Much like her predecessors Kate Bush and Imogen Heap, British vocalist Ellie Goulding stands at the forefront of independent-minded mainstream pop. With her unique soprano warble and knack for writing catchy yet emotionally earnest songs, Goulding quickly rose to the top of the U.K. charts with her 2012 debut album, Lights. Her folk-inflected electronic pop sound increasingly drew from electronic influences, touching upon dance music and ambient synth pop by her third studio album, 2015's Delirium. It hit the Top Ten hit in over a dozen countries, including the U.S., and led to collaborations with dance artists including Kygo and Diplo.
Born in Hereford, England, Goulding later moved to the country's east coast to study drama at the University of Kent. She had developed a love for folk music as a teenager, and her time at university also exposed her to electronica. After two years, she took a break from her studies and moved to West London, where she pursued a career as an alternative singer/songwriter and befriended producers like Starsmith and Frankmusik, who gave her songs an electro-pop twist. In 2009, Goulding began building an audience via the Internet, where early tracks like "Starry Eyed" and a cover of Sam Sparro's "Black & Gold" were posted on taste-making MP3 blogs. Goulding soon graduated from the blogosphere to print media, gaining praise from mainstream publications like The Guardian and fielding offers from record labels. She ultimately signed a major-label deal with Polydor Records and began preparing her debut album. In the meantime, she penned songs for Diana Vickers, Gabriella Climi, and others.
During the final weeks of 2009, Goulding topped the BBC's Sound of 2010, a poll conducted by British music critics and industry insiders to identify new talent. Building on that momentum, she blended acoustic and synthesized instruments on Lights, released in March 2010. Lights topped the U.K. charts during its first week and spun off "Starry Eyed" as a Top Five single (it also charted well in Ireland and New Zealand). Later that year, the album was re-released as Bright Lights, featuring seven new recordings, including a cover of Elton John's "Your Song," which peaked at number two.
In 2012, Goulding returned with her sophomore album, Halcyon, which showcased an even more sonically adventurous, electro pop-infused sound. In 2013, a deluxe reissue featuring ten extra songs was released; entitled Halcyon Days, it acted as a supplement to the original release. Two of its songs, U.K. number one "Burn" and Top Three single "How Long Will I Love You," were among her biggest hits. The following year, she was featured on Calvin Harris' Top Ten U.K. hit "Outside," participated in Band Aid 30's update of "Do They Know It's Christmas?," and entered the U.K. Top Ten once more with "Beating Heart," a song released on the soundtrack for Divergent. Another soundtrack single, "Love Me Like You Do," added to the success of Fifty Shades of Grey in 2015.
That same year, Goulding released her third studio album, Delirium, which featured collaborations with Max Martin, Greg Kurstin, and others. The pop-leaning album included the single "On My Mind" and peaked at number three on the U.S. and U.K. charts. Goulding returned in 2017 on "First Time," a collaboration with electronic producer Kygo. October 2018 saw the release of the single "Close to Me," which featured Diplo and Rae Sremmurd rapper Swae Lee. In 2019, she guested on Clean Bandit's single "Mama," before issuing a pair of solo singles in "Flux" and "Sixteen." A collaboration with Juice WRLD, "Hate Me," appeared that summer. ~ Andrew Leahey & Jason Birchmeier