mon 25/05/2020

CD: Ellie Goulding - Halcyon | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Ellie Goulding - Halcyon

CD: Ellie Goulding - Halcyon

The latest from the John Lewis cover girl is the fiddle's sound as dead eyes watch pop music burn

'Halcyon' (+ on + on + on + on + on + on + on + on + on)

Styles and innovations in music, as in all the arts, change incrementally over time. Suddenly we can find ourselves in an unrecognisable landscape. Things moved on when we weren’t paying proper attention. Sometimes this is due to a wave of game-changing talent – exciting and all to the good. On other occasions we’re startled to awake in a mire. What’s worse, as in a nightmare, everyone around is carrying on regardless. Are their souls asleep?

Styles and innovations in music, as in all the arts, change incrementally over time. Suddenly we can find ourselves in an unrecognisable landscape. Things moved on when we weren’t paying proper attention. Sometimes this is due to a wave of game-changing talent – exciting and all to the good. On other occasions we’re startled to awake in a mire. What’s worse, as in a nightmare, everyone around is carrying on regardless. Are their souls asleep? Listening to Ellie Goulding’s new album is such a moment.

Goulding’s debut, Lights, was a big seller. It opened doors and she even played Elton John’s “Your Song”, a ditty she’d covered for a John Lewis TV ad, at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding reception. Since when is that a good idea? John Lewis/“Your Song”/Kate & Wills. Read that back and wither inside. Since when is it a good idea to warble like a classical soprano, quavering like Kate Bush in a wind machine, over backing tracks so pompous they'd give Muse pause for thought? Answer: since Flozza and her wildly overrated Machine dragged Marina Diamandis and Paloma Faith through a crack in reality. And since Cowell’s vomit hegemony bludgeoned half the population into believing emotion is expressed by high note showboating. “Ooooh, doesn’t she have a lovely voice?” No, she sounds like a cross between an operatic wannabe and Whitney Houston, just like everyone else. Listening to Goulding’s po-faced grandiosity, with all its wild, theatrical, classical aspirations, its super-self-conscious quiet/vulnerable sections, and its musical fusion of contemporary electronic pop, orchestration and US R&B tics is a wake-up call.

In her favour there’s one good line – “Still not too old to die young” – and the preposterous orchestral orgasm “Atantis” is so wildly bombastic it actually defies loathing. Really, though, the gates are open, and if they can get this one past us, a mulch of VERY SERIOUS MUSICIANSHIP, pre-Beatles entertainment schtick and media savvy “underground” tropes, then the jig is up.

Watch a trailer for Halcyon

Since when was it a good idea to warble like Kate Bush in a wind machine?

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