by Andrew Arora
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
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. |
is a freelance music writer based in Dallas,
Take Me Home
3: Move This Mountain
4: Murder On The Dancefloor
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