Nice Hits! is a Reverb column that unironically dissects, reviews, and appreciates the best songs of the current Top 40. It is unsnobbishly premised on>"/>
Nice Hits! is a Reverb column that unironically dissects, reviews, and appreciates the best songs of the current Top 40. It is unsnobbishly premised on the logic that just because a lot of the music on the radio is crap doesn't mean all the music on the radio is crap.
Current chart position: #87 on the Billboard Hot 100; as yet uncharted on iTunes.
The team: Goulding, who is 25 years old, wrote "Lights" with Richard Stannard and Ash Howes, both of whom also produced the track. Howes is a member of Stannard's Brighton, England-based production and songwriting group, Biffco. Stannard's responsible for the Spice Girls' most major hits, including "Wannabe," "2 Become 1," and "Spice Up Your Life." He's also written and produced songs for such British pop stars as Marina Diamandis, Little Boots, and Will Young. In 2001, Stannard and Howes teamed up to pen Kylie Minogue's worldwide smash, "Love at First Sight."
Breakdown: "Lights"' appearance on the Billboard charts and on mainstream radio is somewhat belated. Ellie Goulding's been releasing a string of positively received singles in her native UK since 2010--in between February and August of that year, "Under the Sheets," "Starry Eyed," "Guns and Horses," and "The Writer" all made appearances on the UK Singles Chart. Goulding first appeared on my radar last April, when she came to Seattle and played Neumos; her Bright Lights record became one of my most listened-to for the rest of the year. That same month, Goulding came a little closer to becoming a household name when she performed at Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding (the royal couple's first dance was to Goulding singing her version of Elton John's "Your Song"). The month after that, she made her Saturday Night Live debut, where she performed "Lights." But for some reason, the song has only come into rotation on Top 40 radio in the past 3 or so weeks.
It may not be clear why "Lights" caught on so late, but it's obvious why it did--it's a brilliantly catchy and classy pop song. Goulding's previous singles struck an interesting balance between folk-rock (she is also a guitarist) and electro-pop (her music's been oddly described as "folktronica"), but "Lights" is one hundred percent a dance jam, the song where she fully embraces her blonde pop diva side. (See the glamourous, booty-shaking video above for evidence).
Goulding's a talented songwriter, and there are certain delicate touches that elevate "Lights" into something magical--the sparkling synth intro that sounds like stars twinkling; the fairytale lyrics ("I had a way then/Losing it all on my own/I had a heart then/But the queen has been overthrown") made all the more mystical by Goulding's strangely whispery vocals; the blend of acoustic guitar and cello in with the electronics; the way the song could either be about a lost love or an alien abduction ("'Cause they're calling, calling, calling me home"). Once the drumbeat kicks in and the walls of synth rush in to signal the chorus, the song's become something utterly irresistible. The chorus is epic, as sharp and cutting as the snap of a whip, and it gets repeated frequently through the song, including once after a dramatic fake ending (side note: there are few things I love more than a fake ending). It's a song so good, you won't mind when it gets stuck in your head for hours. Which it will.
BTW: Dubsteppers, rejoice--there's a Bassnectar remix of "Lights":