Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Make a scene: Review


MAKE A SCENE (2011, EBGB RECORDS)


Three albums, four years of recording and delays, and five singles later, Sophie Ellis-Bextor has returned with one of the most anticipated albums of the year - "Make a scene"; collaborating with the cream of pop-dance producers including voted #1 DJ of the world Armin Van Buuren, chart toppers Calvin Harris and Freemasons, that incredibly talented Joe Mount of Metronomy and God himself - Richard X. Of course, there are a few regulars here - Greg Kurstin, Liam Howe of Sneaker Pimps and Dimitri Tikovoi; and a surprise collaboration with Fred Ball... So does this make the album a generic and manufactured one - NO!

The album opens with a bang (literally - "bang, bang, it’s a hold up"). Revolution, the album opener, has Sophie attempting a monotone delivery for the second time in her career (check the middle-8 from "Making Music", Shoot from the Hip). The chorus is simple, repetitive and arresting; the "army" hook is catchy. Cathy Dennis, who worked with Sophie on her last top 10 hit Catch You (which was also a Denis/Kurstin collaboration), co-wrote the song - and in fact, came up with the self-referencing line in the song (the line in the bridge - "face to face its murder on the dancefloor"). Revolution is highly energetic and frenetic, but is very short. It feels like the song is in a hurry to be done and introduce what seems to be Sophie's best album yet. (9/10)

All those cymbal crashes in Revolution lead to this big crash in the very beginning of track two. Bittersweet is a song produced by Freemasons and Biffco. The song was Sophie's second single off the album, but failed to set the charts on fire. Nonetheless, it received an overwhelmingly good response from her fan-base and went on to become the Song of the Day on PopJustice. It even kept Sophie on top of the PJ Almighty for what seemed like an eternity. Bittersweet is enthralling - with flawless production sampling bits from "Fade to Grey" by Visage and "Blue Monday" by New Order; the song even draws influences from "You Spin Me Around (Like a Record)" by Dead or Alive. Sophie effortlessly mews over the production. The meandering melody in the chorus, the cut-up vocals in the middle-8, the whispering bits and that incredible close to the chorus (the heavenly "oh-oh-oh-so here I am" bit) - all these make Bittersweet the ultimate pop/dance song that most solo female acts would kill for. To sum up, the song is a modern classic. (10/10)

Off And On, the planned-to be-sixth single off the album, is the first of the two songs with no lyrical contribution by La Bex. Originally written and demo-ed for Roisin Murphy's 2007 album, 'Overpowered', the song was handed over to Sophie to promote the then-planned Greatest Hits compilation. Fortunately, recording sessions proved fruitful and now we have the 4th album instead. Off And On is a commercial electro-pop number, which has been edited since its original premiere on Sophie's MySpace several years ago. Could this be the first top ten single from the album - I sincerely hope so, but only commercial radio can give this song the exposure it deserves. (9/10)

Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer) was also made to promote the GH compilation. The original demo is significantly different from the final mix that was released as a mutual single by Freemasons and Sophie back in 2009. The song charted just outside the top 10, but stands as the highest charted single from the album (in the UK) and has become one of her most popular songs since Murder on the Dancefloor. Described as electro-dance monster, the song will have you moving along to the loud synths and the big beats. This song, along with Bittersweet, proves that the Bex Monster and Freemasons are a match made in pop heaven. The Freemasons have always had brilliant and glittery production on their songs; their two songs on this album are no different. Their production brings out the emotion and drama in Sophie's voice - something that is absent in your regular commercial dance songs (yes Guetta, I'm talking about you) (9.5/10)

Not Giving Up On Love, the fourth single off the album, is a trance song, with a simple piano loop, great synths, some live drums thrown in here and there and, of course, Sophie's ever-so lush vocals. Miss E.B. is no stranger to melancholic melodies - what some fans consider her forte. The song is a collaboration with Armin Van Buuren, who is the voted #1 DJ of the world. The song was a big success in several countries across Europe but had no impact on the UK Charts. Vocal trance is a new field for Sophie, and I look forward to more trance DJ-collaborations in the future. The full length club edit is so much better than the hurriedly edited radio version, but you simply cannot have a 6+ minute trance track in the middle a pop album - still, it is worth listening to. (10/10)

