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Nov 14

S CLUB 7 – “Bring It All Back”

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#827, 19th June 1999

s club biab Simon Fuller claims that the idea for S Club 7 came to him the day after the Spice Girls fired him. It’s a typical bit of entrepreneurial storytelling – the darkest moment is always another opportunity, don’tcha know? But it’s a useful comparison – if you want to know what the Spice Girls brought to their music, contrast them with S Club. Out with distinct personalities, in with colour coding. Down with the modern, up with pastiches. Away with girl power and the pop of everyday life, bring on pop as everyday life: a meta-pop TV show, Miami 7, starring S Club as a pop group trying to make it in the US.

S Club was a kids’ TV project beyond anything else – a popular teatime show which happened to leave a profitable vapour trail of records. Consulting those parts of the Freaky Trigger cabal (thanks Hazel and Kat!) who saw Miami 7, it was either great, or a bit less crapulous than the stuff broadcast next to it: a success either way. But the songs from it are doing the job the songs in kids’ shows always do – breezy, catchy opportunities for a montage or a happy ending. And snipped from that context, S Club records were enjoyable without ever risking being good.

“Bring It All Back” is a case in point. It’s the theme from Miami 7 – a sensible choice of debut, since it’s the tune most likely to be lodged in viewers’ minds – and it’s a take-off of “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5, the youthful members of S Club pitching their voices even younger and more eager, trying to catch some of Motown’s joyous lightning. On the one hand, “I Want You Back” is a great song to steal from, because it’s amazing. On the other, stealing from it this faithfully is as good as saying, “we have no ambitions here whatsoever beyond imitation”. So this is what the Spice Girls themselves gave to a Simon Fuller project: risk. Without them, he plays it mechanically safe.

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  1. 51
    Mark G on 4 Nov 2014 #

    #45 and now you have me searching for my Jumper..

    I’m truly surprised at the fact that Steps is/are ahead critically here, and also that no-one can seemingly remember (bunnied), or is that part of the rules? If so, fair enough.

    I guess all the tracks mentioned so far (apart from that 2 become christmas or whatever) are instantly memorable to me, but then I had two girls who enjoyed the songs and the show enough, and I never got too sick of the S Club.

    Yes, the thrall of the number one gets fairly unexciting when it’s presented as a done deal, but that could be down to 1) they’re all actors who can sing, historically anyway, and they didn’t grow up with TOTP in their childhood sights. Probably watched “Knightrider” boooo booooo (like my friends in the school band who would always watch 6 million dollar man, thursdays, 7 to 8 oclock also booo booo)

    .. or 2) no number one, they’re working out their notice kids.

  2. 52
    StringBeanJohn82 on 4 Nov 2014 #

    #49. Good grief yes. ‘Reach for the bloody stars’, followed by ‘Put Your f***ing Hands on’ by Reef, even I could dance to them. You could just put your hands in the air. Thinking back I’m old enough now to say I had a pre-smoking ban fag in one hand and a bottle of hooch in the other. And I walked home alone (sans jumper).

  3. 54
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Assorted comments:

    Lino: You weren’t alone on Tina. And agree on Rachel’s FHM ubiquity. Is it right that The Streets’ Fit But You Know It is (obliquely) about her?

    Rachel Stevens solo: if not on S Club entries, surely some scope for discussion when we get to Richard X’s contributions to the top of the charts.

    S Club: for me, better than Steps: substantially so, in fact. This is not a good example of why (a little too bland – but at least I can remember the chorus – not sure that it warrants the same mark as, say, Boyzone’s A Different Beat – but that could be because ADB deserves marking down rather than this up), but I would say one of their bunnies is the best thing that they ever did (rather than S Club Party – as I mentioned at Wannabe, instant points off for introducing the band sections) and is one of the few songs that prominently features one of the boys. We’ll get there in time. Plus points for S Club over Steps were that I thought they were much less irritating in their public presentation (a little of Ian “H” Watkins goes a long way – is the other bloke Ben Affleck in “Good Will Hunting”?) and had catchier, or at least more memorable, songs. I can mentally recall several S Club hits – the only Steps hits I can remember are novelty line dance number 5-6-7-8 and Tragedy even after JLucas’s naming of several of their other hits – Tragedy obviously isn’t theirs either, so I’m really struggling to hear Steps’ originals in my mind’s ear.

    #21 asked whether you can do this stuff in the modern age, given the way kids consume TV now is much different from the point at which they were going to all be sat around watching Miami 7. I don’t know is the answer – but Hannah Montana suggests that the model was still good for a few years after this – and Disney keep trying to capture the same lightning in a bottle (with some success if you follow stuff in European countries – a telenovella called Violetta is incredibly popular in Italy and has spawned merchandise and music/concert ticket sales all over the place – it was tried in the UK but kids here couldn’t get with the dubbing so it got pulled fairly quickly; the stuff I know about due to my job). I reckon it could work, potentially, but it will be a lot harder work to get off the ground and would likely require a good strategy for Youtube and the more fragmented nature of kids’ entertainment habits nowadays, so as to get kids to bite on it.

