In an era when one well-timed viral hit can launch a star seemingly overnight, Ellie Goulding’s ascent to pop’s upper echelons was a remarkably slow burn. Her breakthrough single, “Lights,” was first released in her native England in 2010, but it took more than two years for the song to crack the Top 5 in the U.S. During that time, she performed at William and Kate’s wedding reception, sang for the Obamas at a White House Christmas-tree-lighting ceremony and bridged the gap between Lady Gaga and Mumford & Sons by marrying stylish electro-pop with a folk sensibility. (“Figure 8,” from 2012’s Halcyon, might be the only song on record to pair a harp with a dubstep beat.)
Goulding turns up the heat on her third LP, Delirium, out Nov. 6, but the only fever she’s coming down with here is of the Saturday-night variety. She stacks the album with one dance-floor banger after another, calling in the big guns to assemble club stompers that should translate well live when she tours arenas next year. Greg Kurstin, who co-wrote Adele’s new single, “Hello,” and Max Martin, the Swedish hitmaker behind recent No. 1s from Taylor Swift and alt-R&B lothario the Weeknd, worked on all but two songs.
That lets Goulding soar but also puts her in a little bit of peril. Delirium is her slickest album to date, one that doesn’t take a breather until her Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack smash, “Love Me Like You Do,” arrives past the halfway point. Yet with her collaborators’ ubiquity comes familiarity, and even the airy texture that makes Goulding’s voice so distinct can’t keep some songs from sounding as if they could have belonged to her producers’ other clients.
Thankfully, Goulding retains some of the weirdness that has set her apart from the steady stream of pop exports pouring in from across the pond. On “Don’t Need Nobody,” she warps her vocals into an ominous siren just before the chorus slams in. The lead single, “On My Mind,” will be on yours too after layers of repetitive vocal fragments and guitar loops build to one catchy conclusion. These songs are more than infectious enough to hold their own atop the charts. If Goulding is lucky, she won’t have to wait two years to get there this time.
This appears in the November 16, 2015 issue of TIME.
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