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Sophie Ellis Bextor - 'Bittersweet'

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Fraser McAlpine | 08:26 UK time, Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Sophie Ellis Bextor

Have you ever taken the time to appreciate what a spectacularly good pop star Sophie Ellis Bextor is? She's got all the human qualities we tend to admire in real people - can take a joke, doesn't seem to consider herself a tortured artiste, has a happy marriage - but it's all wrapped up in a certain...otherness.

That voice is kind of striking, for a kick off: frosty and cold on the outside, but boiling with passion underneath. She's an anti-arctic roll, throatally speaking. And while there's no doubt as to her beauty and charm, she also looks a bit like an oil painting which has miraculously come to life. Lovely to look at, but somehow troubling too. These are all plus points, by the way.

And unlike Lady GaGa, who has to really work with the costumes and makeup to create the same effect, Sophie's otherness is marrow deep. She's a naturally unnatural pop star.

(Here's the video. It's all white.)

All of which means she has the ability to transform a song from plodding dance-pop into startling frosty-wonder with one honking warble. A power she has had to use to its full capabilities on this song, sad to say.

The thing is, it takes a certain amount of nerve to put out a song which shares key characteristics - the climbing-up-the-stairs melody that starts the chorus, that stately tempo, the hazy, whispery backwash of whooshy noises - with Girl's Aloud's 'Untouchable' (aka the single which failed to live up to the promise of 'The Promise').

It's not that the two songs are so similar you can't tell them apart, but there's enough similarity there that a seasoned chartwatcher (hello!) could probably predict what kind of reception one song would get, based on the success of the other. 'Untouchable' having been a relative disappointment for the Girls girls, just as they were riding off the back of their best single ever (arguments in the usual place, obv), it seems odd that Sophie would choose to go to a similar place and expect a different result.

She tends to be at her best when tackling something a bit more dramatic than this, something with a personality to match her own, something for the mind to worry at, like a puzzle. Something which is actually both bitter and sweet.

Luckily, as she is such a singular talent, she's going to get a few more chances yet. Astonishing pop stars always do.

Three starsDownload: Out now
CD released: May 3rd
BBC Music page


  • Comment number 1.


    1. The Show
    2. Call the Shots
    3. Sound of the Underground

    Didn't this come up before?

  • Comment number 2.

    Didn't really like The Promise that much, the best Girls Aloud songs will always be;

    1) Biology
    2) Call the Shots
    3) Sound Of The Underground

    in my opinion

  • Comment number 3.

    I love Untouchable! The Promise isn't their best by any means:

    1) Call The Shots
    2) Biology
    3) Wake Me Up/Untouchable/Sound of the Underground

  • Comment number 4.

    There should also be honourary mentions for Something Kind Oooh, The Loving Kind, Love Machine and the hugely under-rated Sexy, No No No.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hang on now, is this a Girls Aloud review or a Sophie Ellis Bextor review?

  • Comment number 6.

    My top three Girls Aloud songs though are.

    1) Call The Shots
    2) The Loving Kind
    3) Jump!

  • Comment number 7.

    And my top three Sophie Ellis Bextor songs are.

    1) Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer) (with Freemasons)
    2) Take Me Home
    3) Groovejet (If This Ain't Love) (with Spiller)

  • Comment number 8.

    @ 5

    I think that kind of sums up how we feel about the song, we'd all rather talk about are favourite Girls Aloud tracks than the track being reviewed.

  • Comment number 9.

    This is going to STORM the charts with the frosty, British accent in the delivery, not to mention she's been away for a while.

    I cannot wait till this is released, it is the ONE song I have been looking forward to more than any other all year, even more-so than Kelis' 'Acapella' or Lady GaGa's 'Bad Romance', which let's face it, is really saying something.

    This song starts of a MAJOOSIVE introduction, setting you up for the frosty confectionery about to be pouring into your drums. Then, in true Sophie style, the music settles and it's not so much as guns blazing as full-strength poison (another of my extended metaphors, may take a while) as her super-sexual voice takes precedence.

    It's a fairly mellow affair, the first verse, but when the bridge kicks in and the strings join the party, you can tell the chorus is going to be BIG. And I don't just mean 'BIG'; I mean the kind of 'BIG' Lady GaGa wouldn't be too displeased to have on her album, with the assistance of more sexual lyrics of course.

    The stuttering drums that lead into the chorus really set it up, as a huge tonic crash introduces the swirling vocal melody to a chorus that's sure to stick in your mind harder than bird poo on a car bonnet. And OMG the line where she says 'Ooh oh oh oh, so here I am', is three seconds of pure ecstasy.

    And THAT breakdown... WOW. It's worth a star in itself.

  • Comment number 10.

    In case you hadn't guessed... this is a five star song, I think Fraser is trying to compensate for being ridiculously generous on that bile that is Taio Cruz's latest attempt at winning me over.

  • Comment number 11.

    I like the verses, they would fit in well with any excellent pop song. The chorus, though not awful, just feels lke a bit of a non-entity, in a way. The slight drop in pitch and tone makes it sound a bit drab to me, in comparison to the verses, which i think are excellent. I think possibly top 10, depending on the coverage in the media. I cant agree it will be massive, OddOne, but then you seem very keen on it.