The next song, Can't Fight This Feeling, is a collaboration with upcoming French DJ Junior Caldera. This is his biggest success across Europe, and in fact the song got a lot of attention from Sophie's fanbase in Russia and some other countries across Europe. On my first listen, both track 5 and 6 stuck out like a sore thumb. The song isn't bad at all. It is very commercial sounding, very 2009-10. Its weird because her songs almost never sound 'current'. Its very hit or miss really. I liked the song a lot when it was released as a single before Bittersweet, but the shine has worn off now. Sophie has recently written another track with Junior Caldera. Lets hope that song sees the light of the day in some form. (7/10)

If I have to sum up the next song in one word, I would only say "heavenly". Starlight, produced by Richard X *screams* is straight out of the 80's. Starlight is released as the 5th (overall) single from the album, the 4th in the UK. You can watch the video, directed by her father, Robin Bextor, right here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDlkxDu06OU
The song has a melancholic feeling, and is slightly ethereal and lush. This is definitely one of the best songs on the album. I'd love for Sophie to work with Richard X *screams* again. Starlight is positioned in the perfect place - and feels refreshing to listen to after 6 dance songs that play back-to-back! You don't know what heaven feels like until you have heard this song. Everything from the slick production and the poetic lyrics to the lush vocals are perfect. One thing that will really grab your attention is the almost-Madonna-esque middle-8; "We are one". (10/10)

Sophie performed Under Your Touch last year on the Album Charts Show and I was really looking forward to listening to the studio version of the song. It is produced by long time collaborator Liam Howe of the Sneaker pimps. The song begins with eeire strings, which brings to mind Madonna's "Sorry". The song has a very busy production, with loads of sounds building up as the song progresses. Sophie sounds fantastic. The mechanised vocals in the song were a nice surprise. It might sound slightly filler-ish on the first listen, but after a couple of listens, the song grows on you, and you tend to put this into a long list of songs that should be singles. (8.5/10)

The title track, Make A Scene, is unlike anything that she has ever done before. The song begins with some clunky notes and a strange beat, and soon builds into this really bouncy jam. The chorus is phenomenal and has Sophie screaming "come on now" as she makes a scene. The almost spoken verses, the saxophone, the really weird drum sequence that sounds a little off-track in the first few seconds, Sophie screaming in some places - in theory this will seem like one of the worst ideas ever. But it all comes together so well - everything feels so disjoint, but at the same time, its all very 'together'. One must give sufficient credit to Joseph Mount, of Metronomy, who helped co-write and co-produce this song. You can definitely hear some 'Nights Out' influences in this song. You might even say that this song sounds like something off Roisin Murphy's 'Ruby Blue' album, crossed with production by Basement Jaxx (now that is a collaboration that should happen!). I'd love to see more Sophie-Metronomy songs in the future.(10/10)

Magic is the second of the two Richard X *screams* songs on the album. The song is, as the title suggests, magical. It begins with simple "ooh ooh"s and builds up into this 80's influenced, scratch that, 80's epic. A simple-but-massive chorus takes centre stage; the production really brings out the best in Sophie's voice. I'm a sucker for anything Richard X *screams*, but this has to be one of his best productions. Lyrically, the song is very poetic, much like Starlight. The middle-8 contains whispers again. Sophie brought whispers back in fashion - I'm not even sure if whispers went out of fashion, but I'd love to give Sophie credit for putting whispers on two (thats right, TWO) songs on the album. Well done Sophie. Well done Hannah. Richard X *screams*, I salute you! (10/10)

The next song is a historic moment in pop music (or so I think, don't burst my bubble). Sophie is probably the only popstar in the world to have used the word "politicise" in a song. And as a fan from PopJustice once said, she is also, probably, the only popstar in the world to have written an electro-pop number about a text stalker. Now THIS is your quirky pop song. The almost story-like lyrics describe Sophie's attitude toward her text stalker. One line in particular - "when you're lost at sea, I'm on land" - is like a slap-in-the-face-get-a-life type of situation. I love the general bitchy-ness about the song. Dial My Number is produced by Liam Howe and co-written with Hannah Robinson. The song, like the other Howe production, is very busy sounding, and quite loud. This was probably the most anticipated song on the album - and it could end up becoming a fan-favourite. (9/10)

