In 2019, while visiting a New York City museum, Ellie Goulding stumbled into a room immersed in blue light and landed on the title for her new project — quite literally out of the blue. “I was transfixed,” the English singer, 33, tells EW. “The exhibition had this feeling of bittersweet melancholy, where you’ve accepted sadness and are ready to illuminate it in a helpful way.”
Side 1 of Brightest Blue — the singer's first album since 2015's Delirium— mirrors that sensibility, with songs like “Power” and “How Deep Is Too Deep” tackling self-discovery and romantic disillusionment. The record’s opening track, aptly titled “Start” and featuring singer serpentwithfeet, delves further into the experience of post-breakup life. The collaboration came after Goulding first heard serpentwithfeet’s “otherworldly, beautifully moving voice” on a Björk collaboration, which, she says, “sent shivers down [her] spine.” She promptly asked the Baltimore-born artist to perform at her wedding. “She kept making sure I was taken care of on her wedding day,” he says, laughing. “We smoothly transitioned from there to working on music together.” When Goulding invited him onto “Start,” she already had the foundation in place. For his verse, serpent wanted to add “something bold.” “Her lyrics spelled out, ‘I’m not this feeble person. I have a lot of will and might,’ and I wanted to respond to that,” he says.
"I think it's just been a journey of figuring out who I am really," says Goulding of the A side's overall theme. "I spent the last however many years touring and I think I put my discovery on hold. I discovered more about myself as a performer, but not necessarily as a person. I've realized how much I've changed over the years, physically and mentally. I tried to unravel that. There's a couple of songs where I'm still talking about finding that perfect person and being disillusioned by love — that's still my favorite kind of writing. I love writing about heartbreak; any kind of injustice that happens in love and between two people is always interesting to me. All these songs were part of this discovery of myself, learning to love myself a bit more, respect myself and not need anyone else. I think that was really important to me."
The record’s flip side, dubbed “EG.0,” introduces Goulding’s rebellious and fearless alter ego. “I get to play this super confident girl who leaves parties because she doesn’t like anyone, and deals with egotistical guys who think they’re the one,” she says. “It’s just fun. It's a very different side of me, but one that I wanted to include because it shows that that's still a big part of who I am.” Regardless of the album side or character in play, Goulding has one goal for Brightest Blue. “I want my music to be hopeful,” she says. “I want to help people through my music. It’s incredible knowing that you could be that needed support for someone.” Perfect timing, Ellie.