Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Make A Scene


2.5
average

Review

by Irving Tan STAFF
April 26th, 2011 | 66 replies | 10,393 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Why did you end up killing the groove?

Of all the dance and electropop female solo acts currently in the business, Sophie Ellis-Bextor has seemed like a second-class act in almost every way. While every bit as beautiful and vocally talented as her fellow pop stars, she has never really found her footing nor enjoyed the critical reception that they have. Much of this is due to the fact that everything she has done, others have simply done better. For instance, Kylie had better beats, Gaga was more brash and ethereal, whereas Madonna was just a bigger and more powerful magnet for controversy. Perhaps most damningly, even Britney Spears' relatively belated transition into all-out electropop has been regularly threatening to be more successful than Ellis-Bextor's entire discography both in the UK and at home. To put it bluntly, the simple fact is that Ellis-Bextor has never once produced a truly great album in her entire career. Harsh words, to be sure, but none of her past records can be said to be capable of decisively anchoring her into the annals of the electropop industry. She came closest, perhaps, with 2007's Trip The Light Fantastic, a solidly produced record which managed - almost despite itself - to be sparkly, robust, and inventive all at once. Crucial to its success was the inclusion of songs like "Today The Sun's On Us" and "What Have We Started", whose emotional depths not only suggested a three-dimensional nature to a pop star who had previously seemed to be completely made out of porcelain, but also went some way towards proving that she was more than just a poor man's electropop chemist.

Unfortunately, Ellis-Bextor's latest - the rather ambitiously-titled Make A Scene - provides strong evidence that her apparent artistic growth over the last decade or so was no more than a mere statistical truth - the idea is that if you throw enough cans at the recycling bin, one is bound to go in eventually. Upon close listen, Make A Scene is as frustrating as it is regressive, with its most maddening trait being its tendency to display flashes of brilliance, before somehow contriving to reveal itself as having all the emotional quotient of a china vase. The greatest disappointment here, though, is just how well the album begins. Across the first five tracks which themselves display a variety of moody, edgy pop, Ellis-Bextor sounds as accomplished and confident as we last remembered her. The sonic evolution seen towards the end of Trip The Light Fantastic is superbly-preserved in album opener "Revolution", a sleek, reverb-drenched number that could easily have been a cut from Daft Punk's Discovery sessions. Ellis-Bextor's entrance into the song is one of effortless panache as she announces, "Bang bang! It's a hold up!" to her audience at large. Indeed, her confidence is so overpowering that she actually finds it in herself to allude to an older (and much weaker) song, "Murder on the Dancefloor" (off 2001's Read My Lips) in the song's chorus. It is a bold move that could easily have backfired spectacularly, yet when she barks, "It's murder on the dance floor/Cut to the chase/Just give us what we came for", it is hard not to give her your attention. First single "Bittersweet" then delivers the quintessential serving of the pop star's frosted and sultry vocals, while the anxious trickle of "Off & On" and the tuneful reminiscence of "Not Giving Up On Love" exist only to excite. The latter two in particular are sleeper club hits just waiting to happen. However, the biggest surprise of the opening quintet is the futuristic groove of "Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer)", which features East Sussex disco house band the Freemasons in the foreground, adding their usual funky shakedowns to the mix. Elegant, sequinned, and joyous, this opening sequence is vintage Ellis-Bextor at her absolute finest; on any other album it would easily have served as an excellent segue into the record's remaining half hour of material.

Unfortunately, everything just goes downhill from here on end. The first track to appear, "Can't Fight This Feeling", relies heavily on the listener being able and willing to appreciate a rehash of the backing track from Trip The Light Fantastic's "If I Can't Dance". However, as one would expect, it just comes across sounding tired and simply unoriginal. Soon after, "Under Your Touch" attempts to salvage the situation, but it ends up having the listener cringing in disbelief as Ellis-Bextor resorts to blurting out crass and utterly unconvincing lines like, "I'm so ready for love!" to get her point across. Other songs like the title track, "Dial My Number", and "Homewrecker" has the pop star going about her duties in a completely languid fashion, seemingly content to deliver each verse and chorus within a modicum of mediocrity that is so all-encompassing it threatens to suffocate. Plain and simple, these numbers are just damn lazy. Although there are some interesting moments scattered around the latter half of the record, such as the intriguing "Oooh oooh oooh oooh!" chants of "Magic" and the lyrics of "Synchronised" - in where Ellis-Bextor does her impersonation of an erstwhile iPod by repeatedly bleating, "Synchronise our hearts! Synchronise them!" - they are too few and far in between to leave any lasting effect on the listener.

