Higher Than Heaven (Deluxe)

Higher Than Heaven (Deluxe)

“I was so relaxed on this album,” Ellie Goulding tells Apple Music of Higher Than Heaven. “It’s probably the most refreshing thing that I’ve done. It’s not a story this time. It’s more like a mood.” Goulding’s fifth album is her first since 2020’s very personal Brightest Blue, her first since becoming a mother, and features the first material she wrote after the UK’s various COVID lockdowns. It’s also a love letter to pop, and is the exuberant sound of an artist unburdened. “It’s not like releasing something like Brightest Blue, where I was genuinely nervous for people to hear some of the lyrics,” she says. “It’s the best version of what I do as a pop writer—as a pop vocalist.” Higher Than Heaven is a pop hydra of sorts. Many songwriting and production heads (including Greg Kurstin, Julia Michaels, Stephen Kozmeniuk, Ali Tamposi, Anthony Rossomando, and Lostboy) combine for something powerful—but the heart is all Goulding. “I’m assertive in a studio, and I believe in trial and error, collaboration, being kind, and staying open-minded,” she says. “I wanted this album to be universal. I love self-indulgent, poetic lyrics, but I consciously wanted there to be a simplicity to the lyrics and the scenarios. There’s a beauty to that. And there’s a power in ignoring the people that hint that maybe you need to start doing this or that. It’s so often a thing for female artists to have to invent alter egos or change their image or move into totally different genres or try and prove to people, ‘Here I am. I’m new and shiny again.’ I'm like, ‘No, I make good pop records and here I'm just going to keep doing what I love.’” Here, Goulding takes you through her album, track by track. “Midnight Dreams” “I made this one with Koz [Stephen Kozmeniuk]—he did the track and we did the lyrics together. It’s about the dream of love and fire and passion and infatuation. It’s about that all-encompassing feeling when love takes over you and you’re living in this dream world.” “Cure for Love” “Sometimes I hear a track and something just clicks in my head and I know what to write almost instantly. I wonder if it’s the years growing up listening to BBC Radio 1 and hearing so much pop, pop, pop—plus dance. I just love to really meticulously write a song that is perfect to listen to.” “By the End of the Night” “Quite an ’80s-inspired song, and we reach a point of hyper-realness here. ‘By the end of the night, I want to feel like the sky is dripping on every part of me.’ It’s beginning to get a little surreal and on another planet. The lyrics couldn’t be more gushing over this collision of love.” “Like a Saviour” “I was initially kind of torn over the fluty bits on this song, but then realized it’s quite ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’ by ABBA. It’s a cool thing to be able to connect new stuff with an iconic tune. This song’s proof that the songs on this album can still go back to being songs, if you know what I mean. When you play them just from piano or guitar, you know it’s a song and not just my voice and lots of other things going on—which can disguise something as a song. I don’t know what came over me with the ‘spinning in your starlight’ lyric, but the idea that you could just be saved by one person is nice to think about.” “Love Goes On” “This is the first Greg Kurstin song on the album. He has a pop sensibility for sure—he really appreciates and respects pop music—but then he has such a taste for electronic sound where everything is such quality. And this is from someone who’s an electronic music fiend. I’m no Björk, but I happen to think my electronic music playlist is quite elite.” “Easy Lover” (feat. Big Sean) “Another song with Greg—and with the brilliant Julia Michaels, too. She’s an emo like me. We’re two girls that have been falling in love and getting our hearts broken forever and just love to write about it. She’s such a professional, and knows that real feelings and real universal things should not be compromised by trying to write a good pop song. This song was charged up by Greg, who came up with the drums and guitar parts, which eventually became a bit MGMT-inspired on Greg’s part. And Big Sean’s verse works really well.” “Higher Than Heaven” “No other title could’ve been better to use for the album to describe what’s going on here—which is just high-as-a-kite feelings of love and infatuation and you’re not coming back down anytime soon. I really like this song because it’s bloody high to sing but it just feels so sensual and so passionate.” “Let It Die” “Here, I had this idea of somebody unable to feel strong enough to leave a relationship. I love the idea of preaching to them—really preaching—to let it die, to just finish it. It’s going to be shit for a while, but you’ve got to cut it off.” “Waiting for It” “It’s just a song about sex. There’s not really much else to it. I was giggling in the booth as it’s not really my thing to be singing, ‘Everybody talking ’cause we started something/We can fuck the world away.’ It’s that escape of something being so sexually electric and powerful. It’s definitely more R&B-inspired. My first concert was Craig David, my most worn-out CD was by Lauryn Hill, then it was Alicia Keys, then it was Destiny’s Child. And so there was something about this song that I just loved to sing.” “Just for You” “Greg, Julia, and I wrote ‘Easy Lover’ on our first day and this on our second. Lyrically it felt a little indulgent—I mean, ‘It took somebody else to make me realize how much my heart only beats for you.’ God!—but it was Drake-inspired. Julia and I were both mad on Drake at the time, and we just thought we could hear Drake singing it. The vocal melodies are also quite unusual here, because with Greg, I know that he’ll take my voice and sample it and put it all over the place. So these melodies come from me knowing I can be really free and experimental.” “How Long” “It was very special to work with Ali Tamposi—an amazing songwriter with a beautiful and an unusual instinct for melody. This is a very challenging song to sing, which I love. It belongs in another universe where I’m singing about somebody who I think is probably missing me. Quite presumptuous. It’s about returning to old habits and being stuck in a vicious cycle with someone. It feels like young love, and I miss those days. Actually, do I miss them? Maybe not.” “Temptation” “Very intentional ’80s vibes here. It was so silly, the process was incredibly fun and indulgent in the best way, but once we were finished we looked at each other and all said, ‘Shit, this is quite good.’ There’s a little gender misdirect in the lyrics, which I enjoyed writing too.” “Intuition” “Greg and I did this one at the same time as ‘Love Goes On.’ We were in a very big Janet Jackson phase—a lot of The Weeknd, too. That clear urgency is something I feel very good when singing with.” “Tastes Like You” “This is probably going slightly back to old Ellie, as a few fans who’ve heard it have said. I feel like ‘Heartache still tastes like you’ is a great lyric. Someone said it sounds like I sampled Nelly with the ‘Oh!’ but that wasn’t intentional, I promise.” “Better Man” “I’m forever inspired by that clip of Cher on Oprah [in 1990] saying, ‘I’m very gentle, I’m really sweet, but if you fuck with me, I’d really mop the floor with you.’ That’s the essence of this song. It’s really important for a woman to have that, especially in this industry. You’ve got to feel like there is a power there, and that you have an inner strength.” “All By Myself” (with Alok & Sigala) “I enjoy the meaning here. I’m doing it by myself; I’ve been my own motivation. I didn’t necessarily intend on it being a big dance record, but we were messing around in the studio and everybody loved it. I think there are a few Depeche Mode fans that aren’t keen on us using the [‘Enjoy the Silence’] sample, but you can’t please everyone.”

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