Before its release, Ellie Goulding promoted her new single as “the saddest song [she’s] ever written,” and she wasn’t far off with that statement. While I wouldn’t rate “Flux” as the most miserable of the Goulding canon (that distinction belongs to “Explosions,” which shares many traits with this track), it is certainly melancholy. The song hearkens back to the balladry of her first two records, no sign of Delirium’s influence to be found; in typical down-tempo fashion, it features chugging piano and swelling strings marching the listener through the turmoil the singer has felt in past relationships. Although it is an undeniably angelic track — her high notes in the chorus are genuinely heaven sent — that can’t mask the fact that it is an all too safe lead for her forthcoming album.
Described upon release as a track that captures how she “felt about not ever being able to let go of a past love,” “Flux” opens with the solemn line “remember me/in a simple way;” immediately, Goulding establishes her abandonment of a former partner. Continuing through the verses, she reminisces on the memories the couple have shared together and how their lives would differ had they maintained their relationship. The central lyric that’s meant to cut right to the heart — “I’m still in love/with the idea of loving you” — carries the chorus before the singer declares that “it’s not enough” to rectify their issues. Throughout our lives, almost all of us find at least one significant other we think about time from time, imagining if we could have made things work (for better or worse). Goulding knows we need to address our history to be able to properly move on from those events, and she translates that process beautifully on “Flux.”