Sometimes an artist is cruelly ill-served by their biggest hit. Such is the case with Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Murder on the Dancefloor is a marvellous record, but even on her debut album it was something of an anomaly. So much so that she was forced to re-release it with the similarly campy ‘Get Over You’ to keep the momentum going at the time. But in any case, while she has remained loyal to the dance-pop genre for over a decade now – gathering a small but feverishly loyal fanbase in the process – her music is generally much more sophisticated than that one hen party classic would suggest, and the fact that none of her subsequent albums spawned a hit anywhere near as big has turned it into something of an albatross.
In truth, Sophie has long since been relegated to that frustrating no-mans land where you’re no longer young and hip enough for Radio 1 (bizarre now to think that she was once a staple of their playlist) but too pop to segue into MoR album selling land a’la Will Young. I often feel that the death of Top of the Pops and CD:UK has killed mid-level local stars like Sophie, for whom there are precious few opportunities for national exposure.
Still, she seems happy to soldier on, and this year saw her self-released fourth album briefly chart in the top 40. The lead single proper (after a variable string of hit-chasing dance collaborations), Starlight is the kind of lushly produced dream-pop that Sophie’s instantly recognisable voice was made for. The sense of novelty around her RP delivery has long obscured the fact that what Sophie lacks in the shrieking stage-school melisma re-popularised by X Factor, she makes up for with a gorgeously smoky tone. I suspect there may be a genuinely iconic record in Sophie somewhere, when she finally stops chasing the charts. But until then, records like this one more than justify her continued presence on the fringes of the British pop scene.