Can a folk warbler be a pop diva? The debut album by singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding proves that the answer is yes. Goulding, from Hereford, England, has a classic British folkie's voice — the kind of tremulous soprano that evokes a wintry day on a fog-swaddled moor. But Lights places her vocals and minor-key melodies against producer Starsmith's club-ready mix of synths and brisk, busy electro rhythms.
It shouldn't surprise any Ellie Goulding fan to know that the British songstress wrote music for the likes of Gabriella Cilmi and Diana Vickers before issuing this full-length debut. That's because Goulding's sound doesn't stretch far from other teen Brit-pop artists of 2010, who are more likely to pull back and dig deep on a record than indulge in the froth of Girls Aloud or Sugababes. Goulding finds a balance between both camps on Lights.
In the UK it's hard to hear Ellie Goulding above the hullaballoo of the hype-cycles. Tipped in January as the sound of 2010 in two tastemaker polls, she's received distinctly underwhelmed reviews now her album has been released. It's an odd record to have been caught in the crossfire: There's no high concept or big personality, it doesn't ride any particular fashion wave or nostalgia agenda.
Chances are you will have an opinion on Ellie Goulding. The media has practically demanded that you do, but imagine the BBC’s Sound poll does not exist. Imagine the BRITs Critic’s Choice award was never invented and envisage a world where Marina has no Diamonds and Florence has never even seen a Machine. This world stripped of context and heightened expectation is the one in which we should judge Ellie Goulding.
New Musical Express (NME) - 60 Based on rating 3/5
Top of the BBC Sound Of 2010 poll. Winner of the Critics’ Choice Award at this year’s Brits. Without bagging Young Sportsperson Of The Year and winning [i]The Apprentice[/i], expectations couldn’t be higher for 23-year-old [a]Ellie Goulding[/a]. Her success is a foregone conclusion – with this level of pre-album hype even [a]HEALTH[/a] could guarantee a Top Five hit.
With a BBC Music Choice award slung ever so conspicuously around her neck for 2010, one heartily expects to be disappointed by folk/electropop crossover artist Ellie Goulding’s debut album. Another quirkily-voiced female singer-songwriter dabbling in the ‘80s with indie sensibility, as if we didn’t have enough of them in the charts in 2009. Working predominantly with upcoming nu-disco producer Starsmith, and conversely taking into account Goulding’s acoustically-based live performances, this collaboration could have turned out to be distinctly hit or miss, whilst still not being a particularly original idea.
It may not have been a vintage year for music, but if nothing else, the 2010 Brits offered a bumper harvest of pathos. There was courageous Samantha Fox proclaiming that she was "going to get it right tonight", then announcing the award for the "most rememorable performance of the last 30 years". There was Geri Halliwell demanding "Where are they now?" of Kula Shaker; a woman whose last solo single reached No 41 five years ago mocking someone else's faded commercial fortunes.
Production is a tricky field. On one hand, a great producer can utterly transform an average or undeveloped idea into an excellent song. On the other hand, a bad producer can ruin the potential the track originally had. This can happen by either taking over too much of the creative process, not doing enough to move it along, or overproduce it with generic beats and walls of sound that removes the artist’s musical identity.
Expect Goulding to be the last one standing at 2010’s poll-winners’ party. Mike Diver 2010 That Ellie Goulding topped the BBC’s Sound of 2010 poll and won the Critics’ award at the Brits counts for precisely nothing as of now. Her debut album signals the next chapter in the career of an artist who, with only a pair of singles reaching the world beyond the music industry, seems to have been handed success on a plate.