Album Reviews

Ellie Goulding – Higher Than Heaven

(Polydor) UK release date: 7 April 2023

A return to the more uptempo sound of her past, the sometime BBC Sound Of winner’s fifth is an album full of club bangers designed to stick in the memory

Ellie Goulding - Higher Than Heaven It’s been 13 years since Ellie Goulding won the prestigious BBC Sound Of… award, back in 2010, and in that time, while she’s not quite replicated the success of fellow award winner Adele, she’s established a longevity that would be the envy of most other artists. Indeed, she now holds the record as the British female act with the most chart singles, notching up no fewer than 24 Top 40s to date.

Higher Than Heaven is Goulding’s fifth album, and is a return to the more uptempo sound of her past. This is an album full of club bangers – anyone who prefers the ballads like Love Me Like You Do and How Long Will I Love You may be disappointed. Fans of decent dance-pop anthems though will be more than satisfied.

There are nods to prime-era Kylie Minogue at times, and especially to Miley Cyrus‘ recent album Endless Summer Vacation, and although Goulding may lack Cyrus’ more experimental edge, you won’t hear a more polished collection of dancefloor anthems than on Higher Than Heaven. The soaring choruses on tracks like Like A Saviour and Let It Die are designed to sing along to and stick in the memory for a long time.

Goulding has attracted some attention during the publicity for Higher Than Heaven for describing it as her “least personal album yet”. In an era when lyrics are pulled apart in order to find clues about the singer’s state of mind, this does make a refreshing change – these are songs just designed to sing along and dance to, without having to read anything too deep into things.

However, this does have a flip side, and it means that most of these tracks sound rather generic. There’s nothing here that, say, Dua Lipa or Charli XCX hasn’t done before and in a more interesting fashion. Some tracks like Love Goes On are quite bland and do indeed seem to go on and on, while Goulding’s unmistakable voice will annoy as many people as it delights. You sometimes yearn for something a bit different than mid-paced dance-pop, especially over the course of an 11-track album.

Yet there’s still a few gems to be uncovered on Higher Than Heaven. Easy Lover has a satisfyingly smooth pop sheen to it, and features a languid rap from Big Sean (sounding here like a dead ringer for Childish Gambino), and Like A Saviour is reminiscent of Years & Years‘ knack for big anthemic stadium pop. Let It Die is also Goulding at her strongest, mixing some dark, moody synth sounds with an irresistibly catchy melody.

There’s no doubt that Ellie Goulding is very good at what she does, and after 15 years, she can pull off the sleek pop sound which Higher Than Heaven showcases very well indeed. There may not be anything that grabs the attention as much as earlier tracks like Starry Eyed or Anything Could Happen, but that won’t bother Goulding’s army of fans. There may no be real surprises, but it’s another solid and professional outing from Ellie Goulding.

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