Blue Coupe 


Read My Lips

Sophie Ellis Bextor

Universal/Polydor 2001


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Reviewed by Andrew Arora




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Sophie Ellis Bextor first erupted onto the UK pop scene in the fall of 2000 by handling the vocals for Spiller's "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)." The publicity created by "GrooveJet" was enough to have British fans drooling over the singer that critics declared "the next female pop star" and inauspiciously over-hyping her first album. Ellis Bextor's debut album, Read My Lips is not breathtaking, but it's passable for a first effort. There are enough moments between the album's indubitable fillers to show that Ellis Bextor can be a pop diva. The album takes sassy vocals and blends them into a medley of songs that will have you probing old Blondie albums for the same tunes. Read My Lips is sophisticated dance-pop that meshes synthesized rhythms and 80s soul, but it's the album's funky disco that allows Ellis Bextor to outclass her pop counterparts.

The album opens with "Take Me Home," which quickly throws you into a mesmerizing trance that will have you falling in love with the disco groove and alluring lyrics. This song about being picked up at a nightclub, originally a Cher hit in 1979, has a sleek melody that brings out the finest in Ellis Bextor's shimmering yet mischievous voice. And after viewing a picture of this chic soloist, most men would endorse her plea to be escorted back to her abode.

Unfortunately, "Take Me Home" is followed by one of the album's weakest songs. At first listen, many of Ellis Bextor's songs are hard to swallow, but after a few runs, like most good pop music, you recognize the beats and can acknowledge them, individually pleasing or not. "Lover" blends too many sounds into one song to ever establish a melodic flow. It melds some quirky synthesizer and imbalanced vocals with what sounds like birds chirping. Furthermore, Ellis Bextor's dynamics on this track have so little structure, you can never determine if the song is jubilant or desolate. "Lover" is a shoddy track, even though the irony in the lyrics, "I'm going undercover/I'm going to be your lover" might be foreshadowing her rumored gig as the new Bond girl, succeeding Halle Berry.

A couple of first-rate tunes on this album are "Move Any Mountain" and "Sparkle." "Mountain," co-written with Blur bassist Alex James, is a vibrant ballad with a funky trip-hop sound that deftly compliments Ellis Bextor's vocals. "Sparkle," on the other hand, is electro pop that compares to early 80s bands like Alphaville, but with more of an industrial edge that was introduced in later years. This creepy song uses synthesizers to create a bloodcurdling sound that is stylish and impressive.

A respectable effort, but a song that just falls short from being well reputed is "Everything Falls Into Place." While neglecting Ellis Bextor's natural tone, this song is overproduced and tries too hard to subtly coalesce the plethora of beats. Because it is well written and has a likable chorus, "Everything Falls Into Place," could be one of the best songs on another artist's album. The sound and vocal requirements for this electro pop rhyme would be more akin to, say, Banarama, but are much less suitable for Ellis Bextor's deeper alto voice.

Read My Lips is worth a second run just to hear the splendid electric guitar and superb vocals of "Murder On The Dance Floor." Easily one of the best tracks, this catchy hymn, featuring Guy Pratt on guitar, is a charming piece that hooks you in, and halfway through you'll be reaching for the repeat button before it ends. "Murder" is so spellbinding, it will have you murmuring: "DJ, gonna burn this goddamn house right down," next time you're strolling into a masquerade ball.

If you are a sucker for well-produced soft tunes, "Is It Any Wonder," is astounding. Luxuriate in the lucidity of Ellis Bextor's quaint voice by turning this one up when cruising along the coastline in your convertible. (And if you have neither convertible nor coastline, it can help you pretend.) The mellow beat and soft melody makes this poignant ballad a delight to listen to. This song, about the joy of finding a soul mate, is rumored to have Moby involved in its production. In fact, Ellis Bextor has been working with Moby on five other songs that were left off this album due to time constraints.

In brief, Sophie Ellis Bextor's Read My Lips is stylish pop that has a delightfully wayward appeal. It lands somewhere between Pet Shop Boys' synth-pop faculty and Blondie's Parallel Lines album. Giving Read My Lips a comparison to the timeless Parallel Lines is an overly bold statement, because Read My Lips is no classic, but it's important to mention because of Ellis Bextor's comparable vocal style and composition. Fans of "GrooveJet" should not expect much from this album, but it does deliver a dynamic electro disco sound that is sometimes analogous to her breakthrough-hit single.

There is pop music, and then there is "good" pop music. While Read My Lips is not brilliant, its urbane charm and infectious rhythms make this "good" pop music. | May 2002

Andrew Arora is a freelance music writer based in Dallas, Texas.


1: Take Me Home
2: Lover
3: Move This Mountain
4: Murder On The Dancefloor
5: Sparkle
6: Final Move
7: I Believe
8: Leave The Others Alone
9: By Chance
10: The Universe Is You
11: Is It Any Wonder
12: Everything Falls Into Place






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