Review Summary: Supervision is carelessly lazy.
“Nothing against Ellie Goulding, but I’m never going to make music that’s boring enough to be on TVs all over the UK. I don’t want people to look back and go, ‘Oh yeah, I remember her for the John Lewis advert.’ That would be a gun-in-mouth moment for me.”
That quote was La Roux (a.k.a. Elly Jackson) in an interview with The Telegraph, 2 days before the release of her third album Supervision. Aside from being rather tone-deaf with her choice of words and unnecessarily disparaging of another British female artist, it’s a remarkably confident declaration to make. And it did not age well. La Roux would shudder at the comparison, but Supervision suffers from the same fate as Ellie Goulding’s third album Delirium – it’s an unfortunate regression from unique and interesting synthpop into generic pop same-ness.
Lead single “International Woman Of Leisure” draws from the same fountain of ideas that Elly Jackson has been dipping into for over a decade. It’s a mid-tempo, funky, electropop “bop" with synth tones that would’ve fit right in on 2009’s self-titled debut (or on a Eurythmics album from the 1980’s). I put the word ‘bop’ in quotations because it feels like that’s what La Roux intended for this single to be, but there’s a lackadaisicalness to the track that’s never been present in her music before. The vocal melodies are tired and Elly even sounds bored singing them, and there’s a breeziness to the track that wants to read as ‘island party’. but ‘elevator music’ is a more apt descriptor.
It’s a pattern rife across the whole album, and the scant listing of 8 tracks still manages to drag because of a lack of variety in its bpm. Supervision cries out for a ballad or a high-energy track, and past singles “Let Me Down Gently” and “Bulletproof” show that Elly can excel at both. Only a few songs would be worthy of placement on her good-to-great previous two albums: “Gullible Fool” employs a great crescendo towards a groovy breakdown with a fantastic bassline, and “Automatic Driver” shares a lot of vocal and instrumental swagger with “Sexotheque” off Trouble In Paradise. It’s ironic that the latter tells a story about a relationship on autopilot but is one of the few points on Supervision that La Roux turns off her autopilot as an artist.
Ultimately, La Roux was right in her interview. She hasn’t made music that’s going to be on TVs all over the UK, but it’s not due to being inaccessible, complex or avant-garde. It’s because the music isn’t catchy, danceable or thought-provoking enough to capture the wider public’s attention. If one of the tracks from Supervision was playing during an advert, the most likely outcome is that people would change the channel.