A new 'Delirium'

A new 'Delirium'

music sensation

A new 'Delirium'

I was obsessed with murder,” British pop singer Ellie Goulding said of her childhood recently while regarding a diorama of taxidermied antelope at the American Museum of Natural History. This 28-year-old musician, known for her breathy, ethereal singing voice, said that her father collected books about true crime, “so I knew everything about Jack the Ripper, even the Yorkshire Ripper, Ted Bundy, Charles Manson.”

Growing up in public housing in the tiny parish of Lyonshall in western England, Goulding cherished school visits to the Imperial War and Science museums in London, a three-hour drive from home. “It was expensive,” she said, “and such a special occasion to go there.”
These days, her status as one of England’s most celebrated pop stars has made her cultural expeditions less of a rarity. Last November, she rented the Natural History Museum in London — now just down the road from her home — for a private nighttime tour, a birthday gift for her boyfriend, Dougie Poynter, the bassist in a band called McBusted.

Within fame

The occasion made tabloid headlines in England; Goulding is a frequent subject of fascination in the British gossip news media. The minutiae of her outfits, outings and relationships are chronicled as obsessively in the United Kingdom as, say, Khloe Kardashian is covered here. With the release of her third album, ‘Delirium’, Goulding may make a similar leap in the United States.

This album marks a shift from a sound fusing opaque electronics and lilting organic elements to full-on pop music, the kind of shiny, compact hooks that come from working with pop masterminds like the songwriters and producers Greg Kurstin and Max Martin. The first ‘Delirium’ single, On My Mind, produced by Martin, is a jumpy midtempo track on which Goulding’s florid trills are edited down to a high-pitched clip. It has already cracked the Top 20 of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

Goulding has made radio smashes before — Lights, Love Me Like You Do, the Calvin Harris collaboration I Need Your Love, all Top-20 hits — but in the past she’s preferred soft anthems that showcased her exceptional voice, a quivery soprano whose closest antecedent is perhaps Kate Bush. She began writing songs at a young age, and at 21, she met the young London producer Starsmith, whom she had contacted via Myspace; by 2009, a series of songs she had composed had become her debut album, ‘Lights’. That record’s success made her the kind of star who is asked to perform at the wedding reception for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and at the White House for President Barack Obama.

Though her early work veered toward folk pop, her penchant for electronic elements made her songs attractive for remixes, and Goulding developed a reputation as a sort of crown princess of electronic dance music, or EDM.

“She was a lot different from the major pop singers in America,” Kurstin said. “A lot of people who didn’t really like pop music but who liked electronic music liked her. Now pop singers are a little more electronic, but Ellie really stood out on the scene.”

In contrast to her often brooding 2012 album ‘Halcyon’, ‘Delirium’ is upbeat and populated with exuberant love songs. “I got happier and happier, and ended up not wanting to overthink,” she said. “I have so many interests, and I realised the thing I wanted to commit to, and to be known as, is a pop artist. I wasn’t doing that before — I was just teetering, and not really committing.”

Yet Goulding said that her decision to collaborate with superstar producers was based mostly on her desire to generate singalong moments in her live performances.

In tune

“People might think, ‘Oh, she wants to work with Max Martin, he makes the biggest songs,’” Goulding said while walking past a giant 1870s Haida canoe suspended from the ceiling. “Everyone wants to work with Max — but he doesn’t work with everyone. He’s very selective, actually.” Goulding and Martin met during the recording of Love Me Like You Do, her contribution to the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack.

“I had no idea what he even looked like,” she said. “When we recorded that song, I thought he was hilarious, and we got on so well. When I realised that, we had fun, and we understood each other. Besides making big records, there’s nothing more important than working with someone you get on with.”

Despite her reign as a chart-topper and a dance-music power vocalist, Goulding has maintained a public persona that is occasionally glamorous but overwhelmingly accessible. At the Met Gala this year, she wore a silvery, beaded dress by Marchesa; a few days later, she posted an Instagram photo of herself from Women’s Health UK magazine kickboxing in leggings and a tank top.

“I think if my music’s doing well, I don’t need to be something else which I’m not,” she said. “I’m not trying to be more than a singer. If I wore something revealing or said something a bit outspoken, it’s because I really mean it, or because I really want to wear it. It’s not for any other reason. That’s what I get now from being really confident in myself. I can wear the most unflattering outfit, and I don’t care.”

On ‘Delirium’, Goulding tries on a more staccato vocal delivery, which has the effect of heightening the dramatic tension in her voice.

“I’m touchable,” she said. “I’m not otherworldly. I think my voice is something untouchable, but I think me as a person is not. My voice doesn’t come close to anything. No one else will ever have my voice. That’s the one thing I have. My personality and me, aside from my voice, is very reachable and relatable, I think.”

Accustomed to being chased down by paparazzi in England, Goulding was hyper-aware of patrons in the museum cafe who pulled out their smartphones, checking if they were snapping surreptitious selfies with her in the background. At the museum, though, a few weeks before ‘Delirium’ was released, the only person who may have spotted her was a towheaded 20-something who eyed her as she examined a preserved specimen of Guinea worm in an exhibit about disease eradication.

“I’m not always like my music, which can be quite brutal, quite powerful,” she said. “I can be very shy, and there’s not much about my music anymore that’s shy. It’s the ultimate freedom of expression. It’s the one place where there’s nothing involved other than me, my thoughts and my musings.”

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)