British chanteuse Ellie Goulding returns with her highly anticipated third studio album, 2015's expertly produced Delirium. Goulding's previous effort, 2012's Halcyon, was a hypnotically ambient, lightly experimental album that balanced catchy pop hooks with textural electronic soundscapes. While Delirium isn't devoid of this electronic atmosphere, it's somewhat more mainstream in its tone, and finds Goulding expanding her sonic palette with a melodically catchy set of more R&B-infused songs. Helping Goulding to achieve this are a handful of uber-pop producer/songwriters, including Sweden's Max Martin (Britney Spears, Taylor Swift) and Carl Falk (One Direction, Nicki Minaj), Savan Kotecha (Ariana Grande, One Direction), Greg Kurstin (Sia, P!nk), and others. Halcyon also benefited from a similarly collaborative approach, but Delirium feels less distinctly personal, bigger in scope, and brimming with a pressurized commercial energy. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Whereas Halcyon may have required several listens to grow on you, Delirium grabs you with immediately hooky, danceable tracks like "Something in the Way You Move," "Keep on Dancin'," and "Don't Need Nobody." Some of the more R&B-leaning cuts like the Police-meets-Rihanna single "On My Mind" seem at first like an odd fit for Goulding's highly resonant, throaty chirp of a voice. That said, Goulding's voice has always fit well in the contemporary pop landscape and even when you get the sense that she's trying on someone else's sound, as in the CeeLo-esque "Around U" and the swoon-worthy "Codes" with its '90s Brandy-meets-M83 vibe, the sheer craftsmanship of the material alone keeps you listening. There are also enough passionately heartfelt EDM anthems, like the effusive "Army" and bubbly, Ibiza-ready "Devotion," to please longtime Goulding fans. Ultimately, it's the unexpectedly appealing combination of Goulding's distinctive voice and the melismatic R&B bent of the songs on Delirium that makes for such an ecstatic listen.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar