Turn on the bright Lights

The MuchMusic darling reinvented herself with a littlebit of help from hip friends like Shad and Holy Fuck

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      If you are a MuchMusic darling looking for a hip overhaul, getting Holy Fuck to guest on your new record is a good place to start. With a name too profane for TV and a sound too experimental for the mainstream, the electronic outfit provides instant cred for a pop star looking to slum it in the indie music scene. But according to the raven-haired electro princess known as Lights, her recent revamp courtesy of the Toronto group isn’t nearly so contrived.

      “I’ve never written for a particular audience,” Valerie Poxleitner, who has legally changed her name to Lights, tells the Straight. “As an artist, you’re establishing your creative vision—not where other people see you.”

      On the line from her hometown of Toronto, the 24-year-old spells out why—and how—she decided to step away from teen pop on her new album, Siberia. If it were just about pleasing the powers that be (and the fans who lap up manufactured radio chart-toppers), then Lights would have pulled the plug on her sonic reinvention rather than walking away from Sire, the major U.S. label behind her 2009 debut, The Listening.

      “It comes down to artistic integrity, and this is the record I wanted to make,” the singer-keyboardist says of her reasons for leaving the label. “It was a battle, it really was. We were like, ‘We’re not crazy, this is something we’re really proud of.’ Some people get it, and some people don’t.”

      Perhaps if her collaboration with Holy Fuck (whose members guest alongside rapper Shad on the single “Everybody Breaks a Glass” and have numerous production and cowriting credits on Siberia) had felt forced, Lights would have reconsidered her game plan. But working with the guys at the suggestion of her manager, CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi, proved to be surprisingly seamless.

      “It was so far out when he brought it up,” admits Lights. “But the way we wrote stuff was like jamming and live off the floor, and it was so easy.

      “It takes a lot of confidence in your own craft to walk in there and say, ‘Hey, this is what I’ve got,’ ” she adds. “And I don’t think I would have had the same success if I’d done that a few years ago, because of the confidence I’ve built over the last couple years after releasing the first record.”

      But don’t get too used to Lights’ darker electro-rock vibe. According to the Juno Award winner, World of Warcraft devotee, and aspiring tattooist, it’s all about experimenting.

      “If you’re interested in something, try it out,” she says. “I remember growing up wanting to play cello, so I did for a time and learned it. I wanted to get into gymnastics, air cadets. It may not be long-term, but at least you went for it.”

      Lights plays the Vogue on Tuesday (November 15).