Sophie Ellis-Bextor: Mixed Up World
ome swear that their ability to enjoy a song depends on their mood. If they’re a bit under, then it’s time to cue Slowdive, or maybe Bobby “Blue” Bland. Others tend toward malleability: their disposition derives from the album they’re currently vetting. The latter do better in a top 40 format, with its quantum leaps from outrage to lust to melodrama. While it’s one of those inwardly-encoded concepts that music ought to move you, it’s popular music that really feels the pressure. I was having a good week, nothing to raise concern, no need for empathy—and then I heard “Mixed Up World.”
I backed my way into this song, having found an amateur (in aegis, not in execution) mash-up on Culture Deluxe, my go-to site for bedroom remixes, collages, and A-plus-Bs. It was a cross between Ms. Ellis-Bextor's "Mixed Up World" and the Human League's "Don't You Want Me" (predictably yet lovably titled "Don't You Want Me Sophie?"). The ubiquity of "Don't You Want Me" notwithstanding, the boot really was a clever idea, as its creator latched dead onto a link in tone between the tracks: specifically, Ms. Bextor's gliding delivery of a world-weary melody. It's the sort of future-ennui that seemingly every synth-pop band jangling their minor keys could produce circa 1983. And Sophie wields it expertly, adding a refreshing vulnerability, audible even at 128 kbps.
To be quite honest, I guess I backed into the song twice: from boot to video, then to the song proper. So if I say something about how Ms. Ellis-Bextor soothes like a worldwise older sister, it’s more than partly because hearing the song conjures an image of a six-foot-in-heels woman striding toward the camera with her party mini on.
But as I said, my little realm was suffering no calamity. But then the song’s confessions came tumbling out. “I look around my life / And all I see is contradiction and a lack of faith / Cynicism rules the day…” While obviously young, the singer was in no way channeling that post-adolescent angst that’s been clogging the American charts. This was an adult woman trying to find her anchor over an exultant KC and the Sunshine Band sample. Then came the chorus, shouldering burdens and supplying wonderful comfort where the need had not been. “If you’re feeling kind of mixed up / Just remember it’s a mixed up world / And if you’re feeling life is just too tough / Just remember you’re a real tough girl…” A 21-year-old man latching onto gentle female-to-female encouragement. It was another pop dirty trick.
I got the roommates to check it out, and where they’d previously walked by the door to hear the Groovie Ghoulies or Entombed or Neutral Milk, now they saw me at Sophie’s official site, calling up the video just to minimize it so I could hear that song one more time. And while their combined tastes range from Stevie Ray to Atreyu, they too found some comfort in a gangly British chanteuse. Or at least they professed to.
By: Brad Shoup
Published on: 2005-07-13