To be completely fair to Ellis-Bextor, Make a Scene did originate from the recording sessions for a "Greatest Hits" compilation that was initially set for release in the autumn of 2007. The decision to turn those recording sessions into material for a full studio album was, in the eyes of this reviewer, very likely ad hoc, and hints at a greater, overarching desire on the part of Ellis-Bextor to continue providing her fans with new material despite the onset of full-time motherhood. That being said, it is clear that the wait for a truly excellent Sophie Ellis-Bextor album will have to continue - at least for the time being. Unfortunately, I for one feel that with all of her new-found priorities in life, that day will probably never come.



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user ratings (11)
Chart.
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2011



7163 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Stream: http://www.myspace.com/sophieebextor

(Album is also out in Russia.)

I've given up on her ever producing an album that I'll love. I think she's as gorgeous as hell though lol.

DarkNoctus
Contributing Reviewer
April 26th 2011



8778 Comments


great review :] I still remember her songs playing on the radio when I was a kid. not surprised this album is poor.

Sanders
April 26th 2011



2345 Comments


She looks better in that album art than I've ever seen her elsewhere, her face usually looks like a shaved cat...

Tyrael
April 26th 2011



20795 Comments


But Not Giving Up On Love is sooooo catchy! Good review Irving.

pizzamachine
April 26th 2011



12571 Comments


Niiiiiiiice! Pos.

That is all.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
April 26th 2011



10592 Comments


Review is brilliant.



You are brilliant.


Pos.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2011



7163 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I think this is the first English review of this album...anywhere.

KILL
April 26th 2011



71087 Comments


my auntie used to work with this b in a restaurant true story no bs fact of the day

Digging: David Axelrod - Song of Innocence

iFghtffyrdmns
April 26th 2011



7047 Comments


nice read Irv.

this broad sounds booooooring

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2011



7163 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Thanks for all the kind words guys. It's greatly appreciated =) Do let me know if there are any bits that need fixing.

@iFghtffyrdmns - She actually pumps out a few excellent songs now and then, but they don't appear frequently enough to make a properly solid album.

@ Tyrael: But Not Giving Up On Love is sooooo catchy!

I agree =) It's after that song that things really start to go tits up lol.

Sanders
April 26th 2011



2345 Comments


Oh, yeah, great review and all that too, pos'd.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2011



7163 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Hahah thanks man =)

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2011



7163 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Bump? (lol)

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2011



5970 Comments


Great review, have a pos.

Digging: Lisa Gerrard - Twilight Kingdom

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 26th 2011



7163 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Thanks Voivod =)

tpowell
April 26th 2011



1 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The second half of the album is so much more inventive than the first half. Your review defies logic. You write your views in excellent english, but your hearing is clearly impaired. Until this album Sophie Ellis-Bextor has not grabbed my attention, but this album is truly astonishing. It is baffling that you are unable to recognise that.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
April 27th 2011



3765 Comments


it is baffling

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

taylormemer
April 27th 2011



4915 Comments


lol, hearing is impaired.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 27th 2011



7163 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Haha @ Silveri + Taylor.

tpowell, I'd really like to hear you out. What are your preferred numbers on the second half? For what it's worth I will admit that this album has grown on me a little since I reviewed it. That being said this is a process that seems to happen each time I pump out a negative review of an album (happened with Green Day's Awesome As F**k, James Blunt's Some Kind of Trouble, Linkin Park's Puerta de Alcala, etc.).

NocteDominum
Contributing Reviewer
April 27th 2011



6985 Comments


Have my pos Irving, not that you get a choice. Nice review.



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