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Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Sophie Ellis-Bextor

One of the biggest British pop artists to emerge in the 2000s, Sophie Ellis-Bextor soared to the top of the U.K. charts with her glossy, disco- and '80s-synth-pop influenced dance sound. Initially gaining buzz as the lead singer of the jangly Brit-pop band theaudience, Ellis-Bextor established herself as a pop diva with her chart-topping anthem "Murder on the Dancefloor," which helped take her 2001 debut, Read My Lips, to number two on the U.K. Albums Chart. She remained a chart favorite in the U.K. and Europe, hitting the top 20 with 2003's Shoot from the Hip and 2011's Trip the Light Fantastic, before rounding out her dance-pop period with 2011's Make a Scene; the first on her own EGBG label. While dance music remains a core aspect of her work, she has expanded her sound, collaborating on a series of folk and orchestral pop productions with acclaimed singer, songwriter, and producer Ed Harcourt, including 2014's Wanderlust, 2016's Familia, and 2023's Hana.

Born in 1979 in London, Ellis-Bextor grew up in a creative household, the daughter of BBC presenter Janet Ellis and producer/director Robin Bextor. Along with her early appearances alongside her mother on the children's show Blue Peter, Ellis-Bextor became interested in performing and sang with the W11 Opera children's opera in her teens. By age 17, she had joined the Brit-pop outfit theaudience, appearing on the group's eponymously titled debut. Released in 1996, theaudience reached number 22 on the U.K. Albums Chart and spawned several singles, including "I've Got the Wherewithal" and the Top 30 track "A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed." A sophomore album never materialized and by 1999 theaudience had broken up.

After the group split up, Ellis-Bextor embarked on a solo career, emerging as a major star alongside Italian DJ/producer Spiller on the single "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)." Though already popular in the clubs as an instrumental, the track picked up steam after Spiller added Ellis-Bextor's vocals in August of 2000, eventually topping the singles charts in the U.K. and several other countries. A year later, she again topped the U.K. singles chart with "Take Me Home," before serving up another chart-topper in the ultra-cool disco anthem "Murder on the Dancefloor." Produced and co-written with the New Radicals frontman Gregg Alexander, the song was a smash throughout Europe. All of these singles anchored Ellis-Bextor's 2001 solo debut, Read My Lips. Showcasing a blend of '80s-influenced synth-pop and disco, the album proved a significant hit in the U.K. where it reached number two. It also performed well in Europe, hitting the Top 20 in several countries.

In 2003, the singer delivered her sophomore effort, Shoot from the Hip, another dance-oriented album which again featured production and co-writing by Alexander, as well as Matt Rowe, Jeremy Wheatley, and Damian LeGassick. The album spawned two Top Ten singles in "Mixed Up World" and "I Won’t Change You." It also included the song "I Am Not Good at Not Getting What I Want," co-penned by Ellis-Bextor and founding-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler. As the album was gaining traction, peaking at number 19 on the U.K. Albums Chart, Ellis-Bextor took some time off to give birth to her first child.

She returned in 2007 with her third album, Trip the Light Fantastic. Showcasing a sleek, electronic dance-pop and disco aesthetic, it found her working with a handful of name producers, including Greg Kurstin, Xenomania, and Dimitri Tikovoi, among others. Heralded by the Top Ten hit "Catch You," the album reached number seven in the U.K. and spawned several more singles in "Me and My Imagination" and "Today the Sun's on Us." The deluxe edition of the album also featured the tracks "Can't Have It All," co-written with Eg White and "Supersonic," featuring backing vocals by the B-52s' Fred Schneider.

On the heels of the album's release, Ellis-Bextor joined George Michael on tour, before also joining Take That on their tour. Several collaborative singles followed, including appearing on the Freemason's "Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer)" in 2009 and Junior Calderone's "Can't Fight This Feeling" in 2010. Both tracks eventually paved the way for and were included on her fourth album. Released in the summer of 2011, Make a Scene was her most dance-oriented album yet, again featuring production by a bevy of producers, including the returning Kurstin, Calvin Harris, Richard X, Hannah Robinson, Metronomy, the Sneaker Pimps' Liam Howe, and others. It reached 33 on the U.K. Albums Chart and marked her first album released under her own Universal imprint EGBG.

By 2012, she was back in the studio to work with British indie hero Ed Harcourt, who had already collaborated with her on the song "Cut Straight to the Heart" off Make a Scene. Harcourt ended up co-writing and producing what would become Wanderlust, which appeared in January 2014. Released on the heels of Ellis-Bextor's appearance on BBC TV's Strictly Come Dancing, the album debuted at four on the U.K. charts on its way to silver certification; it was her biggest hit since 2003's Shoot from the Hip. With Harcourt's creative input, the album found Ellis-Bextor moving away from the electronic dance-pop of her previous work and embracing blend of folk and orchestral-tinged indie-pop.

She returned in 2016 with Familia, an album that reunited her with Harcourt and featured a blend of folk and pop with some Latin American and disco-influences. Buoyed by the singles "Come with Us," "Crystallise," "Wild Forever," and "Death of Love," the album hit 12 on the U.K. Albums Chart.

Another collaboration with Harcourt, The Song Diaries, appeared in 2018 and featured reworked renditions of some of the singer's past releases, including orchestral versions of the tracks "Take Me Home" and "Murder on the Dancefloor." 2020 saw Ellis-Bextor issue the greatest-hits collection Songs from the Kitchen Disco, which included a newly recorded cover version of Alcazar's "Crying at the Discoteque."

The singer's fourth Harcourt-helmed album, Hana, arrived in June 2023. Inspired by a trip to Tokyo and named after the Japanese word for "blossom," the album featured a more organic, synth- and prog-rock-style sound. Included on the album were the singles "Breaking the Circle," "Lost in the Sunshine," and "Everything Is Sweet." ~ Matt Collar

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