As with the slow climb of Lady Gaga‘s “Just Dance” in 2008 (which didn’t hit #1 until January of 2009) and Ke$ha‘s “Tik Tok” in 2009 (which didn’t hit #1 until January of 2010), Ellie Goulding is just now entering in the Billboard Hot 100 with “Lights”–currently at #6–nearly two entire years after the song was first released on her 2010 debut, Lights.
American radio: Truly at the forefront of pop.
But exposure is exposure, and even if radio is two years late to the dinner table (shocking!), it’s still an amazing platform for her long, long, long awaited follow-up due out later this year. Ellie, apparently, is also aware of this.
No doubt timed with her recent Top 10 climb, the indie-pop songstress has just revealed the first taste of what’s to come from her upcoming album: “Hanging On (feat. Tinie Tempah),” a song that both revisits Ellie’s earliest work while exploring unbelievably exciting new territory.
The track is actually a cover of dream-pop singer Active Child‘s 2011 album track “Hanging On,” although the production has been significantly revamped.
With its one-minute introduction of fluttery, stuttered vocals, the song starts off as a familiar nod to “Starry Eyed.” Shortly thereafter, the production–as crafted by Billboard (Ke$ha, Britney)–sees Ellie floating in between sparse ambient sound, moody synthesizers and jagged dubstep-infused beats, resulting in something darker and more experimental than we’ve ever heard from her before.
“I just can’t keep hanging on to you and me,” Ellie trembles before the crashing chorus fills the speakers. With its complicated structure and Ellie’s wild yelping falsetto throughout, “Hanging On” plays like a cross between The Weeknd and Usher‘s own slow-burn masterpiece from earlier this year, the Diplo-produced “Climax.”
The only drawback of the phenomenal production is the inclusion of Tinie Tempah. I don’t dislike Tinie, but his verse lands smack-dab in the middle of an incredibly emotionally charged vocal performance. It’s intrusive and grating, instantly sucking the momentum right out of the song. If there’s a solo version that exists, let’s hope it makes the album, because that rap feels slapped on for no good reason.
“Hanging On” would never work as a single–it’s the opposite of radio-friendly. However, it’s somehow even more exciting than what I could have imagined. If the production remains this polished and next-level throughout the entire record, I won’t be surprised if Ellie goes from being a indie-pop curiosity in the States to a household name. It’s about time.
“Hanging On” is available as a free download.