Ellie Goulding is in her fun era, and frankly, other pop stars should be taking notes.
It feels strange to talk about an artist with over 100million global singles sales as if they’ve somehow been underrated, but it feels like a new level of affection for the serial hitmaker has been unlocked – and as someone who’s been a fan since the start, I couldn’t be happier.
At the time of writing, her Calvin Harris collaboration Miracle is the reigning No1 single in the UK; and her latest long-player Higher Than Heaven is leading the midweek charge on the album list. If both hold their leads until Friday, she’ll pull off her first Official Chart Double – over 13 years into her career.
The Elle-naissance is here, and while Miracle was probably always going to be huge, what’s really stepped things up a notch is the sense that she’s having a total blast – as evidenced by that rare, invaluable piece of publicity that every celebrity craves: a proper viral moment.
In an interview with Rolling Stone late last month, she was quoted as calling Higher Than Heaven her ‘least personal’ album yet – which, as any pop fan will know, goes massively against the grain of what artists traditionally say when they have new stuff to plug.
Demi Lovato, for example, has been affectionately teased for consistently touting her albums as the first glimpse of the ‘real me’, despite having already said the same thing multiple times in the past; and Britney Spears infamously called 2013’s Britney Jean her ‘most personal’ ever, only for it to end up being largely populated by half-baked will.i.am bangers.
As recently as February of this year, reports suggested Dua Lipa was putting the finishing touches to her ‘really personal’ third album; and us Kelly Clarkson stans are on tenterhooks awaiting an official release date for what she described in January as – you guessed it – her ‘most personal record’ to date.
Now obviously any artist of any discipline will be naturally inclined to draw from their own experiences when creating work that they hope will resonate, and I look forward to sobbing along with Kelly’s new music as if I myself am a divorced mum-of-two – but it was so refreshing to have someone like Ellie proudly declare that her new tracks are made simply for dancing, escapism, and fun.
Not only did that quote pick up plenty of meme-ready attention on social media, it’s become a recurrent talking point in interviews – and she recorded a hilarious voice-note for Greg James on Radio 1 in which she gleefully leaned into it, joking that it’s so impersonal, the lyrics were written by AI.
‘I just couldn’t really be bothered,’ she deadpanned.
On top of that, she’s been having a laugh on Twitter with the account Fake Showbiz News, which has made her the centre of fictional headlines over the last few years.
In 2018, the account tweeted: ‘Ellie Goulding says she can’t believe there are more than 800 missing people in the UK. “Where the f**k are they all?” she said.’
Then last week, she was asked the same question by a Twitter user, so she quote-tweeted it with a similar reply (sans swear word).
I’m a long-term fan: I remember being a baby journo and listing Lights, her debut, as the best album of 2010 (a bold claim at the time of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream but you know what, I regret nothing!); while 2012’s Halcyon was both bombastic and devastating, and 2015’s Delirium was packed to the hilt with stadium-sized pop.
A lot of the songs have stood the test of time: the climax of Anything Can Happen remains euphoric, and Still Falling For You – co-written with Swedish fave Tove Lo for the Bridget Jones’s Baby soundtrack – remains totally gorgeous. Don’t play Something In The Way You Move or Goodness Gracious anywhere near a dance floor unless you want to see me fully losing my s**t.
It’s not like me and her other fans are in some niche minority: she’s sold millions upon millions of records and she’s had a hefty 24 UK Top 40 hits.
So why has she often felt somewhat undervalued by the gals, gays and theys who tend to be the internet’s pickiest pop connoisseurs?
Is it because many simply saw her as the John Lewis-friendly piano-botherer from Your Song and How Long Will I Love You? Is it because her inescapable mega-hits like Burn and Love Me Like You Do felt like they were played 3,495 times a day on commercial radio, and were the stuff of dreams for supermarket Mother’s Day compilations? Maybe.
Perhaps it’s simply the case that it’s been a while since she’s put out anything that’ll pop off in the gay bars – and now she’s given us a whole bloody album’s worth.
Whatever the case, she’s the woman of the moment; topping charts, hitting new heights with critics (Higher Than Heaven currently has her career-best score on Metacritic), and being A+ on social media.
Once again, she’s one of the country’s most exciting popstars. And all she had to do was have fun.
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