    4 stars on a good day. Which today has sorta been. Maybe 3.5...

  • Comment number 12.


    Untouchable is one of my 5 favourite songs ever. And it sounds NOTHING like this. Seasoned chart-watcher here, who can also play Untouchable and tell you that at least chord-wise, the songs have nothing to do with each other.

    I'd have given Bittersweet an extra star, but hey. Opinions and all...

    Could Bittersweet really be *more* dramatic?

    Anyhoo... seems like it'll bomb because the tyrannical Radio 1 hasn't playlisted it. Seriously... Pixie 'Theoretically Attractive' Lott's dire Gravity gets on the A-List, but proven 'astonishing popstar' Dame SEB doesn't get a look in... Hmm. Just fire somebody, please.

    1) Untouchable
    2) Sound of the Underground
    3) It's Magic

    1) If You Go
    2) Today the Sun's On Us
    3) Take Me Home

  • Comment number 13.

    So, using a rudimentary points system (3 for first place, 2 for second, etc)so far we have:

    Call the Shots 10
    Biology 5
    Sound of the Underground 4 (potentially 5)
    The Show 3
    Untouchable 3 (potentially 4)
    The Loving Kind 2
    It's Magic 1
    Wake Me Up (potentially 1)
    Jump 1

    The potentials are because Stephen has unacceptably picked three songs in third place. For the sake of the scoreboard, it's time to make some tough decisions dude.

    A clear winner so far, but there's still everything to play for...

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Now hang on just a minute... I go off-line for five minutes and there seems to be an all-time Girls Aloud Top Tunes Thingy happening!

    I´m not too late am I?

    Here goes:

    1. The Promise (Fraser´s so right about this! It is a classic. Amen.)
    2. Biology
    3. Hmmm... what to put here? There are too many! Okay then... Sound of the Underground

    And Sophie E B

    1. Murder on the Dancefloor
    2. Take Me Home
    3. Groovejet

    This new one isn´t really up there, to be honest.

  • Comment number 16.

    @ 13

    Judging by that scoreboard I think my picks are pretty good.
    *sits back in chair feeling smug*

  • Comment number 17.

    I love this song!! Sophie's really amazing, & I'm sure it will chart higher than the amazing "Untouchable" by Girls Aloud did. This song is what the chart need, cos' "Bittersweet" has the 80s feel. & by the way. I beg to BBC Radio to play this track, cos' it's a real shame it's not getting airplay on the UK's most listened radio, & this song deserves a lot airplay, cos' it's excellent! x

  • Comment number 18.

    My Mum hates this Woman! But taking that to one side... 4 Stars for this song its not AMAZING but its good, the chorus falls flat to be honest.

  • Comment number 19.

    I love the chorus, I think it makes the song the uplifting, verging-on-erotic, stomper it really is.

    And tbh, Untouchable's chorus starts with just a four note ascension, 'Bittersweet' has six notes, this makes all the difference. NO REALLY IT DOES.

    No messin'

  • Comment number 20.

    1) Sexy! No No No...
    2) No Good Advice
    3) Untouchable

    Honourable mentions to Girl Overboard and Miss You Bow Wow (there's something weirdly fantastic about it) for best non-single.

    Also I spoke to Sophie Ellis-Bextor on the phone once. True story. Her best songs were way back with theaudience though.

  • Comment number 21.

    I saw SEB on TV singing live once and I was very disappointed especially as I had expected to like her, but she sounded out of tune to me, it put me right off, I'm surprised Radio 1 haven't playlisted her though.
    I'm sorry, I don't really know any Girls Aloud songs.

  • Comment number 22.

    Sophie Ellis Bexter - Bittersweet

    When you have previously released singles as great as Groovejet , Take Me Home , Murder On The Dancefloor and Heartbreak Make Me A Dancer, it is inevitable that this single will be compared to them.
    This song plods along and arguably boasts the weakest chorus of Sophie's solo career .
    The song lacks so much magic that it will struggle to engage casual listeners , and it's lack of star quality has failed to engage radio , in the same way that previous singles have . This does NOT sound like A radio 1 A list song .
    This song sounds like it's treading water and will wecome Sophie to the world of diminishing returns .
    She looks absolutely stunning , but sadly this song will NOT storm the charts , and will seriously struggle to beat the chart peak of 11 , of Girls Aloud's Untouchable .
    Right , need to listen to Murder On The Dancefloor again to help me forget this non-entity and non-starter of a song .

    There , forgotten it already !

  • Comment number 23.

    I'll stand by what I said before: the chorus doesn't need to be as bombastic as 'Heartbrak (Make Me A Dancer)'s; it's meant to be a sexy chorus, with loud chords and swirly beats.

    This song is brilliant pop confectionary from a woman who really knows her s***, and from producers who also know their's; if Sophie wanted this song to have a bombastic chorus, she would've given it one, similarly if this chorus seems more sedate than usual, Sophie wanted it to be sedate than usual.

