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Ellie Goulding’s least personal album is probably her most fun

"Higher Than Heaven"

Release date: 07 April 2023
Ellie Goulding - Higher Than Heaven - Album Artwork
06 April 2023, 15:18 Written by Sam Franzini

Amid artists promising vulnerability and true depth to their new eras, Ellie Goulding released one of the funniest statements of the year by saying her newest release, Higher Than Heaven, will be her “least personal” album yet.

In the same vein of Ava Max’s Diamonds & Dancefloors, Goulding prioritises fun instead of depth, and the result is a record that makes you thankful it doesn’t think too much.

Higher Than Heaven keeps it refreshingly simple. After 2015’s excellent but lengthy Delirium, 2020’s Brightest Blue tried to be too smart and walked away with a noticeable lack of exciting songs. Goulding’s newest effort goes in the opposite way – there’s rarely a moment to relax amidst the shimmering synths and electric vocal performances. In a bit of irony, the album’s finest moment might actually be one of its most low-key: the glossy vocal performance of “Love Goes On” and its brooding, hypnotic background instrumentation mixes to a dazzling, momentous effect.

But oh, the bops. In this category, Higher Than Heaven more than delivers. The album opens with a one-two punch – “Midnight Dreams” is a slick disco track, and “Cure For Love”’s playful and catchy chorus sings of self-preservation after a breakup: “Given too much, didn’t get enough / Sick but I’m getting started.” The bass on both “Like A Savior” and “Let It Die” is so nasty and propulsive, something that could have been pulled out of The Weeknd’s catalog, and the title track “Higher Than Heaven,” fittingly, reaches new heights vocally.

There are some times when it’s clear the songwriting wasn’t a priority, and the instrumental isn’t enough to bolster the song. The near-monotone delivery on the chorus of “By The End Of The Night” doesn’t pair well with ideas that sound plucked straight out of 2015, and album closer “How Long” introduces an unwelcome trap beat that doesn’t make sense with the rest of the album.

Ellie Goulding has successfully recalibrated and offers a fun, high-energy dance record with her latest offering. There was a rumour, now debunked, that the lyrics to the album were AI-generated; but if it were true, would it really matter? Higher Than Heaven is pure candy floss in the best way – little substance, but the sugar rush is so immaculate it ends up not mattering.

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