Lights, the debut album by Ellie Goulding, came at a time where you put more effort into your Tumblr aesthetic than your school work, and where a dubstep remix was often favoured over the original at any house party. Released back in 2010 the same year as the very first iPad, all of those TV shows with shirtless Vampires, and the episode Snooki and JWoww wrote the “anonymous” letter to Sammi, it’s an album that’s been a friend to us for over a decade and cemented Ellie as the Brit-pop princess she was destined to be.
10 years since I released my first album Lights, that I made in a bedroom in Bromley with @starsmith … it started the most incredible, euphoric, bittersweet adventure. Thank you for being on this journey with me. Couldn’t have done it without u x
— Ellie Goulding (@elliegoulding) February 26, 2020
Before she’d even had time to wrap her head around the success of her debut singles ‘Under The Sheets’, and ‘Starry Eyed’, she’d already found a home on her mantlepiece for the prestigious Brit Awards’ Critics Choice and the BBC Sound of 2010 trophies. Unbeknownst to a 22-year-old Ellie, being sandwiched between icons Geri Halliwell and Courtney Love during a backstage interview at the Brits would become just another day at the office. Although her swift rise to the top can be described as somewhat a fairytale (she dropped out of Uni after being scouted at a talent contest), there was no denying her gift for songwriting and the hard graft that went into honing her craft.
Lights was released on 26 February 2010, and recorded with producer Starsmith in his childhood bedroom of his mother’s house. Every song is self-penned sincere emotion combined with layers of sonic sophistication. All ten tracks are a confident slice of contemporary pop that make you feel like you’ve either been hit with lightning or consumed by a wave of emotion. It was this formula that became Ellie’s signature sound and helped Lights become a critical and commercial smash which went on to sell 2 million copies worldwide as well as debut at No. 1 on the UK album chart.
Pre-release singles and synth-pop dancefloor fillers ‘Under The Sheets’ and ‘Starry Eyed’ without a doubt appeared on everyone’s Top 25 Most Played on iTunes, and set the precedent for what was to come on the rest of the album. Third single and album opener ‘Guns And Horses’ showcased Ellie’s lyrical versatility by detailing that classic nightmarish scenario of falling head over heels for someone who can’t reciprocate the same level of commitment. Deep cuts ‘This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)’, ‘Everytime You Go’, and ‘Your Biggest Mistake’ are all powerful mid-tempo bops which demonstrate how well Ellie can tap into her emotions to deliver a universally relatable tune about love and loss.
Day one fans will remember reblogging edits on Tumblr with the lyrics “fight fire in your best clothes, touch skin with your eyes closed” from ‘I’ll Hold My Breath’ and wanting to get a triangle tattoo because of ‘Wish I Stayed’. Fan favourite and underrated gem ‘The Writer’ is Ellie at her quintessential best – it’s one of those songs that you hear once and will stick with you forever. With haunting lyrics such as, “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?” it’s about how you’d go so far as to change everything about yourself just to be noticed by this one person. It’s THAT song you want to see on her setlist every single time, even when her discography is ten albums deep.
Later that same year, Lights was repackaged as Bright Lights with 7 new songs including an unparalleled cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ and the title track ‘Lights’, which YouTube user xX_SpitFire_Yoghurt_Xx sums up perfectly as, “the time this song was popular was the time life was the greatest ever”. It’s the kind of album that brings back fond memories and the classic “kids these days just won’t understand it” nostalgia. Whether these OG fans have continued to follow Ellie on her musical journey or not, Lights will always be there for them when they want to revisit it.