In recent years, Ellie Goulding's love songs—"Love Me Like You Do" and "Close To Me," for example—have continued to top the charts, but her newest track veers into slightly darker territory.
Goulding's most recent venture, her single "Hate Me," features gen-Z emo rapper Juice WRLD. It may initially seem like a surprising pairing to put them both on a sad pop breakup banger, but there are more parallels between the two than one might think. Both artists seemingly evade being pinned down to one musical genre, and Goulding has never wanted to be corralled inside of a box. Their music video accumulated over 3 million views in just a matter of 24 hours, and has since climbed somewhere into the 16 million range.
While the song's lyrics paint an ominous portrait of what happens when you follow an ex—or a soon-to-be ex—on social media, Goulding's real-life relationships are very much in tact. Next month, she will marry her fiancé Caspar Jopling at York Minster. The ceremony will likely include high profile guests such as Prince William and Kate Middleton (she sang at their wedding in 2011), and Princess Eugenie, whose wedding Goulding attended last fall.
Goulding opened up to W about her excitement about planning a wedding and an album at the same time, the art world intel she's picked up from her fiancé, and her ever-evolving relationship to social media, here.
Where are you calling from right now?
I’m in West London.
What are you doing over there?
I’ve been in the studio pretty much every day, and I’ve been rehearsing in the mornings for some of the festivals coming up. I’m hoping to have a few days off next week. That would be very nice. I was meant to be in Botswana this week, but for various reasons I couldn’t end up going, so I’m just making myself busy, and I’m in the studio. I’m getting ready for my wedding, actually.
How’s the wedding prep going? Are you nervous? Excited?
I’m not nervous yet. Right now I’m just enjoying the process and it’s fun. It’s been a great way for me to see my friends and family a lot more. My partner is in New York right now, but it’s been fun. I’m just excited for the next chapter, for sure.
Do you have any ideas for a wedding performer? Or maybe a DJ?
I do have ideas. I’ve taken these ideas and executed them. [Laughs.]
What’s on your dream wedding playlist?
All sorts of things. I love classic wedding bangers. I love things that people can sing along to. I also think it’s nice to have a moment with an artist you really love, just because it’s a chance for everyone you love, you and your partner, to see someone perform that you feel encapsulates what you love about music. I think it’s important for me to get the music right at my wedding.
Your music video for “Hate Me” has amassed over 13 million views in a matter of days. How did this collaboration with Juice WRLD come together?
I was genuinely a fan. When I heard “Lucid Dreams,” I heard something special in his voice and really wanted to work with him at some point. I like the kind of innocence he had with that first record, and I just asked him to be on the song and he said yes. I was happy!
He seems to evade being pinned down to one genre, but did you notice if he had a particular pop sensibility when you were working with him?
He definitely has pop sensibilities. He definitely has really interesting melodies and ideas. He’s smart, he knows what he’s doing. And he did an amazing job on the track, it’s a good parallel I guess. I’ve never really wanted to be tied down to one genre and if you don’t have to be, then that’s great. I’ve always had that kind of freedom.
“Close To Me” is another one of your recent singles that includes a hip hop feature, but with Swae Lee instead. What has inspired you to incorporate more hip hop into your music lately?
I enjoy it, you know. It’s music that I wanna dance to, and it’s music that I really enjoy listening to. I grew up on very different music. I grew up in the English countryside, and I grew up on a mixture of folk music and a bit of rave music because out in the countryside, we didn’t have country music, we just had rave music and dance music and we’d have these raves out in the countryside, in the fields and forests and stuff. So, hip hop was never really part of my childhood, I guess. Now, as a genre that’s coming through as a pop genre and really dominating, as an art form I find it really interesting and really enjoyable. I’m so disconnected from it, but at the same time the fact that it makes me feel happy and makes me want to dance is like, I am connected to it. It’s been fun to put my own voice on that genre, and I don’t know, I like it! [Laughs.]
What was the best part of going to those raves? What did you wear?
We did wear hoodies, but we also wore big, flared jeans. We wore these sort of ‘70s jeans, but it was very grunge. Everyone just copied each other, and everyone copied their idols and bands. Punk bands and stuff like that.
Who were some of your idols that you modeled your rave looks after?
I loved Gwen Stefani. Brody from The Distillers, Courtney Love. I loved a grunge look. I think I preferred the men’s style. I copied guys in bands, like Incubus. I did love fashion, but I knew I wouldn’t be seen dead in a dress. I just wanted to look cool.
Your sense of style has evolved a lot since then, it seems, right? Especially if you look at some of the more high fashion ensembles you wear in the “Close To Me” video. Has any of that mixed in with your personal style, too?
