Sophie Ellis Bextor - 'Bittersweet'
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.