Ellie Goulding’s tremendous vocal performance was more than enough to carry this song into the charts, but personally I can’t help being underwhelmed by the instrumental arrangement, which reminds me rather too much of something out of one of those ‘one man band’ arranger keyboards! I mean, come on — surely there’s more to life than eighth-note piano chords? And I pity the poor, wasted cellist, whose only relief from uninspired chordal padding is the self-conscious-sounding fill at 2:27. I’m not asking for jazz-fusion here — the spotlight should undoubtedly remain on Ellie, after all — but those instrumental parts almost completely miss the opportunity to support or enhance the vocal line.
I’m not totally convinced by the sonics either, even though Goulding’s performance kicks arse and the vocal sound is pretty respectable too. The piano feels bass-light, for a start, and the presence of a spurious sub-50Hz environmental rumble at 1:08 suggests that this is down to recording choices, rather than filtering at mixdown. The cello sounds even more anaemic, as if it’s been miked too close to the instrument, and it doesn’t blend well with either the piano or vocal. Yes, I know, you could argue that this puts the project into the ‘authentically/endearingly rough-hewn’ category, and that the overall lightweight mix tone deliberately serves to contrast with the rumbling LF of the climactic bass-drum entry at 2:29 — but I just don’t buy it. For my money, Adele’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’ (which also recently enjoyed a return to the charts) works much better on all these counts — it’s got a more musical (though still reserved) arrangement, great-sounding piano and string recordings, and some subtle low-end support from an additional bass line.