Following the bold pop experimentation of ‘Delirium’ in 2015, Ellie Goulding has stripped it all back to her vulnerable foundations for her highly anticipated fourth studio album, ‘Brightest Blue’.
The cohesive collection of tracks is a return to the intimate storytelling that captured the world’s attention on her sophomore album ‘Halcyon’. Every song feels like a raw telling from a page ripped out of her diary as she tackles love, heartbreak, self acceptance, and the struggles of the music industry.
Opening with the crowd chants recorded during her last world tour, the British singer-songwriter details the re-birth of her artistry and psyche on the soulful ballad ‘Start’. Finding her feet again and rediscovering who she really is, she teams up with serpentwithfeet for this personal number which also marks the only collaboration on the album.
Segueing into the nostalgic ‘Power’ she breaks out of the chains of a toxic relationship and finds the self empowerment she needs to move on. Brooding with dark pop production, the song starts with moody aesthetics that are pulsating and raw before bursting into a disco influenced hook that feels quite 80’s and bold. When you listen carefully to the way it’s structured you will realise that it also Interpolates a reference to Dua Lipa’s ‘Be The One’ with it’s rhythmic flow.
Keeping a hold of that confidence, ’How Deep Is Too Deep’ then gives you one of the albums first pure highlights. Bubbling with a dark pop beat, it builds into this cinematic release that sonically feels like the sequel to ‘Figure 8’.
“You hold me so tight, say it’s getting too deep for you, but how deep is too deep?” she poignantly declares as she reflects on the suffering she endured in a toxic relationship.
‘Love Is Given’ then dives into a soulful blues inspired sonic that allows a guitar to take centre stage. It’s a gritty moment that still feels polished and empowering as she opens up about the pain she’s inflicted on people and how she’s acknowledging those mistakes in order to grow as a person. “And maybe I’m paying for the things I’ve done. And maybe I’m paying for the ones I’ve hurt. But I feel a change in the love I’m given” she sings.
‘New Heights’, ‘Woman’ and ‘Flux’ give you some beautiful soaring ballad moments, but ‘Bleach’ is an immediate standout. The emotionally raw song hears her wanting to forget someone after they’ve hurt her and stunted her growth. “What would it take to bleach you? What would it take to undo? Five Hennessys to drink you out my mind” she honestly sings.
The simple delivery is so captivating as the strength of her vocals shines right through, but she does give you one pure pop delivery on the album with the uplifting ‘Tides’.
Closing the album with the romantic title track ‘Brightest Blue’, she experiments with a fast paced vocal flow, a cinematic pop production, live strings and even a Daft Punk influenced vocal distortion. It’s the perfect embodiment of hope that sets her free from all the pain she’s detailed throughout the album, and turns her sight of vulnerability into the next chapter of her life.
The album is split into distinct sections through the use of the revealing interludes ‘Cyan’, ‘Ode To Myself’ and ‘Wine Drunk’. This allows a more direct approach to the messaging she want this album to exude, and helps join the lines of cohesion.
On top of that the album also has a b-side that features all of her collaborative singles like ‘Worry About Me’ featuring Blackbear, ‘Slow Grenade’ featuring Lauv, ‘Hate Me’ featuring Juice Wrld and ‘Close To Me’ featuring Diplo and Swae Lee which highlights a playful and confident side of her pop artistry.
‘Brightest Blue’ is one of Ellie Goulding’s strongest, most cohesive and most vulnerable records to date. It’s a stunning collection of tracks that will have you feeling a whole lot of emotions as your process your own self-discovery journey with your vulnerability.