“Going pop” is a common change of pace for artists these days. Despite the ubiquity of ‘80s-infused big pop already on the charts today, this sort of leap is still being labeled as “experimentation.” Considering the current musical climate, it’s no surprise that Ellie Goulding described her third album Delirium as “an experiment—to make a big pop album…I wanted it to be on another level.” What is surprising, however, is Goulding’s impression of her previous output, which certainly falls under the pop category. Delirium may not live up to Goulding’s hopes, but it is unquestionably a “big pop album.”

Nothing here sounds particularly different from Goulding’s previous releases, Lights and Halcyon, which increasingly glossed up her EDM origins and shed her more interesting folksy leanings. All 16 tracks (on Delirium‘s standard release alone) could have plenty of radio play. But what’s striking is the sheer omnipresence of the default standard-bearer of Goulding’s big pop sound: Gated reverb. There’s gated drum reverb everywhere, and Goulding is left belting to be heard over all the snares. As a musical choice, there’s nothing wrong with a good snare sound, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that half of the tracks on Delirium blend into each other as a result of this standard set of sounds.

The blueprint for success for the entirety of Delirium is, rightly so, “Love Me Like You Do,” her hit single from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack. That said, the track is somewhat atypical, building on slower drum machine and balladic verses to one of her patented shimmery choir-choruses. The first half is markedly subdued—to great effect—but it’s the second round of the chorus where Goulding’s soprano truly erupts, with a simultaneous swell of strings and percussion that launches the song into big pop territory. Following the lead of that Max Martin track, the Greg Kurstin-produced “Something in the Way You Move” builds on low-key verses but has an incessant beat that lifts it to dance pop heights. It also happens to feature a chorus that sounds suspiciously like a sped up version of “Love Me Like You Do.” Since Goulding only put voice to the latter, “Something in the Way You Move” certainly earns kudos as the strongest Goulding track on Delirium.

There are a few tracks, however, that come from left field. “Keep On Dancin’” uses a whistling hook and pseudo-oriental beat to create a darker dance track that comes across as cloyingly exotic in its arrangement. Lead single “On My Mind” sounds like Goulding’s attempt at an R&B track, but the song’s stuttering delivery doesn’t suit her voice. “We Can’t Move to This” offers up a similar sound and goes as far as sampling the song “It’s Over Now” by R&B group 112. “Around U” and the excellent “Don’t Panic” may be the best blends of Delirium’s supposed experimentation and Goulding’s flattering, glossy vocals. The percussion alone on both tracks succeeds in reaching the “big pop album” goal through a relentless synthbeat broken up by ’80s-inspired blips. But, later, “Devotion” takes that one—or maybe 10—steps further, distorting Goulding’s voice over a glitched-out beat. These oddball tracks unfortunately don’t do much to illustrate genuine pop range or break up the lengthy album into engaging sections. Rather, they only confuse listeners who are rightly trying to form a cohesive impression of this new-ish version of Goulding that she insists she is presenting here.

Earlier this year, Carly Rae Jepsen was unilaterally praised for her album Emotion (styled as E•MO•TION) and its unapologetic dance pop. Goulding’s Delirium is just as much beholden to today’s pop trends and features equally impeccable production, but listening to the 56-minute pop opus is an experience largely devoid of emotion. Goulding and Jepsen even share cipher qualities and struggle more than Taylor Swift did with establishing a persona. But while Jepsen has forged this carefree girl-next-door image over the years, Goulding has quite possibly muddled her own image in the pop consciousness by getting lost in these irrefutably catchy songs that, like “Love Me Like You Do,” could truly be sung by any of her contemporaries.

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