Monday, August 20, 2012

First Listen: Ellie Goulding - "Anything Could Happen"

One pleasant consequence of the kind of late-breaking success that came upon UK singer Ellie Goulding here in the US is sometimes it means the peak of your popularity coincides with the commencement of your next project. Typically the purpose of a lead single is to achieve two main goals: first, to remind the public who you are and why they like you (or why they should like you more this time), and second, to provide some idea as to what the new album is going to be, musically, thematically, stylistically, or whatever. Well, in the US at least, Goulding doesn't really need to worry so much about the first one, seeing as her surprise US hit single "Lights," from her 2010(!) debut album of the same name, currently sits at its probable peak of #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is all over mainstream radio. And it's probably just as well, because to those of us who know Goulding through "Lights" alone would find little to remind us in "Anything Could Happen," the lead single from her upcoming sophomore album Halcyon.

"Anything Could Happen," released on both sides of the pond today, is a stomping mid-tempo march ostensibly about a breakup (Goulding, who is currently attached to techno upstart and Grammy-sweeping dubstep poster boy Skrillex, has said of the album, "I didn't set out to write a break-up record but I think it became one"), but could relate equally to, say, that time in your life when you realize you don't have to keep people around forever if you don't want to. Goulding's raspy, distinctive vocals might surprise "Lights"-only familiars but those more experienced with the singer won't find that to be a new revelation; what is somewhat unexpected is the Goulding abandons her generally more demure tone for some rather Pat Benatar '80s rock wailing to drive home money shot lyrics like "Baby, I'll give you everything you need, but I don't think I need you."

It's a perfectly respectable tune, though it may not be everyone's taste; but because there isn't really much to offer those not captured or interested by the musical style (in terms of lyrics or message or performance, all of which are competent and serviceable but none especially fascinating in themselves), it seems unlikely to be a big smash like "Lights." When the album is released in early October we will be able to better judge Goulding's choice of debut single by the ability to discern its relation to the upcoming work it has been selected and put forward to represent and promote. If "Anything Could Happen" is to be judged as an apt ambassador for Ellie Goulding's upcoming sophomore set, it appears there may be a few (refreshing) surprises in store.

"Anything Could Happen" is now available. Halcyon will be released through Interscope/Polydor/Cherrytree Records on October 8 (UK)/October 9 (US)

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