Reminiscing on the past is often a double-edged sword, simultaneously enveloping us in warmth and joy while also hanging a cloud of dread and longing for simpler times. The most visceral form of nostaglia, at least personally, comes from music: transporting you back to the time of release or discovery, it can be difficult to listen to these pieces without the memories attached to them bubbling up to the forefront of your mind. Ellie Goulding attempts to describe that feeling on “Sixteen” — her new single for her currently untitled fourth album — describing quite well how it felt to be at that incredibly transitional age.
Backed by a restrained EDM soundscape, “Sixteen” sounds like it would fit nicely on 2015’s Delirium, but the lyrics are much more concerned with the past than anything on that record ever was. Goulding recounts moving out of her parents’ home in the first verse, feeling invincible as a young adult on the lam; this attitude quickly dissolves, with the singer wishing she had slowed down to appreciate what was going on in life at the time. As her popstar schedule continues to allow minimal time for family, friends, and partners, Goulding retreats into these memories, referencing small details like living on MSN and sleeping in someone’s t-shirt to convey her desire to return to such a simpler time. With production that feels vaguely familiar within Goulding’s discography, “Sixteen” does a succinct job at trapping its listeners in the nostalgic rabbit hole it’s intended for.