Review archive – Where were they then?: Ellie Goulding

Back on 6 October 2008, BBC Kent Introducing published my review of Ellie Goulding’s songs on Myspace – the place to go for all things new in music at the time.

She’s done fairly well for herself since then. Her latest album, Delirium, has performed very well in the charts. Very well indeed.

So maybe it’s worth having a look back to the beginning. Here’s the review I wrote seven years ago! Ms. Goulding even sent me a message thanking me for it. Which was nice…

Ellie Goulding has not only appeared on BBC Kent Introducing but has also taken BBC 6 by storm during an appearance on Tom Robinson’s BBC 6 Music show. Online contributor Stephen Morris takes a closer look at the singer/songwriter behind the music of the talent that brought us “Not Following You”.

There are many comparisons that can be made with Ellie Goulding: Katie Tunstall, Joanna Newsom, Feist. You name any female singer/songwriter and there’s probably something in there that will sound just a tiny bit like Ellie Goulding.

But for all that, there is something entirely unique about this phenomenal musician. Whether she is just strumming a guitar or armed with all the gadgetry that the 21st century can provide, this artist cannot fail to impress. She has a talent many aspire to and yet few are born with. Ellie Goulding was born with talent in spades.

Over the course of the four songs currently available on Myspace, Goulding proves herself to be an artist in complete control. Her musicianship is outstanding and her lyrics insightful, covering topics as diverse as unrequited love and wartime comradeship.

Despite the almost childlike delivery of songs like “Not Following You”, this singer’s music has a mature depth that many should envy.

The track, which featured on a recent BBC Kent Intoducing show, describes the turmoil of a girl desperate for a boy’s affections but too shy to admit it.

The quasi-naïve lyrics (“If I sat next to you it wasn’t intentionally”) are delivered over a busy guitar harmony that stops and starts all over the place and a glockenspiel accompaniment which only adds to the whole song’s charm.

There is a sense of being out of control in Goulding’s lyrics. While “Not Following You” concerns the unnoticed passions of a young woman in love, “The Writer Demo” has as its narrator a character only too happy to be moulded into shape by the one she loves: “Why don’t you be the artist and make me out of clay?/Why don’t you be the writer and decide the words I say?” she urges in the chorus.

The song is filled with poignancy: a frail girl of a woman begging to be looked after. It’s hardly the work of a seasoned feminist: Emily Davison would probably be turning in her grave.

But not to worry: the song is delivered with such a powerful combination of vulnerability and passion that anyone fearing the rise of retro-sexualism should not worry. This is the story of one human being needing another – pure and simple. And it is beautiful in its purity and simplicity.

The most adventurous of the tracks currently listed on Ellie Goulding’s Myspace page is “Wish I Stayed Frankmusik RMX”. As the name suggests, there is an electronic influence with a remixed vocal that sends Goulding’s voice echoing and reverberating around the speakers with the agility of a moth round a light bulb.

Again a sense of vulnerability comes though as Goulding asks questions (“Why can’t we speak another language/one we all agree on?) and admits regrets concerning the past (“I wish I stayed”). Despite the introduction of synthesisers and the remixed vocal, there is still, at its heart, the sound a lonely voice crying out for help and answers.

In “We Were Friends”, we find Ellie Goulding at her rawest. While “ Wish I Stayed Frankmusik RMX” is full of technical wizardry, this song is totally stripped bare: just a girl and her guitar. It’s a song about comradeship and friendship. But still the vulnerability pervades: “ we scan the forest floors looking worse for wear/for a life outside of ours” runs one lyric.

The song is about being at the mercy of external forces: other people or simply situations beyond our control. There is a longing to be with loved ones, but sometimes this will never happen.

In Ellie Goulding, there is a musical force to be reckoned with: quiet yet powerful. Her music isn’t described as “Power Folk” for nothing. In these four songs – ranging from the fragility of a single voice and a guitar to the full onslaught of electronica in all its richness – this artist has shown an amazing versatility, while maintain a style that echoes that of her peers while remaining truly unique.

First published on BBC Kent Introducing’s Myspace page 6 October 2008.

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