    What I love about the song is it shows a slight vulnerability in the chorus, which I think you'll agree is best not demonstrated by screamy screamy vocal performances.

    Comment 21: I don't know how long ago that was but I saw her perform this song, 'Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer)', and 'Groovejet' at Koko in London and my God she was good, even though she was dancing she was near-on a carbon copy of her recordings (in a V GOOD way).

  • Comment number 24.

    Just out of interest Oddone , you said that this song will "storm" the charts .

    What is your definition of storm and how high do you think it will go ?

  • Comment number 25.

    No spirit don't try that! ;)
    Well, last night it was about #80, but it's now at #39 after one day of releases, so people must like it. But 'Kick Ass (We Are Young) is still wandering around the #75! NO THIS MUST NOT BE THERE BY SUNDAY! I've actually been telling everyone in school to download it.

    End note: 'Bittersweet' is rising faster through the charts than any other release this week, bar Train's 'Hey, Soul Sister'.

  • Comment number 26.

    Ragefied at Kick Ass flopping, I actually desperately want that song in the Top 10. MIKA HATERS, THIS SONG IS ACTUALLY REALLY REALLY GOOD!!!!! SEE THE LIGHT!!!

    Glad Hey Soul Sister is doing well though. :)

  • Comment number 27.

    It really does just sound like 'that girls aloud song'. Which is sad... I like sophie, she deserves better.

  • Comment number 28.

    'Hey, Soul Sister' couldn't possibly flop; it's the kind of song with so much innocent likeability it's impossible to hate.

    Interesting things to note in the development of the Top 40:

    'Bittersweet' is now at #34, rising 2 places from this morning.
    'Hey, Soul Sister', is at #22, rising 9 places from this morning.
    Aggro Santos ft. Kimberly Wyatt's 'Candy' is now in the Top 10, at #4.
    Pendulum's 'Watercolour' is right in front of it, at #3; this song and the above song push Plan B's 'She Said' to #5
    Kelis' 'Acapella' has now left the Top 10, alternatively Taio Cruz ft. Ke$ha's 'Dirty Piece of Crap' is now in the Top 10.
    Despite not being released for another month or so, Jason Derulo's 'Ridin' Solo' is just outside the Top 10.
    Rihanna's 'Te Amo' makes an early appearance at #28.
    All 'Glee' songs have fallen quite substantially, with 'Like A Prayer' being the only song left in the Top 40, at #30.
    'I Am Not A Robot' doesn't look like it's doing too well either - down to #38 from #26 in three days, it looks like it's going to fall out if the Top 40 by Sunday.
    Cascada's 'Pyromania' is in the Top 40... at #40.
    Lady Antebellum's début effort has fallen from #28 to #56 in three days.
    Toni Braxton's 'Yesterday', still hasn't reached the Top 40, and is at #61.

    And finally, Mika's 'Kick Ass (We Are Young)' has risen since this morning! By three measly places. It sits rather awkwardly at #72, despite a Monday peak of #65. If it's still at #72 by Sunday, it would make it Mika's third consecutive single to peak there.


  • Comment number 29.

    And a final End Note to declare...

    Adam Lambert's 'For Your Entertainment' wins the Bomber Of The Week Award, by plummeting a huge #44 places. It now resides at #83.

    Hate to say I told you so...

    I think I liked doing this, right, every Wednesday I'll give a detailed analysis of the Top 40, and how the singles released that week are doing, plus any other interesting things to note.

    If any of you object, please feel free to say so; I think I'll post it in 'For Your Entertainment' thread.

  • Comment number 30.

    Sorry to break up the party but I don't like Hey, Soul Sister. By no means do I hate I just find it really annoying, it's one of those irritatingly happy summer pop songs that gets on my nerves, and I've only heard it about 3 times!

  • Comment number 31.

    Wow, seriously? Now that is shocking Harry! :L I think it's alright, nothing too revolutionary; it's all very tried-and-tested stuff with a Train spin on it.

    I'd give it four stars though, the chorus is very catchy.

    Oh, btw, my above posts on the Top 40 indicate only download figures, for example: If you include 'Bittersweet''s physical sales, it's now at #23.

  • Comment number 32.

    OddOne, I like your idea about discussing the mid-weeks. Between me, you Spirit, Harry and all the other regular ChartBloggers: we could practically make our own music site with chart discussion, single reviews, album reviews, exclusives and other random musical news.

    Now my own chart news, MIKA has shot into the Top 10 with Kick Ass, which has debuted at #8. Seeing as Rain and Blame It On The Girls never charted at all, this is good news for Mika and his fans.

  • Comment number 33.

    ^^^^I'm talking about the Irish chart here.

  • Comment number 34.


    Yo Oddone , Sophie's in at 25 .

    Are you happy with this chart position , or did you think this would be a bigger storming hit ?

    To me , it's one of her weakest singles , and intense radio airplay has been hard to galvanise , resulting in a relatively disappointing chart position for this gorgeous maiden .

  • Comment number 35.

    I think the song is lacking in any big pop hooks but the chorus of Bittersweet (which is very weak) is actually playing in the back of my head right now. Ironic or what?

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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