Homewrecker is such an amazing-title for a pop song. You'd expect swearing and cursing on this song - but surprisingly, there's no swearing or cursing... or is there? The lyrics of the song are intentionally blunt, but also very witty. The “ho..ho..homewrecker” bit caught everyone by surprise. Its right there, she’s actually swearing, but its so wonderfully hidden beneath the apparent hook. Only Sophie Ellis-Bextor could swear and still sound so posh, take notes Ke$ha. The song is produced by Greg Kurstin, and has some similar production gimmics. The organ in the beginning of the song make this song seem almost-demented in some ways. Well done, Sophie, well done! (8.5/10)

Now is that point in the album when you're pretty much done with dancing and jumping around, and you just want to sit down and listen to some good pop music. And Sophie knows that. Synchronised, is the first of the two ballads on the album; the second song with no lyrical contribution by Sophie, and is truly immense. The song sounds very commercial - kinda like "If You Go"'s moody little sister. The song focuses on Sophie's vocal power, and that is, essentially, what makes this song a masterpiece. Sophie's vocals have never sounded this good and emotive. Here is solid proof against all those people who claim that Sophie cannot breathe life and emotion into a song - IN YOUR FACE, HATERS! (10/10)

Cut Straight To The Heart is the perfect close to a perfect album. The song features lyrical contribution by the infamous Ed Harcourt. Sophie sounds very vulnerable, and the general feeling and production of the song can be compared to one of her older songs from her second album - "I Am Not Good At Not Getting What I Want". The track has beautiful instrumentation, and also samples the drum sequence from Placebo's cover of "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)", which is also, not so surprisingly, produced by Dimitri. The song might be slightly over-shadowed by the amazing-ness of its predecessor, but is no less brilliant. Sophie finishes the album in style. (10/10)

If you haven't heard this album yet, you haven't really heard what good pop music sounds like. Sophie has once again proved that she truly deserves the title "Pop Goddess". Well done.

ALBUM HIGHLIGHTS:
Bittersweet
Not Giving Up On Love
Starlight
Make A Scene
Magic
Synchronised
Cut Straight To The Heart

OVERALL RATING: 9.3/10. Plus, additional 0.7 for the brilliant artwork and photographs in the album, all the effort that has gone behind getting it finally out there. A solid 10/10 effort overall!


...yes, this is exactly how I feel about the release. Its finally here, and it is flawless. Make sure you legally purchase a copy (or two) of Make a scene.

Link to online sites where you can buy the album:
iTunes UK
Amazon
7Digital

Buy the CD from here:
Amazon
HMV
Play
Tesco

11 comments:

Dan said...

Good review Kau! The album deserves this kind of review

Anonymous said...

Great review! I almost agree with you 100%! There are just 2 little things I disagree on: 1. for me 'Not Giving Up' is no 10/10-material, it lacks (emotional) depth (maybe because of the trance-element?) and 2. 'Dial My Number' is a true 10/10-song, it's original and it has the best lyrics of the album in my opinion. =)I love the 'I wanna keep it real'-line!

Banhurt said...

I agree with everything you've written. :)

Banhurt said...

No, wait, I'd give Under Your Touch 9/10 instead of 8.5

Banhurt said...

Overall, it's a great review and I'm happy Sophie has read it!

Pedro Leite said...

Hello!

Nice Review but, like anonymous :P said dial my number its best than you told and make a scene itisnt so good , sadlly for me once it's the music who give's name to the album.

Best wishes for you and ofcourse sophie, our queen! LOOL

Isaac said...

Great review indeed. Sophie must be proud.

Kim said...

I really love how you presented the review. The review on its own is good, but I really love how you've taken the effort to bring all the promo shots from the entire campaign into this post.

I agree with almost everything you said, except, Dial My Number should have been a 10/10. It is a fan favourite.

Isabela said...

Great review for a great album! Congrats Kau!!

Anonymous said...

And that review TOTALLY wasn't biased in any way, was it?

Isaac said...

@Anonymous - it must be...because he hasn't given all the songs 10/10 like he would otherwise.

I joke. Its a fan review. Its meant to be nice. There is a lot of truth in it though. Her fans have wildly backed this album. So it could be totally unbiased, who knows

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