While Ellie Goulding's 2012 sophomore album, Halcyon, explores the shadows of heartbreak, it sounds like the expanded edition, Halcyon Days, will extend that collection with more hopeful tracks. Case and point: the bright and optimistic pop anthem, "Burn." Though "Figure 8" perfectly captured the heavily layered drama of her brilliant second record, the release of bonus track, "I Need Your Love" showed Goulding swiftly stepping back from those dark songs. "Burn" continues that evolution.
This newest single sounds great--upbeat, hooky, and clear--but it also sounds generic. Goulding has created more interesting material. This most recent song hinges on the well-tread ideas of fire and light as symbols for liberation. (Katy Perry did better work with a similar image on "Firework.") Fortunately, Goulding's unique and impassioned performance enlivens the cliche's limited emotional heft, even if not completely remedying it.
That said, the grim and heavy pop music landscape this summer could use a little positivity, and "Burn" may be the track to help light this humid and rainy July. (Pun intended!) In her excellent and thoughtful piece, "When Pop Stars Flirt with Bad Taste," Anne Powers laments the direction some pop music has taken over the past few months. Perhaps Goulding's "Burn" will work as the salve for such wounds. At the very least, it's a catchy piece of open-hearted pop music, and the second solid single by one of the most interesting talents around. Goulding remains an estimable vocalist and songwriter. It is good to hear she is still working hard.