Happy 15th Anniversary to Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s second studio album Shoot From The Hip, originally released October 27, 2003.
Released on October 27, 2003, Shoot From The Hip was the second solo effort from the English singer-songwriter Sophie Ellis-Bextor. The album was meant to extend the commercial reach that Ellis-Bextor’s blockbusting debut Read My Lips (2001) had enjoyed.
But, it was not to be—the long player was a mild seller.
Unlike Read My Lips, Shoot From The Hip was a much more audacious song cycle that probably confused the mainstream pop crowd. Ellis-Bextor wanted to be a risk taker instead of standing in place—an admirable decision. Ironic then, that Ellis-Bextor’s daredevil appetites (musically speaking) yielded only mixed commercial (and critical) results for her sophomore set. Those same appetites had provided the chanteuse with her path into the dance-pop fold in the first place.
Kicking off her journey as a recording artist in the late 1990s, Ellis-Bextor came of age during the height of the Britpop movement. Accordingly, Ellis-Bextor ended up as the frontwoman for a band primed for the period: theaudience. Their album of the same name spun off a string of evocative singles, but they couldn’t lift the eponymous LP’s commercial fortunes. Shortly after the group disbanded, Ellis-Bextor was courted by the Italian disc jockey Spiller to lay down lyrics and vocals for his instrumental “Groovejet.” Demurely inquisitive about the dance genre, Ellis-Bextor decided to take advantage of this new aural avenue.
Off the back of the single’s success in and out of the clubs, Ellis-Bextor landed a deal with Polydor Records to cut her soon-to-be double platinum debut. On that same long player, among its classic and contemporary disco wares, were flashes of Ellis-Bextor’s wider pop interests and antecedent alternative roots.
Not long after the promotional tour for Read My Lips finalized, Ellis-Bextor began brainstorming her second LP. Hardly a shrinking violet when it came to her songwriting, Ellis-Bextor led on almost all the track scripting for her first outing; it was to be the same for its appropriately titled follow-up, Shoot From The Hip.
Seeking to tighten her artistic inclinations, Ellis-Bextor kept her creative circles sparse; chief co-writers and producers on deck included, but weren’t limited to, Gregg Alexander, Matt Rowe, Jeremy Wheatley and Damian LeGassick. All of the gentlemen had considerable experience on their side, however, Ellis-Bextor let LeGassick helm a generous portion of Shoot From The Hip’s sound. Subsequently, the sonic arc of the album is consistent in a way its predecessor hadn’t been.
Electronic pop in a variety of flavors and tempos line the record as the two-pronged synth-groove approach of “Making Music” and “Mixed Up World” makes clear. The former entry makes use of a freestyle percolation pattern, whereas the latter possesses a light electro-R&B air amid its more punctuated, digital effects. Then, there are guitar-driven disco numbers (“You Get Yours”), modern torch songs (“I Am Not Good at Not Getting What I Want,” “Hello, Hello”) and other detailed pop experiments to be discovered that find Ellis-Bextor showcasing her stylistic strengths.
Elsewhere, song pieces like “Party in My Head” and “I Won’t Dance with You” stay allied to a modern four-on-the-floor vibe ensuring that Ellis-Bextor hadn’t hung up her dancing shoes despite her dabbling in other genre disciplines. This miscellany of sonic canvases is well-suited for Ellis-Bextor to illustrate her stories with her unexampled vocal and songwriting. The romantic readiness of “I Won’t Change You” and the exaltation of modern day sisterhood in “Another Day” promised that Shoot From The Hip would be anything but a one-trick pony in its writing.
Additionally, there’s also an underlying sense of emotional turbulence in the material too in lieu of Ellis-Bextor’s separation from her then-boyfriend Andy Boyd. This is seductively displayed on “The Earth Shook the Devil’s Hand,” the B-side to the eventuating single “Mixed Up World.” Over a recurring acoustic guitar riff, Ellis-Bextor quietly spins her story of an embattled courtship that is as sensuous and conflicted as its psychologically charged title implies.
Once the writing, recording and packaging of Shoot From The Hip was completed, Ellis-Bextor and Polydor set upon its October 27, 2003 street date and the singles to represent the LP: “Mixed Up World” and “I Won’t Change You.” Each found respectable positions within the U.K. Top 10 and drove the record to reach its modest silver certification.
Ellis-Bextor reflected openly on Shoot From The Hip in a 2014 interview with Attitude Magazine in coordination with the unveiling of her then-fifth LP Wanderlust, “(Shoot From The Hip) was maybe a little bit darker. During that record I was going through a bit of a break-up, so there are a few break-up songs on there. I wasn’t feeling quite as funny and breezy as I was on the first album.”
Pitching itself between pop abstractionism and pop convention, Shoot From The Hip portrays a woman unwilling to rest on her laurels which is the hallmark of an artist at her finest. Sophie Ellis-Bextor exceeds all expectations—and then some—with Shoot From The Hip, an album that has since beat back the undue criticism and commercial chill that met it upon its original reveal.