I know it’s unusual for a big artist to release five singles ahead of an album these days, but Ellie Goulding apparently has her reasons. With the songs barely leaving a mark on the charts, it’s not hard to imagine why she – and her record label – would feel the need to keep releasing songs as a way to get people excited about the new project.
I also can’t help noticing that the album’s release on Good Friday was somehow planned as a nod to its title, Higher Than Heaven. But I won’t give them credit for coming up with the idea the first time round because this project has been pushed back twice before its April 7 release. Here in all its 16-track glory, it proudly stands as Goulding’s least personal record to date. It saw her experiment with music and explore her love of singing and writing on a deeper level. Do we love what she’s cooked up for us?
The album opener “Midnight Dreams” delivers on Ellie Goulding’s promise to give us an album that will show us the best, worst, and maddest parts of love, and no, we’re not talking about Disney’s version of love here folks. “Got a secret place inside my head / You’re the weakness I ain’t over yet / Invisible string pullin’ me into you,” she sings in the first verse, describing a feeling that’s so strong it’s almost overwhelming. “Fallin’ deep, push me to the edge / Got a power that I can’t control.”
Perhaps a bit on the cheesy side, and I mean the teenage-type level of cheesy – “Excuse the madness, I’ve just had to try and put it into words / The way you make me feel, sugar sweet” – “Love Goes On” is about the type of love we dream about, perfect and lasting forever.
Coming on as the sixth track, the lead single “Easy Lover” addresses one of the most dangerous parts of falling in love – the part where we feel we can change someone that’s hurt us a million times. “It was never easy, lover / When you’ve given all you’ve got to each other / And then every time, it’s harder to recover / We are only young, we are only young,” she sings on the track, which she later revealed was inspired by the thought of only feeling alive when you’re with that one person that hurts you over and over again. Her vocals are more than a treat on this song, and Big Sean’s rap helped to complete the picture of what it’s like to give yourself up to a toxic lover.
The album’s title track, “Higher Than Heaven,” is another love song that portrays a perfect kind of love, even if it doesn’t ring true. If there’s one thing that I can say isn’t right about the album, it’s that its lyrics don’t do much to connect with listeners. The love songs seem too good to be relatable and the emotional range that this record inspires is too limited for an album with sixteen tracks.
I’d commend the production and the vocals, but I’m not going to pretend that the entire body of the work is anything beyond okay.