Without jumping on the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ bandwagon which we assume has started to take effect, we have long been relatively ardent fans of Victoria Beckham’s fiercest chart rival, Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Not only possessor of pop’s squarest jaw, Sophie also strikes a chord with us for bringing a touch of sophistication and class to the genre in a way none of her contemporaries are able to, via her trademark almost-nonchalant, wistful, unique and surprisingly beautiful brand of melancholy, for which we have come to know and adore Sophie for.
Having put out her last album on her own record label, presumably to dwindling sales, in a shrewd business move Sophie will be releasing her next album early next year. This is just after she will be due to reach the final of Strictly (and maybe even win!) and thus allows her a slew of ‘Well done Sophie!’ media appearances in which she will be able to promote the album.
But two crucial questions remain. The first is whether the album be any good, following Sophie’s decision to turn her back on the styles that made her most successful, dance and pop, in order to return to a more organic ‘indie’ sound. The second is will anyone outside her small but defiantly loyal band of (mainly gay) fans be interested? To answer the latter, time will tell, but surely using Strictly as an appeal to remind a wider demographic of her existence is a wise strategy, which should see her gain many more column inches than the tabloid style sections in which she is currently found dwelling.
To answer the first, Bextor has released this. It’s a trailer (or teaser, as we have entitled it) of her new album. And boy does it deliver.
We may not be keen on the font Sophie has chosen, and the segueing (yes, that is a word) of tracks is a little clumsy in places, but everything else is spot on. From a gorgeous yet vulnerable and slightly forlorn looking Sophie, the sounds of ‘Young Blood’ sound glorious layered. It gives way to a Marina & The Diamonds-esque gloomy song, whilst ‘Wrong Side’ (as we’re guessing it might be called) is exactly what we want and like from Sophie. By the time Sophie sings ‘it’s a secret esca-a-ape’ in her posh accent at 1:51, we are basically entirely won over.
Not only in Sophie absolutely beautiful in a timeless way, but her material sounds like it may be up to scratch this time. For this is what has left Sophie high and dry before; a lack of real consistency of quality in her albums. For example, you’d have to be heartless not to appreciate the genius of a track like ‘Today The Sun’s On Us‘, but sadly its host album was not all up to such high standards. Perhaps co-writing all the material, recording the album in a matter of days, and having Ed Hardcourt produce the whole album, has enabled Sophie to really achieve consistency. This material certainly already feels a lot more natural and authentically Sophie than something like ‘Off & On‘ (Calvin Harris produced) or even ‘Under Your Touch‘, both from Sophie’s last album.
The test for Sophie will be whether we are able to sit through her new material in one session. From the teaser, our interest is piqued, but we’re not sure whether the album will all be a little too samey for us. We love a few ballads as much as the next pop fool but we also like to have a few uptempos thrown in the mix of any decent pop album. Either way we are now very excited for this project, and we think it may just have been executed perfectly, as proved by the visuals that accompany the music on the trailer.