Ellis-Bextor, Sophie

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Sophie Ellis-Bextor


Sophie Ellis-Bextor ascended to pop stardom in 2000 when she added her silky vocals to Italian DJ Spiller's danceable "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)." The single rose to number one in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and New Zealand and garnered a number of awards, including Melody Maker's single of the year. Bextor officially launched her solo career in 2001 with Read My Lips, joining pop idols Victoria Beckham (formerly Posh Spice) and Kylie Minogue on the radio airwaves with "Murder on the Dance Floor" and "Take Me Home." While the British press frequently focused on Bextor's wardrobe choices and her rivalry with Beckham, fans remained centered on her retro-pop recordings. "Singers and songs: it's got to be a symbiotic relationship," Ellis-Bextor told Johnny Davis in the London Times. "It's like finding the right actress for the role."

Sophie Michelle Ellis-Bextor was born on April 10, 1979, to actress Janet Ellis and film director Robin Bextor. Although her parents divorced when she was four, Ellis-Bextor has remained close to her family, including her three sisters and two brothers. She attended Godolphin and Latymer School in Hammersmith and performed publicly for the first time in a children's opera at 13.

In 1997 Ellis-Bextor joined Theaudience and the band became popular on the alternative circuit, partly due to what All Music Guide called her "sexy, posh voice." Theaudience scored a hit with "I Got the Wherewithal," though internal conflicts would lead to the band's break-up at the end of 1998. For the next year Ellis-Bextor dropped out of music, worked as a model, and started writing a novel. In 2000, however, she returned to performing, collaborating with producer DJ Spiller on "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)." "Though very popular in the clubs as an instrumental," noted David Peter Wesolowski at All Music Guide, "the track started selling like mad after Ellis-Bextor strutted her stuff over its deep grooves."

The single rose to the top of the charts, trumping Victoria Beckham's current single and, with a little help from the British press, initiating a rivalry between Ellis-Bextor and Beckham. While the British press played up the conflict between the two singers, Bextor's teasing comments added fuel to the rivalry. "Posh says it's all about the music," she told Dominic Mohan in London's Sun, "but if that was the case, she wouldn't be promoting to the extent that she is."

The success of "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)" helped Ellis-Bextor properly launch her solo career the following year with her first album release, Read My Lips, in August of 2001. While the title seemed to reference a 1992 quote by President George H.W. Bush describing his position on taxes, it also referred to a lyric from one of the album's songs, "The Universe Is You." "I don't know if it's cool to admit this," Ellis-Bextor told Lisa Verrico in the London Times, "but I listen to the album all the time. I dance around the house to it. I just hope I'm not the only one." A number of reviews were lukewarm, complaining that the music drew too heavily on 1980s synthesizer music. Nonetheless, "Murder on the Dance Floor" and "Take Me Home" reached the top three in the United Kingdom, and Read My Lips charted in the UK, France, Finland, Germany, Mexico, and New Zealand. The album would eventually sell over two million copies and be certified platinum. Polydor reissued Read My Lips in 2002 with three extra tracks, "Music Gets the Best of Me," "Get Over You," and a live version of "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)."

In the fall of 2003 Ellis-Bextor returned with Shoot From the Hip. While less commercially successful in Britain than Read My Lips, the album was nonetheless certified gold and produced two successful singles, "Mixed Up World" and "I Won't Change You." "There is enough killer pop to suggest that Ellis-Bextor will continue to be much more famous than her mum," noted Johnny Dee in the London Times. Ellis-Bextor's life and career were thrown into relief when she discovered she was pregnant in 2003. Her pregnancy coincided with the end of a long-term relationship with Andy Boyd, who had also served as her manager, and the beginning of a relationship with bassist Richard Jones. Following her pregnancy, Ellis-Bextor took a hiatus from performing: it would be three years before the release of her next album. Ellis-Bextor delivered a boy, Sonny, on April 23, 2004, and married Jones in Italy on June 25, 2005.

Ellis-Bextor returned to the limelight in a special New Year's Eve appearance on BBC1, but a technical glitch nearly ruined her comeback: "Her lips moved," Hermione Eyre wrote in London's Independent, "but nothing came out." The technical glitch originated from a microphone malfunction, and the BBC cameras quickly switched to fireworks and balloons in other locations. Meanwhile, Ellis-Bextor, noted Davis in the Times, reacted to potential humiliation with "a complete poker face." "I thought ‘Sod it,’" Ellis-Bextor told Davis. "I wasn't going to spend two hours getting ready to look like a rabbit in the headlights."

Ellis-Bextor's rocky return soon found a smoother route with the release of her third album, Trip the Light Fantastic, in May of 2007. She had begun work on the album as early as 2004, collaborating with Fred Schneider (the B-52s), Richard Barone (the Bongos), and Shelly Poole (Alisha's Attic). "Shimmering and sparkling like a thousand mirrorballs," wrote John Jobling in Mansized, "you'll be hard pushed to find a more hypnotic and polished collection of dance pop this year." Trip the Light Fantastic reached number seven in Britain, and "Me and My Imagination" and "Catch Me" were both issued as singles. Ellis-Bextor toured with George Michael in June of 2007 and was on the road with Take That in the later part of 2007.

Ellis-Bextor has remained an articulate spokesperson for both her brand of music and for political organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). "Pop is a dirty word in some circles," she told Neil McCormick in the Daily Telegraph of London. "But pop is what I've always liked. It is music that should be immediately accessible." Ellis-Bextor also participated in a PETA advertisement and has spoken out against wearing fur. "I think it's a really pathetic thing to do, especially when there are so many alternatives," she told Fur Is Dead. Ellis-Bextor has also expressed a cavalier attitude toward fame and her future as a pop star. "It's not in your best interests to be universally liked," she told Davis. "Everything moves on. That means, in six months‧ time, you'll be universally disliked."

For the Record …

Born Sophie Michelle Ellis-Bextor; daughter of Janet Ellis (an actress) and Robin Bextor (a film director); married Richard Jones (2005); children: Sonny (2004).

Joined theaudience and issued the single "I Got the Wherewithal," 1997-98; collaborated with Italian producer DJ Spiller on "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)," 2000; released Read My Lips, 2001 (reissued with bonus cuts, 2002); issued album singles including "Murder on the Dance Floor" and "Take Me Home"; released Shoot From the Hip, 2003; issued album singles including "Mixed Up World" and "I Won't Change You"; released Trip the Light Fantastic, 2006, toured with George Michael, and toured with Take That, 2007.

Selected discography

Read My Lips, Universal International, 2001.

Shoot From the Hip, Polydor 2003.

Trip the Light Fantastic, Universal 2007.



Daily Telegraph (London, England), June 9, 2007.

Independent (London, England), April 28, 2007.

Sun (London, England), August 19, 2000.

Times (London, England), August 27, 2001; October 25, 2003; February 17, 2007.


"‘Lead My Lips’ Sensation Says, ‘Don't Wear Fur,’" Fur Is Dead,http://www.furisdead.com (July 17, 2007).

"Sophie Ellis Bextor," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (July 17, 2007).

"Sophie Ellis-Bextor," Sophie Ellis-Bextor,http://www.sophieellisbextor.net (November 28, 2007).

"Sophie Ellis Bextor—Trip the Light Fantastic," Mansized,http://www.mansized.co.uk (July 17, 2007).

—Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.