    Disappointed Beautiful Stranger didn’t get to #1. Never mind.

  4. 55
    Mark M on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Re21/54: The answer is surely that up to this point both Nickelodeon and Disney are still cranking out sitcoms for kids, as well as Disney’s made-for-TV musical movies, the stars of many of which have had pop careers, and when Tom gets to talking about 2014, we’ll be talking about them. Maybe one day the internet will have vanquished TV in kids’ hearts, but we don’t seem to be there yet.

  5. 56
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2014 #

    It’s true that they are still cranking out those sitcoms. They are operating to diminishing returns though, certainly at the moment – we can tell this by looking at the data that comes through on sales and comparing to the historic sales data that we have, comparing the data that we’ve collected over time on popularity of these properties as stated by the kids and seeing that the newer “stars” are not as popular as those from the middle/end of the 00s and various other softer measures that are collected by a variety of research agencies across the industry. The stuff that has replaced this for popularity in absolute terms at the moment is not teenage popstars – it’s Frozen, it’s Minecraft, it’s a variety of Youtube stars creating their own content and kids watching that. If anything, the fact that these new teenage popstars might still be featuring near the top of the charts is probably more to do with shrinkage in the music industry, rather than evidence of massive love from the children of the UK.

    Edited to add: Teen Beach Movie was a moderate success on TV in the UK, having quickly checked the ratings data, but did next to nothing at retail. High School Musical on the other hand was a genuine phenom. If anything, TBM is supporting my point that they are trying to do the same things and getting lower returns from them, as they’ve not really adapted to the changing marketplace for children’s entertainment.

  6. 57
    Mark M on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Re56: Ah, interesting stuff. I take your point on the business of the business.But as for the level of performer that’s been produced via this route in recent(ish) times, apart from the headline-grabbing Miley, I would say that the former Nickelodeon star who has two hits in the Top 40 and a (bunnied) summer monster still lurking at 48, looks like the real thing to me, or as much as anyone does in this day and age.

  7. 58
    Cumbrian on 4 Nov 2014 #

    AG is an interesting case actually. In terms of the UK, she got big off her involvement in Victorious (starting in 2009) which is probably the last kids sitcom with a music star in it to really hit in the UK (there have been others which have produced higher viewing figures since but not spawning anyone off that). She could actually be the last of this breed for a while – looking at affinity measures for her, the audience that grew up with her from 2009 is still really into her but the ones who are coming in at the bottom end of the age range now and seeing her in Sam and Cat, which doesn’t perform as well as Victorious did, are not as interested in her as you might think. She does have an undeniably committed audience, but it’s probably not as childcentric as you might think – more teenagers now than kids.

    Flirting with the bunny there but I think pertinent to the original point – can you make music stars through kids sitcoms? In the UK, I’m not so convinced anymore – though it might make a comeback; looking ultra-long term, there do seem to be cycles in the types of content that succeed in general. The current obvious avenue for kids’ favoured music stars in the UK is X Factor – which is watched by more kids than any of the sitcoms that we’re talking about here. I suspect that one of the limiting factors to sitcom based success is that they don’t have a wide enough audience – whereas Miami 7 would have been on when there was still limited choice for kids’ TV content, so large numbers would have been exposed to it, due to its placement on BBC1.

  8. 59
    Mark M on 5 Nov 2014 #

    Re58: Much appreciating your inside track on this.

    The relationship between shows and music has never necessarily been a ‘like the TV programme, like the band’ one. The Monkees had a record out before the show went on air. With S Club 7, BIAB came out after the series had been on for a couple of months, so in that case, presumably there had been a built up of familiarity and good will. But group soon felt much bigger than the show.

    With the Disney/Nic kids, yes, they aren’t always on the mainstream channels (although they can be – HM was ITV, The Wizards Of Waverly Place on C5), but I always presumed it was more about creating a seed audience – enough to get you on the radio back in the day – than the TV audience and the audience for the music being exactly the same. AG and Miley have moved a long way from that initial base, surely?

    This seems as good a place as any to mention something that struck me this week when I was subbing a feature about this week’s X Factor, which is at the least one of the groups hadn’t gone down the Spice route of careful differentiation at all – there was a bucketload of them and they all have the exactly the same haircut. Makes captions a nightmare (will no one think of the poor journalists?). Of course, if they do turn out to do well, the true fans will know which one is which, but for the rest of us, they may be doomed to be a Westlife blur rather than individuals.

