s and maybe her angry alien counterpart. It’s auditory overload and a distraction in and of itself.
“Around U,” while mildly repetitive, has moments of clarity, that showcase Goulding’s talent. Echoed moments where the auto tune diminishes leaving Goulding’s raw sound are a pleasure, but the random repetition of certain lines in verses distracts from the lyrical content. While that content isn’t overwhelmingly interesting, at least it’s enough to actually warrant a complete song.
“Codes” is the album’s standout track. Goulding’s expert pacing isn’t as muddled with auto-tune, and it’s that minimalistic sound that entices listeners into the first verse and over the cliff of the chorus’s debut. The out of place delivery of the chorus’s first line is saved by the immediate change in pace. Delirium also hits its lyrical target in “Army.” At first listen, it isn’t anything special; it still succumbs to exhausting repetition, but lyrically, it’s touching, idealistic and honest. It might just have people thinking about who their “Army” is.
“Love Me Like You Do,” as shown by its success, is a good pop song. The sound is original. Goulding’s delivery hooks in listeners immediately, and it builds sonically and emotionally with each chorus and verse, ultimately leading to the explosion of the final chorus. However, at this point, (I wrote about it 10 months ago) it feels like old news on a new album.
“Don’t Panic” and “We Can’t Move To This” are bad news on a new album. The former is a deep track of the album, known only to those who holistically love Delirium. However, as most of the album’s contenders for radio popularity are plagued by their similarity to a boom box that was knocked off a table, “Don’t Panic” further brings Goulding’s sophomore LP down. The island vibe of “We Can’t Move To This” is a welcome introduction into the album’s landscape, but that is all destroyed by the mixing of Goulding’s voice in the song’s chorus. It’s somewhere between four toddler-sized Ellie Gouldings and the representatives of the Lollipop Guild.
With two tracks remaining, it’s possible to see Goulding’s talent and sound come through with a strong finish. “Devotion” sounds like it should’ve been Delirium’s much-needed ballad. The lyrical work is set up for a Christina Perri-esque ballad to remind everyone of Goulding’s raw talent. The instrumental intro gives hope, but almost immediately is layered under an — albeit not bad — sheath of synth, which is ultimately ruined by the cheap dance floor echoes at the end of the chorus. Just as I’m getting over the non-balladness of “Devotion,” the first chorus of album closer “Scream It Out” offers me hope. It isn’t great, but maybe it will build into something stunning and truly worthy of a high-profile pop album. Sadly, that isn’t the case. “Scream It Out” only builds itself to an inferior version of Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song.” The commitment to the chorus is absent. The screaming is purely lyrical rather than audible.
Delirium isn’t the album Ellie Goulding will be remembered for. Frankly, it should be the one we forget. It has moments of greatness, but the majority of its incompetence is a direct result of its lyrical base, production or mismatch of the two. When Goulding’s vocal chops take priority over the song’s production are the album’s highest peaks, ensuring her talent despite the general misstep of the record.