Monday, August 9, 2010

the curious case of Sophie Ellis-Bextor

The pop world has been waiting for the latest longplayer from pop sophisticate and cultured kitten, Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Her elpee, "Straight From The Heart", started life as a greatest hits collection with a couple of new songs. When several more songs were completed, all of them of the highest caliber, it was decided a brand new studio album would released and the hit compilation would appear on the back end of the promotional schedule for "Straight From The Heart".

First, there was the Rimmel ad campaign, the soundtrack to which was "Sophia Loren", a spiky little number which was meant to be the lead single. At the time, the album started its life with the title, "Make A Scene".

Alas, "Sophia Loren" wasn't released until 2010 when it was relegated to b-side status. Instead, the album got a name change to "Straight From The Heart" and a new single, "Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer)", where La Bex received a featured credit with Freemasons, was issued as the first track. Inexplicably, it peaked at #15 on the UK singles chart in June 2009. The album was scheduled to follow and then never appeared.

Nearly a year later, with Freemasons at the production helm with Biffco, "Bittersweet" was released and peaked at #25. Again, the album was supposed to hit the "shops" a couple of weeks after the release of the single, but it was held back even though its tracklisting had been revealed.

Then, we all thought it would surely be released when it was announced La Bex would be opening for Pet Shop Boys on their summer jaunt through the UK. No single appeared. Not a mention of the album. The wicked finger of fate seemed to indicate that the album would linger longer on the label's storage shelves.

Recently, it was announced Sophie's next single would be another featured credit. This time, she'll be cuddling up close on the mic with renowned producer and DJ, Armin Van Buuren, for "Not Giving Up" which will appear on both his forthcoming album, "Mirage", and La Bex's "Straight From The Heart".

Here's a preview of the single followed by a pumped up reswizzling from Dash Berlin and a lovely acoustic rendition.

The tracklisting for "Straight To The Heart" remains relatively unchanged after nearly a year since the elpee was originally slated for release.

1. Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer)
2. Bittersweet"
3. Off & On
4. Revolution
5. Starlight
6. Magic
7. Synchronised
8. Cut Straight To The Heart
9. Dial My Number
10. Homewrecker
11. Under Your Touch
12. Scene
13. Not Giving Up

On paper, it pushes all the right buttons. It's full of high octane, electro numbers with collaborations and contributions from the current crops of pop's top talent. Calvin Harris, Richard X, Cathy Dennis, Greg Kurstin, Róisín Murphy, Freemasons and Biffco all have a hand in the album.

So what's going on? Well, the current state of pop in the UK has waned from the glory days when Xenomania had the magic touch. One by one, from Mini Viva to The Saturdays, Girls Can't Catch and Paloma Faith - all acts that would've been embraced by Radio 1 in the past - have received a cold reception.

Even with "All Time Low" by The Wanted at numero uno last week and Kylie peaking at #3 with "All The Lovers", programmers at the BBC have turned their noses up at the notion of playing pop music across its majestic airwaves. Instead, it has succumbed to same problem that US radio has. Hip hop and R&B rule the day without any room for a solid slab of pop. Even someone like Enrique Iglesias gets a hit by slapping a rapper on his shitty, little, tuneless travesty of a single. The result? A hit.

However, pop music has flourished on the European continent. Acts like La Bex are receiving a much warmer welcome in territories like Germany, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, France and Spain. So, the game plan has changed. With SEB having scored a #13 hit on the singles chart in France with a featured credit on Junior Caldera's single, "Can't Fight This Feeling", all eyes are on the Continent for pop success.

Srsly. With flawless porcelain skin, angular jaw and the best cheekbones in pop, La Bex cuts a shape all her own. Her highly stylized image is more posh gay boy in the Kylie mode than it is average pop slag like Ke$ha and Katy Perry. A cut above not the cat's behind. Therein lies the problem. Reality TV, the dumbing down of entertainment and the sheer acceptance of lowest common denominator (ie. drunk girls and whipped cream titties) has left little room for a classy broad like La Bex and her sparkling pop baubles.


  1. All Time Low is a dodgy situation with the song being produced by the corp that owns the radio stations.

    Poor Soph. I seriously think she'll be dropped.

  2. oh god in heaven I hope Sophie's album actually gets released and not relegated to pop yearning like the Mini Viva album. I don't think my nerves could cope. Who next> GASP? The Feeling?!?!?!

  3. Well put Vinny! It's a sad state of affairs when polished and classy acts like Sophie get pushed aside for trash like Kesha. I still cannot believe those Mini Viva singles weren't bigger hits.

    Frank Stein

  4. I'm so sad to say I think your so on target. Here's hoping that some how Soph's next couple of singles become hits.

  5. @Tim John - Sometimes I don't like being right. I hope she comes up with the goods, too.

  6. Bottom line is that Sophie Ellis-Bextor is really not that good; at all actually. Her voice is mediocre at best and the music just doesn't click. Perhaps she's been misplaced and handled by the label. The difference between Bextor and her contemporaries are the producers and tracks they pair her with. It just doesn't work. And, she really isn't that polished. Armin Van Buuren has also worked with much better vocalists. If Armin and his engineer can't do their magic with her, then unfortunately nobody can. She needs to find herself and at this point in her career, it's about 5 years too late.

  7. @The Music Gourmandizer - Sorry, my friend. I think you're way off base on this one. SEB has a voice with a warm fragility to it. She has had some fantastic pop songs. Trouble is, she's putting out top shelf pop in a world that's obsessed with LCD chic like Ke$ha.

    I think LaBex just might be a step out of time with production trends.