When Ellie Goulding started writing her fifth album Higher Than Heaven, the world looked very different. It was slap bang in the middle of the lockdown era, so while some things were opening back up, life was very quiet, very introspective and very much did not involve hugging your friends. From it, Goulding has spun a joyful, energetic record, a manifestation of all the things she was missing – dancing, singing, grabbing your friends and screaming lyrics in their faces. Higher Than Heaven is a dazzling pop album full of songs that flutter into being and out again without having to be dissected, discussed or picked apart. “It’s the least personal album,” she said at a Q&A this week – and it’s all the better for it.
But dissect, discuss and pick apart we shall – if only in an attempt to pinpoint exactly how fun it is to hear Goulding embrace the pop sounds that made her. She has a voice made for dance tracks (as evidenced by her many features, including on recent Calvin Harris smash “Miracle”, which has gone stratospheric on Tiktok), she delivers killer hooks like she just thought of them and weaves long notes together like she’s spinning gold. This album is an escapist fantasy of new loves, old loves and no loves, and it is coloured by the sheer joy of moving your body to music.
“Cure For Love” is a pristine pop song, with its walking bassline and Goulding’s cascading vocal. “Here’s to being lonely”, she sings sweetly. It’ll make you want to dance around your kitchen and delete all your exes’ numbers. It’s followed by another absolute winner, “By The End of the Night”, which makes the rest of the album feel almost like a let down by comparison.
There’s a time and a place for capital-I important music – music that delves into your soul and pulls out the bits that you need to confront. Higher Than Heaven couldn’t care less what’s going on in your soul. It just wants you to order another vodka tonic and slosh it down yourself on the way back to the dancefloor. And who are we to argue with that?
Songs to stream: Cure For Love, Let It Die