The hazy R&B powerhouse Ellie Goulding has been tossing bits of flesh to press all over the place, citing breakup record here and budding Skrillex relationships there, even making jokes about how she “gets more bother than Bono” in her hometown, on account of her rising fame. But let’s cut the fat here and mine some of the themes we’re seeing in lyrics on (digital) paper, as the 25-year-old teases a good seven lyric sheets-and-counting before the US drop of Halcyon on Tuesday, October 9. For the record, the literal meaning of “halcyon” is a bygone idyllic remembrance of happier times:
Dropped as a single back in August, this glistening synth-banger is probably her best work to date, wielding that warbled effect she’s mastered in the studio in spades, building to these serene charging verses with backhand, ominous lashings. But this particular verse has us furrowing our brows as to its implications. Goulding was born in ’86. If this is her way of saying panic ends at birth, well, that’s a beautifully optimistic sentiment for a song that ends with the line, “But I don’t think I need you.”
We held our breath
To see our names are written
On the wreck of ’86
That was the year
I knew the panic was over
Starting out threatening and visceral, there’s a perfect pop turn-of-phrase here, Goulding scoffing at Father Time, lacing characters on a power love trip. But then it just falls apart into this cheesy figure eight metaphor that she doesn’t quite pull off. And it’s as a clear as the pluck of a harp as to who it could be about. Where’s the “Anything Could Happen” muscle?
Breathe your smoke into my lungs
Back of the car with you I stare into the sun
Still not too old to die young
But Iovers hold on to everything
Channeling a little upper register Houston in this crystalline, choir-backed hymn, it’s a pastoral journey on the ear. Until you wise up to what she’s going on about. A dramatic rain scene, a lump in the throat, and a literal iteration of the song title all in the starting verse. Rain’s too easy, a.) and b.) c’mon, there are better ways to convey tension than this sad robot speak.
Stood in the rain and watched you go
I feel a lump in my throat
And this is far from joy