  9. 60
    Jonathan on 5 Nov 2014 #

    So strange to hear this song talked about with such lukewarm disaffection! I’d never even really thought of it as kids’ music (I was sixteen when it came out, which puts me out of the apparent tween target market); just really amazingly enjoyable pop constructed to be as amazingly enjoyable as possible. I am wondering now why I was never cynical about its entirely unwavering positivity; I sort of suspect that it’s because it seems appropriate that late ’90s pop should brim with late ’90s optimism. At the time, it seemed like pop music was just supposed to be this uncomplicatedly cheery, just like B*Witched was, or “Steal My Sunshine” or “Semi-Charmed Life” or etc. etc.

    If I had to defend it as being anything more than a “I Want You Back” Of My Very Own, I guess I might say that there’s a rather satisfying circularity to the chorus that echoes the recursive suggestion of the title. It’s a hook constructed as an argument, only one that is all structure without semantic coherence. It is a recipe for how one can bring it all back to oneself, which is the apparently logical result of not stopping, never giving up, and holding your head high.

    I dunno, it’s just really neat y’know?

  10. 61
    ace inhibitor on 5 Nov 2014 #

    is its positivity so unwavering though? Someone sent me a postcard with the slogan RELENTLESS OPTIMISM: BIAB more than hints at a similar ambiguity (the need for relentlessness undercuts the optimism it is meant to intensify): “when the world is on your shoulders… if people try to put you down… love, it aint easy… when the world seems to get too tough… try not to worry… you should never be lonely… keep it all inside (but also) gotta let the feeling show (huh?)… don’t you stop trying, don’t stop, don’t stop, never give up, never, give up, NEVER give up, NEVER GIVE UP, na na na na na na na….’

    ahem. Anyway, if its pop music for kids, its for kids who’ve got to the point of realising that this business of being happy is more complicated than it seems

  11. 62
    Tom on 5 Nov 2014 #

    Kids realise that pretty quick, though, since they’re spiteful little buggers to one another. It’s not dissimilar to conversations we’ve had with our 7 year old when other kids are mean.

  12. 63
    Steve Mannion on 5 Nov 2014 #

    re #54 I think ‘When You Wasn’t Famous’ is obliquely about Rachel, ‘Fit But You Know It’ is just inspired by someone he met on holiday.

  13. 64
    Billy Hicks on 6 Nov 2014 #

    There are a couple of moments I would put up there as contenders for “best of my life”, all occurring around the end of the 2000s and start of the 2010s in my hedonistic uni years, after the glum of noughties teenagehood and before the exhausting, working and bill-paying 2010s twenties I’m currently in. Not to say there are better on the horizon but it’s been a bloody long time since the last.

    One that may well clinch it, looking at my blog, would be in the early hours of Friday the 13th (how ironic) of August 2010. I was midway into my introductory course at the National Youth Theatre. The student halls were blasting with your standard top 40 fare for the time – O.M.Bunny, We Don’t Speak Bunny, Bunny Out, etc – and then someone puts S Club 7 on.

    Not this one, though, the follow-up to this which only reached #2, ‘S Club Party’. Play it in a building full of 18-21 year olds a few years earlier and you’d get everyone feeling a bit embarrassed and leaving the dancefloor. Play it in a building full of 18-21 year olds a few years later (which we’re now approaching) and half of them wouldn’t even know or remember it. Play it in a building full of 18-21 year olds in 2010, and utter, singalong hands-in-the-air euphoria surrounds the place.

    It seems odd to think that a moment as simple as flinging my hands collectively up in the air with several dozen others and shouting “S! CLUBBBBBBBB!! WANNA SHOW YOU HOWWWWWW!!!” should count as significant enough to be up their with my best, but it was a combination of the way I was feeling, the point I was in my life and the place and people I was with, along with the perfect link to a decade earlier and those last few pre-teen years before moodiness overtook me at the age of 13. What had seemed like a circle dating back to what was previously my happiest two summers ever – 1999 and 2000 – had returned with 2009 and 2010, something that had already felt like it had been building up for a long time but at that, one, glorious moment I could have stayed there, in that room, with those people, singing that song forever. Everything was perfect.

    Bring It All Back, while not quite the song mentioned above, is still strong enough in my heart to desperately want to give it a 10. But I’m going to stick to a very high 9 due to the equally melancholic feelings it now brings of a time long gone.

  14. 65
    Tom on 6 Nov 2014 #

    I love those kind of stories. My friend and I played an 80s revival DJ set in 1994 to a student audience where we ended up having to play “Come On Eileen” three times because of the frenzy it sent people into. (And I gave that a 10, of course.)

    This would suggest that peak student ecstasy right now is being reached by the hits of 2002-3. Not a bad crop to be honest.

