Ellie Goulding's 10 Best Songs: Critic's Picks

Ellie Goulding performs live during a concert at the Max-Schmeling-Halle on Jan. 22, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images)
Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images

Ellie Goulding performs live during a concert at the Max-Schmeling-Halle on Jan. 22, 2016 in Berlin.

If ever there was a pop starlet with a solid streak of dance in her veins, it's Ellie Goulding. The English singer-songwriter has always been comfortable over a bangin' beat. There's something about her cool delivery and tonal precision that fits right into the four-on-the-floor formula. Plus, she's a powerful female, and strong women always bring something fabulous to house and disco hits.

She's collaborated a few times with Calvin Harris to great critical and fan acclaim. She most recently got in the studio with Kygo, and she's rocked a steady rhythm with Major Lazer. Her own solo catalog is full of party vibes, too. Some of her best songs meld the worlds of pop and electronic in a way that's fresh and exciting, and always with her cool sense of storytelling and self-empowerment.

Today, we celebrate the best Ellie Goulding songs from her star-studded career. Some of them are slow jams, but most of them will get your feet moving, so turn it up and have some fun.

10. Kygo – “First Time” feat. Ellie Goulding

Goulding's latest track is her first collaboration with Kygo. In less than a month, it's racked up more than six million views on YouTube, and that's without an official music video. It's not so tropical as some of Kygo's other works. It's soft and tender like any first love should be. Goulding reminisces on the simplicity of youthful emotions. “First Time” drips with nostalgic wonder and all the magic of adolescent naiveté. We can't recapture that essence rare, but we Goulding and Kygo come close.

9. Major Lazer – “Powerful” feat. Ellie Goulding and Tarrus Riley

Ooh yeah, give it to me with some grime, Ellie. “Powerful” has a touch of that swinging soul, a bit of the delta blues in its rumbling wave. Major Lazer gave Ellie a cool new groove to cozy up to, and her high-pitched rasp is a cool counterpart to Tarrus Riley's deep-rooted roar. “Powerful” is a good name for this collaboration. It's an Ellie Goulding song that hits deep and sticks to your bones.

8. Calvin Harris – “Outside” feat. Ellie Goulding

Goulding and Calvin Harris make a great pair, and “Outside” makes for one helluva great break-up anthem. In great dance tradition, it's not the kind of song where the heroine is full of tears and remorse. Even as she finds herself confused at her lover's betrayel, Goulding remains firm and ferocious. There are definite moments of tenderness, but there's also determination. “Outside” is one of the most memorable tracks off Harris' Motion LP, and it's so good, it had to make its way onto Goulding's Delirium as a bonus.

7. Ellie Goulding – “Explosions”

Here we get a look at the softer side of Ellie. It's just her raw power and emotion up against some strings, piano, and dramatic percussion. All the elements are there for an arresting, tear jerker experience. This is the part of the show where you light the stadium with your lighters and phone flashes. This is all of our collective fragility on display as we turn to each other and say, “I know you are flawed, and I accept you, even if I can't accept your love right now.” Oof, right in the feels.

5. Calvin Harris – “I Need Your Love” feat. Ellie Goulding

Yes dance diva. Give it to me solid. Goulding is a club queen over this classic Calvin Harris disco beat. The drums are massive, and Goulding saddles up to them with an overwhelming amount of confidence. She takes the reigns and makes the song her own. The two are great collaborators, and they also make for one adorable couple – at least in the official music video which got a nomination for British Video f the Year. “I Need Your Love” helped make Harris the first artist in UK history to have eight top 10 hits from the same album.

5. Ellie Goulding – “Anything Could Happen”

Optimism is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. If you believe in yourself and keep a smile on your face, all is possible. This hit from Goulding's second album Halcyon is one of the most optimistic tracks in recent memory. It's got all the potential energy in the world. It's brimming with yellow sunshine and glittering gold. The vocal chop at the chorus is super fun, and that breakdown around the three-minute mark when she shouts “I know it's gonna be” over and over again is one of the best builds in music – period.

4. Ellie Goulding – “Lights”

This is one of the first memories I have of Ellie Goulding. Her voice hit me like a rush of pixie dust. It's unique in its fierce coyness. It's somehow disarming even though it's full of bite. She's got this awesome feminine energy, and she's impossible to forget. “Lights” is just a damn good electro-pop song. That twinkling synth line draws you in, and Goulding holds you captive as she turns a childhood fear of the dark into a beautiful metaphor for a woman who's set off and seeks inner strength, all on her own for the first time.

3. Ellie Goulding – “Love Me Like You Do”

When you're tapped for the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, you've got to bring the heat. All the tokens of passion are here; fire, blood, references to religious iconography. The hollow drums push this pop ballad into iconic territory while Goulding's vocals capture every ounce of pain and pleasure that twists a love-sick soul into a wild fever. This Ellie Goulding song is up and down, vulnerable and strong. It was a huge success for the songstress, and it's definitely one of her most powerful performances.

2. Ellie Goulding – “Burn”

Here's where Goulding shows the world that she can slay a dance track without the help of some big-name producer. She's got the beat running in her veins, and she lights the floor on fire with a vocal savvy that's both beautiful and energizing. Shout out music man Greg Kurstin who originally recorded the tune with English singer Leona Lewis, but thank goodness it didn't make the cut. We couldn't imagine anyone else singing this brilliant, bossy tune.

1. Ellie Goulding – “On My Mind”

This is just downright one of the most fun songs to sing along to that I've heard. It's got the kind of hook that sticks in your head, and you're never mad about it. I've had “On My Mind” on repeat in my brain for days at a time, and I never once was upset about it. Produced in part by Max Martin, it's got everything you want in a killer pop song. It's got a punch to it that demands a trip to the dance floor. Goulding is a shining beacon of vocal brilliance as she works between rhythmic delivery, lilting runs, and playful perfection. Plus, the whole thing is about bad love that feels so good, which is always the best subject for a devil-may-care damsel like Goulding to sink her chops into – and for us to shout about in our car at full volume.