If adults in the US had any appreciation for real pop music, Sophie Ellis Bextor would be heard and seen all over. She doesn't care that her CDs aren't even released in this country. She's content seeing herself as pretty much exclusively a UK artist, where she sells millions of albums, and is pleased with her dedicated following on the continent. That seems to be enough for her. She was brought up in a show business family and, at 19, she was performing and recording with theaudience, a well-dressed indie pop band that specialized in snarky social sarcasm, a la Black Box Recorder. They received eight offers of record deals after their first public gig.
theaudience. I Got The Wherewithal:
Sophie has a heart for causes, as well as a discerning head for marketing. She publicly pledged her celebrity support for "Lights Out London," a campaign to turn off appliances for an hour to raise awareness of global warming, and has also posed in a grisly ad for PETA ("Here's the rest of your fur coat"). She appeared nearly nude in an ad for the fashion chain Monsoon, but turned down a video ad for Agent Provocateur, deeming it too pornographic (Kylie ended up doing it instead). She also famously turned down an offer to tour with Robbie Williams when anyone else starting out would have jumped at the chance. She just felt he was too "Las Vegas cabaret."
Sophie is serious and sophisticated, stylish but not fussy, smart, full of exuberance, glamorous but not posh. Her voice does possess a certain snooty, blue blood, la-di-da quality, but that only adds another angle to her persona. And she's a hard worker. While being a full-time mom, she wrote about 80 songs in preparation for her third CD, Trip The Light Fantastic (truly a terrible title, but there it is). She specializes in simple, uplifting tunes that have a staying power past the first few listens. She has the talent for finding just the turn of phrase that feels comfortable but fresh, which is the trick behind every good pop song. Her most appealing work has a spunky energy that lifts it above and beyond the ordinary:
Although Sophie will occasionally veer into tragic or introspective territories, she is at her best when creating the equivalent of a romantic comedy in song. Charm is very difficult to manufacture. The audience will spot a fake as easily as a knockoff on Canal Street. The video for Take Me Home is a delightful pastiche of images evoking Avedon-era Harper's Bazaar. Sophie looks like she was born to wear 1950's couture here:
Sophie's new album is available now. It's wonderful and full of energy, and only available as an import in the States, of course.