Monday, October 26th, 2009

Ellie Goulding – Under The Sheets

She’ll be delighted to hear there’s not a single mention of Beth Orton this time…


Ian Mathers: Wow, it really has been quite the year for young female artists who’ve spent a lot of time with Hounds of Love and 80s dance, hasn’t it? I’m not complaining, especially if the average level of quality remains so (relatively) high.

Martin Skidmore: Another in the wannabe-Bjork mould, but though she doesn’t have that kind of power, she can actually sing, and there is a perky and quite catchy song here, given classy if not hugely interesting electro life.

Keane Tzong: I like more female pop vocalists than I don’t, so the fact that I find Ellie Goulding’s baby wailing here so irritating shocked me: I liked, or tolerated, “Starry Eyed”, so this — more of the same — shouldn’t have made me as furious as it did. I will not, however, be listening to “Under the Sheets” again to try to suss out why.

Michaelangelo Matos: Galumphs uninterestingly for six-sevenths of its 3:31 running length until it hits the last 30 seconds, at which point Goulding’s vocal is dipped deeper into Auto-tune, which flips it around rather prettily. Did Jay-Z really make me like that device more than I used to? I’m beginning to wonder.

Chuck Eddy: I haven’t been keeping score enough to be sure, and I suspect there must be a few precedents, but AutoTuned vibrato strikes me as a fresh twist that may well improve both variables. Helps, of course, that the melody doesn’t make me retch.

Pete Baran: There seems little desire to let the song do the talking: she has a vocal effects unit and she is going to use it. Trying to emulate the solo career of Siobhan Donaghy has not worked for anyone yet, most notably Siobhan herself.

Edward Okulicz: Goulding’s voice hits marmite levels here, but the vague torment of this song is a far better fit than the twee-rotic fail of “Starry Eyed”. It helps that the chorus is catchy and the words are ignorable, but this would be amicable enough even without that.

Rodney J. Greene: Her voice alternates between this bad pigtailed coo and these awful Sarah McLoughlin-ish peaks, and I can’t abide by that. The beats aren’t good enough to offset this. The tune might not be, either.

Iain Mew: Woah. Especially after her good but unassuming last single, this really caught me by surprise in a positive way. Within seconds it’s already deployed dramatic smashes and a chant of “boys boys boys boys!” pitch-shifted inhumanly upwards, and it’s clear something rather different is happening. It carries on from there with massive electro zigzags and her vocal oddities exaggerated and refracted to match the fevered, nightmarish lyrics (“out there a lonely girl could drown” but in here she’s being killed and sounds… delighted?). I’m not sure what it all even means, but I’m totally excited throughout.

Alex Ostroff:Starry Eyed”’s transcendence reduced me to pure incoherence, unable to make a proper case for its genius beyond rote comparison. This is closer to earth, human and bruised, but beautiful nonetheless. Ellie’s voice remains both light and focused, holding the centre against Starsmith’s space-disco bass and reverb, before slowly sinking under the sheets as she loses control. The echoes of all the boys before suggest a sense of inevitability, and Ellie’s options slowly vanish: “Out there a lonely girl could drown/In here we’re frozen.” There’s more to hold onto here — more personality, more complexity, more details – but, as Ellie sings, “Your more is less, babe.”

John Seroff: I loved Ellie’s bubbly, Björk-y “Starry Eyed” but I wasn’t prepared for the depth, maturity and glorious spectacle of “Under the Sheets”. The choices made are consistently strong; every Autotune and acapella, deterioration and dissonance, emphasis and echo, glitch and glissando feels carefully considered and properly measured. I love the versatility of the lyrics; it’s a song that could be a celebration of young passion, a lamentation of failing love or both at once. “We’re under the sheets/and you’re killing me” is emblematic of both emotional duress or le petit mort; “You’re not the answer, I should know/like all the boys before/like all the boys before” could be resignation or sudden realization. Goulding’s Welsh burr gives the whole thing body and saps out the twee; her voice is as hopeful, pliable and vibrant as green wood. It’s most everything I want from my pop: pensive, clever, danceable and not afraid to get a little dirty. A wonderful treat.

Martin Kavka: This has one of the most memorable choruses in a pop song this year. Does that fully atone for the fact that Goulding has a thin voice and a weak lyrical hand? Not quite, but more than one might suspect. To my mind, the appeal lies in a simple production touch, pushing the male background vocals forward in the mix after the middle eight. Ellie’s not the only one in the relationship saying “We’re under the sheets and you’re killing me”…

17 Responses to “Ellie Goulding – Under The Sheets”

  1. I really should mention how much the production is clearly responsible for this being so enjoyable for me; awful curious about Starsmith now.

  2. I find the comparison to Siobhan Donaghy insulting, even if I can sort of see where it comes from.

  3. Keane, who was I insulting though? Eh?

  4. Wow, I had completely forgotten about her last single. This is much better, of course.

  5. Oh, and Rodney: McLachlan.

  6. @Pete Siobhan, of course. “>:(“

  7. oof, good catch

  8. “Will I, or will I not, remember you? Pat Buchanan, we’ll start with you…”

  9. That’s McL*a*ughlin, isn’t it?

  10. Apparently I am horrible at the spelling of names.

  11. Nope, Martin:

    Like I said above.

  12. Ian, I was replying to Dave’s invocation of John McLaughlin and the McLaughlin Group roundtable. Sorry for not having been clearer.

  13. Yeah, I know. I just wanted to amuse myself a bit, plus it got me to google this clip:


  14. Here, Rodney, you can atone by attending this:

  15. Oh joy!

  16. Durrr. Sorry Martin.

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