When dance-pop singer/songwriter Ellie Goulding was the sole artist invited to perform at one of the most widely watched, covered and followed events of the 21st century, it seemed like a pretty safe bet that that would be peak of her exposure outside of her home country of Great Britain. Nearly a year later, however, an old single of hers finally started to catch on Stateside, slowly and improbably snowballing in popularity until it simply became one of the biggest hits of the year, making Ellie a star totally independent of the Royal Family.
Ellie had already been huge in the U.K. for a couple of years, thanks to first album Lights
—which, ironically, did not include the song "Lights" on its original tracklisting, but did include a pair of hits, with the sparkling "Starry Eyed" and her fine cover of Elton John's classic love ballad "Your Song."
It was enough to make her a favorite of Prince William and bride-to-be Kate Middleton. The couple invited Ellie to perform in a private ceremony, following their internationally televised wedding, viewed by hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Goulding's performance at the ceremony was not televised, but her appearance helped build buzz for her debut performance on American TV the following week, as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live
The song she performed on SNL
, "Lights," was included on the American release of the album of the same name, and released as the lead single in the U.S. A twinkling, addictive dance-floor-filler propelled by Ellie's vulnerable-but-seductive coo—and helped out significantly by her transfixing performance in the song's Sophie Muller-directed music video—the song was a minor success, debuting at #85 on the charts in late 2011 and falling out shortly thereafter.
In January of this year, Ellie appeared on "Summit," a track on the Bangarang
EP released by dubstep kingpin Skrillex. A month later, it was revealed that the two's professional partnership had grown into a full-fledged romance
, making them the unofficial power couple of the EDM scene.
A few months later, Goulding appeared on Ellen
to perform an acoustic version of "Lights." The performance gave the song a new level of Stateside exposure, also converting fans who would not normally be into Ellie's brand of propulsive dance-pop.
Gradually, "Lights" began to pick up momentum on the charts, beginning a very slow but continuous climb to the upper reaches. In July, "Lights" finished the longest journey
to the top five in Hot 100 history, and a couple weeks ago, it peaked at #2, held off from the top spot only by this minor hit:
Despite the fact that it felt like Ellie and "Lights" had only just arrived on American shores, Goulding announced in July
that she would be dropping her sophomore album presently—Halcyon
, to be released on October 8th.
Will Ellie be able to turn her unexpected hit into equally unexpected full-fledged superstardom? Jury's out on that one—for better or worse, she doesn't seem like the type to sign up with Dr. Luke and David Guetta and the like just to squeeze out a couple smash hits. But based on Halcyon
's first single "Anything Can Happen"
—a fine post-breakup song that's more Passion Pit than Katy Perry—we're looking forward to the rest of her career, whether under the radar or over-the-top.