Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Bittersweet

And it’s still technically Wednesday in some parts of the world – not the part where I am, but still…


Alex Macpherson: Oh look, it’s Sophie Ellis-Bextor sounding bored while singing about crying over a generic commercial dance beat. I wonder if she can sustain this shocking change of direction.

John Seroff: “Bittersweet” indeed; this by-the-numbers disco sounds hollow and just past its prime, like a bonbon gone gray with chocolate bloom. Probably better Covergirl/Stella Artois/Godiva advertising than inspiring pop, so mission accomplished?

Keane Tzong: While I’ve long since passed being able to be “objective” about Sophie, who is a personal favorite of mine, I know (all too well) what it feels like to force enthusiasm for a release by a favorite act. That slight queasy sensation doesn’t seem to be at work here, so I’m going to give this an nice high score without reservations.

Doug Robertson: “Untouchable” didn’t exactly storm the charts when Girls Aloud did it, so it seems unlikely that Soph’ll do much better with this, umm… Is ‘homage’ the right word? No matter what you call it, when you wear your influences this blatantly, you need to be framing them a lot more interestingly.

Jonathan Bogart: Have there been any scientific studies conducted to prove that Sophie Ellis-Bextor has recorded more than one song? Seems to me that she just keeps releasing it over and over again under different titles. Luckily, I like it.

Matt Cibula: I may not like this as much as similar songs by Kylie Minogue, Cathy Dennis, Madonna, Donna Summer, the Andrea True Connection, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, [list elided for dramatic effect], or Billie Holiday, but it’s still pretty great. Also, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, to return your message, yes I will get marooned on a desert island with you.

Katherine St Asaph: The bridge here is batshit ridiculous. It’s also the place where I realized how massive this deserves to be.

Kat Stevens: I love this chorus: the harmonies are just divine and Sophie’s gentle delivery is lovely: “I know I shouldn’t go, but something makes me crave the heat…the fire in your touch, I always find so hard to beat”. Those lines could so easily have been embarrassingly wink-wink ‘sexy’ but Sophie nails them, effortlessly giving meaningless syllables some real poignancy. So it’s very frustrating on the verses where Soph has to go up half an octave and her voice changes from a soothing whisper to a teenage goth arguing with her parents.

Martin Skidmore: I didn’t catch any of the posh intonations that sometimes put me off her a bit, so this is a total success, if not a particularly original one.

Michaelangelo Matos: Like fake Gucci when real Gucci isn’t even that hot.

Edward Okulicz: Even if Sophie’s strong personality and penchant for style and intelligence isn’t quite coming through in her latest incarnation as fag-haggish would-be dancefloor goddess (with, admittedly, quite terrestrial chart placings), this is still several steps above Cascada-standard. Part of this is because of her underrated expressive range, sublime received pronunciation and a giddy abandon in her songwriting. Another part is because her songs just beat with that many more hooks and sonic touches than the average Freemasons-produced boshfest — even if it’s not that different, Sophie Ellis-Bextor is a superior pop star, and this is a superior example of all its creators’ crafts.

Pete Baran: “How can I deny The Feeling,” she says at the start of the song, and bearing in mind she is married to one of them, one cannot but read this as a coded song about her relationship. Or alternatively it’s yet another of her consummate ice queen pop songs which leans a touch on Visage and will probably be lucky to graze the top thirty in the UK. It’ll not look out of place on her greatest hits album ,though, and with a nice summers day and a pint of beer it might just be the best song ever written. About a bloke from The Feeling.

8 Responses to “Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Bittersweet”

  1. Still like this, but Lex is pretty much OTM. This and “Heartbreak” by themselves are good enough if your tolerance for mindless bosh, but I really, really hope the whole album’s not like this. Who at her label thinks this is a good commercial strategy?

  2. It’s served her pretty well so far, hasn’t it? She seems to have built up an inexplicably loyal cult following, at least.

    The fag-haggish trait you point out is one reason I’m not really down with her, I think – girls who aim so squarely to be fag-hags are being presumptious, and the concept generally is sort of offensive.

  3. I really agree that the general strategy of trying to force similar-sounding dance songs on the public is quite misguided, though, even if I do genuinely like “Bittersweet.” Comparisons to the older, bigger hits are inevitable.

    That said, I still have high hopes that I will enjoy the album.

  4. Lex, I think it’s only the singles from this album that have tended towards that girls-night-out-with-the-fag-hags thing. Certainly “Catch You” and “Today The Sun’s On Us” from the previous album were not in this vein and off the second album “Mixed Up World” was just too substantial. Her loyal fans I think are more into the album tracks which generally are not like this at all.

    I think there’s a case to be made that she’s put out too many “Murder On The Dancefloor”-a-likes, which is really not very smart either. The last album in particular had a stack of potential singles (“If You Go”, “Love Is Here”, “New York City Lights”, “The Distance Between Us”) that weren’t particularly dancey at all (though a few were danceable) and would have stopped the monotony.

  5. Booh Jukebox. I don’t care if this song sounds a couple years dated. It’s got massive hooks and a to-die-for chorus (something increasingly rare in today’s pop, IMO).

  6. I spent about five seconds thinking Matos was referring to Gucci Mane and unsuccessfully trying to draw a connection.

  7. I’ve done some sums and figured this should be a 370, being a hundred times better than that Kate Nash song.

  8. ^Word.