Album Review: Ellie Goulding – Brightest Blue (2020)

When I was younger, I remember getting the reissued ‘Halcyon Days’ and ‘Bright Lights’, the supersized editions of Ellie Goulding’s first two studio albums, and being obsessed for years. Although many people see her name and think ‘boring pop’, I’ve never quite seen her in that light. Her unique voice is beautiful to me, and she has released a string of hits throughout her career which have ensured that I rarely go a week without hearing her voice; my favourites being ‘Outside’ and ‘Goodness Gracious’ – typically her hits which go full dance-pop.

When I looked at the tracklist, I shuddered when I saw ’19 songs, 1 hour’. I was very concerned about the length – 40 minutes is extensive for a lot of albums in 2020 – and wondered how she was going to fill the time without getting boring. I looked deeper into it, and found that it was packaged into two parts – ‘Side A’ containing the album as such, a more personal side, and ‘Side B’, with the singles and pop hits which preceded its release, called ‘E.G.O’. I was more at ease, and hit play.

To me, ‘Start’, the 5 minute intro, with ‘serpentwithfeet’, is boring, plain and simple, way too overblown and nearly put me off the rest of the album. Luckily, track 2 is ‘Power’, a bop which heavily samples Dua Lipa’s ‘Be The One’ (although it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Dua’s track). Already knowing the song, I was dancing along to it – an emotional pop song about a relationship which went sour. The chorus is rousing, and it works really well together. ‘How Deep Is Too Deep’ is very reminiscent of her older music, and I absolutely love it. The pre-chorus feels familiar, although I’m not sure from where. The backing electronics at times verge towards the experimental – an interesting element which I wasn’t expecting.

Song 5 is ‘Love I’m Given’, which might be my favourite. It feels inspired by her older collaboration with Major Lazer, ‘Powerful’ as the beat is very similar. The strong bass and the chorus elevate the track in a way which both invades the senses and relaxes them. After this, the album goes down a more acoustic, stripped-back feel. I’m not the biggest fan of ‘New Heights’ or ‘Ode To Myself’, but it they are closer to the more personal, softer tones which I was expecting. ‘Woman’ is an inspirational ballad about her position as a human, and I don’t dislike it. I still don’t think her voice perfectly fits a ballad, but the emotion which is clearly present throughout gave me chills, and it feels made for a TV advert.

‘Tides’ is a more upbeat track, which makes use of breakbeats and manages to combine both her previous electronic elements with her slower pop background, creating a blend which instantly goes into my favourites. The last 3 tracks on Side A – ‘Bleach’, ‘Flux’ and ‘Brightest Blue’ seem to blend into one. The final one, the title track, sounds like a closer for a weeknight drama – it fits a soundtrack vibe, although I’m not sure what it’s doing here.

Sides A and B are separated by an Overture, before it moves to the poppier hits which have seen her gain chart positions in the USA – especially from ‘Hate Me’ with the now-deceased Juice WRLD. ‘Worry About Me’, with rapper ‘blackbear’, was fast-tracked as a single following a leak in March. Ellie’s voice fits really well with the hip-hop influences which are apparent on the track. While I’m the worst person to be able to talk about hip-hop, both artists’ voices fit together well. I don’t like ‘Slow Grenade’ with Lauv. I think I’ve tried to get into Lauv before and failed – although Ellie’s voice is again the highlight. ‘Close To Me’ made zero impact on me. ‘Hate Me’ is a better song than I remembered – I actually really like this one, and I’m not surprised it was one of her more successful songs from this era.

Overall, ‘Brightest Blue’ is a decent album. It’s a blend of Ellie’s previous styles, and a mix of pop coming from both 2020 and 2012. I can see myself adding it to my 3am chill vibes music, and even though I’m not a huge fan of every song, it’s highlights make it stand out from the crowd. The first part of the album is my favourite, as the second feels more like a collection of songs which were made for radio. ‘Sixteen’, the final track, wouldn’t be out of place at a gay nightclub, and for that reason I love it. I’m happy I made the decision to listen to this as it is one of the best I’ve heard this year – it’s a bit long and at times I wasn’t too interested, but there’s enough quality and diversity for re-listens. EG4 is a solid 8/10.

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