In March 2011, when asked about the album's musical direction in an interview with gossip website Dean Piper's World, Goulding stated, "It's started to sound very dark and very weird. This album is going to be even more emotional [...] I wanted to make it so there is hope. I want to make an effect whether it's happy or sad."[1] Goulding added, "This album for me is a journey from dark into light from confusion to understanding [...] I didn't set out to write a break-up record but I think it became one."[2] In an interview with MTV News on 29 August 2012, Goulding elaborated on the sound of the album, saying, "I've moved on quite a bit since the first album, because I've discovered so much; I've learned a lot more and I've grown up a lot more. I've gained more influences and different influences and people have influenced it; I suppose just circumstances. It's a bit more tribal and anthemic; a bit more piano and vocal than anything. The last album was very electronic, but it was tied in with my voice; this one, to me, is way more of a pop record."[3] Goulding revealed to The Sun that her former relationship with BBC Radio 1 DJ Greg James provided inspiration for the album, stating, "The last record I felt like I was singing about stuff like that and I thought it was really sincere but I listen back and I think, God that was really naive, that was nothing. This time it's the real deal. There's stuff about Greg. I played it to him because I felt that was better then him hearing it randomly somewhere."[4]

The album's opening track, "Don't Say a Word", was described as "gorgeously electronic" while "morphing through synthscapes".[5] "My Blood" was written and produced by Goulding and Eliot and was described as echoing the vocals of Adele.[6] "Anything Could Happen" is an electro ballad written and produced by Goudling and Eliot, containing "spurting synths and a sky-kissing chorus".[7] The fourth track "Only You" was referred to as "somewhere in between, thunderous and electrifying but bereft of the kind of earworms that would make it compulsively replayable".[8] The title track "Halcyon" was co-written and co-produced by Goulding and is an electronic song.[5] The seventh track "JOY" was co-written by Goulding and was described as a "string-laden affair that showcases her helium-powered pipes".[7] The next song, a cover version of American artist Active Child's 2011 song "Hanging On", contains dubstep, downtempo and dream pop influences. "Explosions" starts with a choir and ambient drums; after the chorus, the piano drops and the production surges to a roar.[9] The tenth song on the album, "I Know You Care", was co-written by Goulding and Justin Parker. Lyrically the song speaks of "her trying to convince someone—us, her lover, herself—that they have something worth salvaging".[7] "Atlantis" is lyrically "a quintessential break-up song, balancing moving on, with the helplessness of love and love lost". "Dead in the Water" is the final song on the album,[6] besides the bonus track "I Need Your Love", a collaboration with Scottish musician Calvin Harris.


  1. Piper, Dean (7 March 2011). "EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ellie Goulding". Dean Piper's World. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named interscope
  3. Montgomery, James (27 August 2012). "Ellie Goulding's 'Anything Could Happen' Video: Go Behind The Scenes Now!". MTV News. Viacom International Media Networks. Retrieved 5 September 2012.
  4. Smart, Gordon (2 October 2012). "Wills and Kate wrote me a lovely letter for singing at the Royal Wedding". The Sun (United Kingdom). News International. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named rs
  6. 6.0 6.1 Farokhmanesh, Megan (9 October 2012). "Ellie Goulding: Halcyon". Paste. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Hewitt, Ben (12 October 2012). "Review of Ellie Goulding – Halcyon". BBC Music. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  8. Lansky, Sam (9 October 2012). "Ellie Goulding's 'Halcyon': Album Review". Idolator (website). Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  9. Lansky, Sam (1 October 2012). "Ellie Goulding's "Explosions": Hear Her New Single". Idolator. Buzz Media. Retrieved 24 October 2012.