  15. 66
    Billy Hicks on 6 Nov 2014 #

    Tom – That’s actually true! A club night I went to in Central London a few months back seemed obsessed with 2003 tracks – In Da Club, Like Glue, Turn Me On (Kevin Lyttle) etc, plus the likes of Seven Nation Army and Be Faithful but I think those two have been constants since the moment they arrived.

  16. 67
    Billy Hicks on 6 Nov 2014 #

    Actually, best one – a club last year ended the night with the theme tune to the first series of Pokemon, which got the best reaction of the entire evening.

  17. 68
    Alina on 8 Nov 2014 #

    The first time I heard this was a girl at school singing it defiantly to some bullies/mean kids. She was the fat one. As a grandiose ten year old I thought it was vaguely pathetic but she found some power in it. This was in an Australian country town btw. It’s recycled pap but it’s joyful and even recycled pap can find a home especially for kids who can’t find the sentiment elsewhere. And pop music in someways can be an extension of the neighbourhood, a way to grow through exposure to things outside of ‘home’.

  18. 69
    Steve Williams on 14 Nov 2014 #

    #7 What’s not been mentioned so far is that there had actually been a virtually identical series for the previous two years – No Sweat, the series that brought us the long-forgotten boy band North and South.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Sweat_%28TV_series%29

    Miami 7 was from the same producers and was shown in exactly the same slot. Seemingly the most important thing about S Club 7 was that there were girls in them and they all kept their real names, hence the difference between one number 7 hit and multiple number ones.

    #41 You call it Popjustice Pop, I always referred to it as Observer Pop because a hallmark of that genre was that it would always be featured in the Observer Music Monthly and Paul Morley would talk warmly about it, while the kids themselves often didn’t care. I might mention this again but there was a real attempt to market solo Rachel as a popstar for adults, hence her first album was called Funky Dory and the title track featured a Bowie sample – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funky_Dory

    Unfortunately for all the kudos that got in the broadsheets, the kids were resolutely unimpressed and the album was re-released quite soon after with a load of disco covers, and they skewed rather younger in their marketing after that.

  19. 70
    Steve Mannion on 14 Nov 2014 #

    I always wondered if North & South’s ‘Tarantino’s New Star’ was the first reference to him in a song let alone its chorus and title. Quite the move for a pop song that sounds as far removed from his work as possible. I’m sure he was mentioned in a few rap tracks (“raw to the floor like Reservoir DAWGS”).

    More Director cuts please! There’s Mogwai’s ‘Stanley Kubrick’….what’s that? No you cannot have ‘George Lucas With The Lid Off’.

  20. 71
    Cumbrian on 14 Nov 2014 #

    70: Fun Lovin’ Criminals sampled dialogue from Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs in Scooby Snacks? Am sure someone else will have beaten even them to the punch.

  21. 72
    swanstep on 15 Nov 2014 #

    ’90s college-radio semi-darlings King Missiles were repeatedly goofed on by Beavis and Butthead, including with their manic track ‘Martin Scorsese’ .

    So few directors end up with their names known to the public at large let alone with true celebrity-style public profiles that director name-drops therefore seem likely to remain rare and principally the province of the geeky and non-commercial. QT in the mid-90s was, in my view, easily the biggest director-star since Hitchcock, hence his appearance close to the Pop Center Of Things with North&South makes sense.

    That said, I suspect the world might eat up a Chris Nolan-themed e.p. from somebody (I could just see St. Ets in a b/w Following-style vid.).

  22. 73
    Kinitawowi on 15 Nov 2014 #

    *bunny* – Clint Eastwood

    (hey, he directed stuff too!)

  23. 74
    Mark M on 15 Nov 2014 #

    Re70 etc: OK, definitely not chart pop, but with a quote from a UK no1:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tI87_X52wmk

  24. 75
    swanstep on 15 Nov 2014 #

    @Mark M, 74. Thanks for that link. Brilliant stuff, but what’s the quote from a UK #1?

  25. 76
    Mark M on 15 Nov 2014 #

    It’s a paraphrase rather than a quote, now that I check, of a bit of the spoken word bit at the start of Never Ever.

  26. 77
    ciaran on 5 Dec 2014 #

    I was a lot more excited about the return of Suede with Shes in Fashion at the time of BIAB as I thought the next phase of Britpop was on its way.How wrong I was. More on that when we get to Bunny form early 2000.

    I might be going against the majority of opinions here as I didnt rate S Club Party at all but preferred this.Bit of joy in it even if its not too far off a self help manual.The video and its goofing around the states suits the brand well.6

    Billys story (#64) about it having a new lease of life a decade later is something that doesnt surprise me.

    It’s not my favourite of theirs. Two In A Million is a guilty pleasure of mine and later Bunny edges it aswell. Shame Rachel’s solo career aint bunnied. Would have been high marks for a few of those.

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