What does it mean to be “real”?
I was asked recently if I was “real.” I had to stop and think very carefully about how I would answer that. I’m not exactly a celebrity, but I do present an incomplete identity. Unless you’ve grown up with me, a great deal of the story is going to go untold, largely simply because of time and (dis)interest. And so I thought, the relationship between me and reality is kind of like the sky. What’s the essence of reality in the sky, if you hold the brush that paints its colors? Cloud it over, hang a sun, make it rain for years—somewhere out there will always be the stars, shining no matter what the weather looks like. You just might not always be able to see them.
I won’t lie; I’ve got a little bit of a performer-crush on Ellie. “Lights” was already (and still is) a great song. Part of me, however, always feared that it risked being a little over-engineered with all its synth, and part of that I felt could be the doctoring of Ellie’s voice. Not only is that clearly not the case, she also proves with this version that she’s a chameleon, able to fit on the Top 40 as easily as the coffee klatch. The acoustic “Lights” could fit in a wine bar while the radio edit might live on the dance floor, and for me at least, that’s the definition of a good friend.
But where this track really takes it for me is the chorus. Instead of parroting out the radio version to guitar and piano—which would’ve been passable and what one usually expects with acoustic covers—Ellie changes the melody line of the iconic chorus. This makes a great deal of sense to me, for the same reasons that one doesn’t bring cognac to the tailgating party, but it’s not something I ever really considered in a nearly “naked” cover of one’s own work.
So, when we ask ourselves “what is real(ity)?” we should remember that perhaps what our senses or our beliefs tell us is not inaccurate, but not the complete picture either. But, the stars are always out there.