ALBUM REVIEW: Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” combines electronic sounds with folk-esque lyrics
Ellie Goulding is one of the American music industry’s most recent sleeper hits.
Her debut album “Lights” was actually released in February 2010, and, while it obtained decent sales in Goulding’s native United Kingdom, she remained unknown in the United States until the titular single off her album gained traction this summer.
With the single “Lights” at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 as of July 7, more American listeners will be likely to pick up Goulding’s debut to see if it’s worthwhile.
One can see why the hit single and first track “Lights” has appeal. Electro-pop influence is definitely present but doesn’t overwhelm Goulding’s mellow and, at times, haunting vocals. It also shows she has a clever hand when it comes to songwriting, as the song manages to come off as poetic in the simplicity of its inspiration (according to interviews, it’s her fear of the dark).
Goulding’s folk-songwriter roots are apparent throughout the album, as songs like “Guns and Horses” and “This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)” sound almost like folk-pop put into a dance-club remix. Production-wise, the album is very sleek and the way it manages to act as a strengthening complement to Goulding’s singing instead of overdosing on distortion to the point of completely disguising her voice is something more dance-pop albums today could take note of.
Lyrically, the album is interesting because its content has much darker undertones than one would recognize upon first listening. While relationships take up a good portion of the album’s themes, emotional dysfunction seems implied in songs like “This Love (Will Be Your Downfall),” where Goulding seems torn as to whether or not a lover is good or bad for her, and “Under the Sheets” (“You left a blood stain on the floor… like all the boys before … we’re under the sheets and you’re killing me”).
Perhaps the most deceptively happy-sounding track is “The Writer,” where a bouncy piano disguises the lyrics, which appear to describe someone resolving that she’ll completely change herself for a lover who seems pretty apathetic (“I try out a smile and aim it at you, you must have missed it, you always do”). The album’s lyrical ambiguity in these respects will keep listeners guessing up until the last track: A cover of Elton John’s “Your Song,” which rightfully keeps to a simple piano background with Goulding’s vulnerable vocals as the star.
Goulding’s debut might not be the most earth-shattering, but its mostly seamless fusion of electronic and singer-songwriter sensibilities will likely be a summer treat for fans of both.
Artist: Ellie Goulding
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars
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