Elena Jane Goulding was a student at the University of Kent, who one evening entered the university’s talent contest. Next thing she knows, she becomes the recipient of the Critics’ Choice Award at the BRIT Awards and her debut album Lights is number one in the UK Album Chart. Quite an impressive turn of events, isn’t it?
There are many reasons for Ellie’s sudden rise to fame. First of all, a producer called Starsmith must be named, he is the one responsible for adding infectious electronic beats to Goulding’s music and thereby turning simple acoustic songs into universal hits.
However, the fact that Ellie is a genuine singer-songwriter is equally important. Each and every track on the album was initially an acoustic melody on Ellie’s guitar. Folk music is something very close to her heart, and it is good to see that she has managed to stay true to herself while creating her sound, which has been categorized as ‘folktronic’ by some music critics. What is more, Ellie has said that she is the kind of person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She finds it impossible to sing about something that she does not believe in. Indeed, underneath the dancey beats, nice lyrics can be found. Not the most exceptional examples of poetry, but they definitely strike a chord with their sincerity and authenticity. Another, and perhaps the most distinctive reason why Ellie’s songs have been attracting the attention of the music world, is her unique voice, which is naively innocent, yet has a sense of soulfulness to it. Considering the above, it’s safe to say that Ellie Goulding isn’t your typical manufactured pop princess. She has a lot more substance than that, and Lights does a pretty good job showcasing it.
All ten tracks on Lights similarly consist of a simple yet haunting melody, catchy beats and a mix of subtle nuances. At times, however, the blend seems a bit too mechanical, making the end result sound somewhat artificial. Frankly, some songs would be better in their original acoustic version, without the interference of the producers. That being said, on most tracks the concept works. The opening track of the album, Guns and Horses, kind of epitomizes Ellie’s style: it’s a wonderfully folky song that begins with simple guitar and then gradually unfolds into a classic example of electro-pop. The eclectic Starry Eyed is one of the most captivating tracks, once its echoing harmonies start replaying in your mind, they are bound to stay there for days. Under the Sheets is another standout track in which the combination of infectious beats, a haunting melody and Ellie’s mesmerizing vocals is at its best, creating a distinctively Ellie-esque bittersweet atmosphere. In the lovely ballad The Writer, elements of folk music are strongly noticeable and the dreamy vocals beautifully capture the longing in the lyrics.
Lights is, with a few exceptions, refreshing and enjoyable. Not an album from where to look for a deeply moving musical experience, yet perfect for less refined listeners who allow themselves the simple pleasure of getting carried away by a catchy pop song. It’s definitely worth to give it a go, if nothing more, you might find yourself starry eyed for a while, and when you come to think of it, what’s so bad about that?