Ellie Goulding has it all going for her: major label backing, top spot in the BBC’s influential Sound of 2010 poll, this year’s Brit Award for new talent. Expect a deluge of punning headlines to follow her progress along pop’s slippery slopes – “Goulden Girl”, “Ellie Goes for Gould”, “Fool’s Gould” (if the campaign backfires).
It’s a great weight of expectation to bear. The 23-year-old from Hereford, a town noted for cattle and the SAS rather than pop stars, initially looked overwhelmed by it, materialising on stage diffidently strumming an acoustic guitar and singing in a vaguely folkie fashion. Ho hum, another singer-songwriter. But then bass and drums kicked in, adding a clean, purposeful beat, and the vocals grew in vigour, climaxing with some lusty “woo-aah” harmonies as the implication of lyrics about “doing it all for you” became clear. The song was assertive even if her stage manner wasn’t.
Discovered at a talent show at university, the former drama student was originally a conventional acoustic singer-songwriter. Folksy elements remain, as in the fluttery Clannad-style vocals decorating “Wish I Stayed”, but her act has benefited from a makeover assisted by electropop musician Frankmusik. “This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)” had an insistent, seductive groove. A cover of a song by US folk-rockers Midlake was given a euphoric dance music rush.
Stumbling stage chat gave the impression she wasn’t ready for stardom. “I didn’t expect the audience to be so large,” she said as if peering into the recesses of a vast arena instead of a modest indie venue in North London. Yet her body language relaxed as the brief set unfolded, and her singing throughout was confident. Expressive without being too showy she gave lines like “This love will be your downfall” enough edge to make them credible, while carrying the anthemic Kate Bush-isms of “Under the Sheets” with energy and commitment.
The overall effect positioned her between the girl-next-door charms of Kate Nash and the wilder shores of Florence and the Machine, though the songs were strong enough to stand out on their own terms. A “Goulden” future, indeed.
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