That’s my new stylist, Nathan, who is a genius. He’s a wizard, he’s an artist. He comes up with these amazing images and visions for me, and everything he puts me in I just love. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right stylist and he just appreciates me as an artist, and really wants me to shine through what I wear. “Close To Me” was his first project with me.
In “Hate Me,” social media plays a big role in the narrative of the video. How has your relationship to social media evolved over the years?
I’m just kind of getting to grips with the whole thing because I didn’t really grow up with social media, so it’s never really been a huge part of my life. But I realized through music that it’s a great way to connect with fans and keep on top of what we’re doing, what people are listening to, what people are doing in the gym, I don’t know. My fiancé only likes to post about art and galleries, so that’s also another side to it. It’s a beautiful place to keep on top of art and culture, and news, and technology, but it’s also a place where you can really hate yourself. It’s crazy because it can be such a valuable tool, but it can also lead to the downfall of relationships. It can be the downfall of your self esteem. It’s a bizarre thing, and I think you can honestly say objectively social media is bad for you. But you can also choose the people you follow and choose the amount of time you’re on it. It’s an addiction so you have to curb that addiction, and you have to remember that there’s real life, and experiencing real life in the moment is more valuable than taking an Instagram Story of you walking down the street, I don’t know. This idea of capturing the moment rather than living in the moment is quite absurd, and I think that at some point we need to snap out of it.
Are you going to put a ban on social media at your presumably high profile wedding, then? Or are you going to be one of those people who leans into having a wedding hashtag?
What do you think? [Laughs.] Definitely not. No. I encourage people to be in the moment, and therefore that isn’t compatible with Instagramming every five seconds.
When your relationship to social media feels healthy, what is your favorite thing to post about?
I love to post videos of me singing, and of me just being silly, just being human. I don’t like to give a crazy amount away. I don’t post every single second of my life, but I like to post things related to my music because that’s what I use it for.
Do you have a finsta?
I do have a private account that’s just kind of for family and friends. I don’t ever want to subject my fiancé’s family to anything that they don’t need to be subjected to, so I tend to keep it quite professional on mine.
Your fiancé, Caspar Jopling, is quite active on Instagram, especially when it comes to sharing scenes from the art world. What have you learned from him about the art world?
I’ve learned so much about the art world. It’s so good to expand my taste in art, and the stuff that appeals to me and enlightens me. I definitely was always into art, but now I feel like there’s stuff that I wouldn’t have looked twice at and now it’s reshaping in a whole different way. He’s taught me a lot about that. He has amazing taste and loves championing new artists, and I love that about him. He appreciates really clever stuff, and it’s been fun to learn more about art.
Who are some of your new favorite artists?
I personally have a lot of female art in my apartment. Caspar’s been trying to get me to go to this Cindy Sherman exhibition this week. We have a Tracy Emin, Rachel Libeskind sketches, a Rebecca Warren sculpture. So we do love female artists, a lot.
According to your Twitter, you’re also an advocate for raising awareness about climate change.
It’s really because I know that it’s the biggest threat to civilization as we know it. So with that, it’s kind of hard to not be interested and concerned by it. The more I learned about it, the more I realized that it was going to exacerbate this thing that was already impacting the world. Famine and civil wars are happening because of lack of water. Displacement, female education, every single thing is going to be affected by climate change. And there’s the fact that the climate is heating up quite considerably.
When did you realize that was something that you felt you wanted to take up as a cause?
I think when I went vegetarian that was the first time that I started realizing the effects of meat consumption and the impact it has on the planet and how much water it requires, and how much land you need to rear animals. I think it was then that I started becoming interested in it. I’ve traveled the world a lot, and I’ve seen places, year after year, get hotter. I’ve just become fascinated by the science behind it, and there’s so much more to do and it can be very distressing so I feel like I have to use my voice and my platform. I work for the U.N. quite a bit, and seeing some of the most powerful people in the world refusing to acknowledge it, I feel like I have to step up and other people have to step up instead.
You were recently given an honorary doctorate degree from your former university, the University of Kent. What’s your favorite memory from being a student there?
I studied drama, so everyone was very open and big characters. It was social, we had to do lots of group work. I enjoyed learning, I enjoyed my brain being permanently switched on. It was where I discovered a lot of my favorite bands. I really got to know lots of different cultures and perspectives. It was very eye opening, and it was the first time I really ventured out of my small town, so it was definitely an experience.
That must have felt gratifying to receive an honorary doctorate from the place that shaped you!
It’s pretty cool to get a doctorate! I don’t know where that came from. I thought, you know, one day it would be cool to have a degree, but I never imagined to be a doctor, so here we are!
After the wedding is over, are you going to unwind or take a break from work?
I think I’m just going to keep working. I’m going to work as long as I continue enjoying it, and that’s kind of my rule. I am really enjoying it, so I don’t see myself stopping any time soon, and I’m excited for what’s to come.