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Track Review

Everybody's doing the EDM thing these days. And I do mean everybody.

After winning a slew of awards in her native country in 2010 with her lilting, airy, almost fragile voice (that's been compared to singers such as Björk and Dido), even English acoustic folk singer Ellie Goulding has succumbed to the digital, pulsating charm of electronic dance music. With her fusion style being called alternately "femtronica," "folktronica" and "electrofolk," the 25-year-old musician now has her first big hit on the American side of the pond.

The video for "Lights" features Goulding singing and sensually dancing against a backdrop of swirling, ephemeral lights and visual effects, including clusters of lasers dancing around her. As for the song itself, vaguely shadowy lyrics contrast with the upbeat, dancey vibe. "I had a way, then, of losing it all on my own," she begins. "I had a heart, then, but the queen has been overthrown/And I'm not sleeping now, the dark is too hard to beat/And I'm not keeping now the strength I need to push me."

A bit further in, she conjures memories from her youth with, "Home/Noises I play within my head/Touch my own skin and hope that I'm still breathing/And I think back to when my brother and sister slept/In an unlocked place, the only time I feel safe."

In an interview on the British show Freshly Squeezed, Goulding said of the lyrics' meaning, "It's kind of about my childhood, a little bit. It's about having—I used to have this thing where I couldn't sleep with the light off, which is quite kind of irritating, but I was afraid of the dark. It's kind of about that."

That explanation illuminates the words of the chorus, in which Goulding soaks up strength from the brightness: "You show the lights that stop me turn to stone/You shine it when I'm alone/And so I tell myself that I'll be strong/And dreaming when they're gone."

A postscript: Ellie Goulding also seems to find "strength" in her sexuality. Rolling Stone reviewer Jody Rosen says of the album from which "Lights" comes, "On first listen, Goulding can sound innocuous: Dido with dancier beats. But there's darkness here. And lots of sex. 'I will take away my feelings/I will be an animal,' she sings, and you believe her."

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Reached No. 2.

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January 24, 2012

On Video

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Adam R. Holz

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