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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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Comments

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  1. 1
    Tom on 2 Nov 2014 #

    (“Bring It All Back” is also, by a rum coincidence, the second pure advice lyric in a row at #1 – this one aimed at 11 year olds as exactly as “Sunscreen” was aimed at 21 year olds. The two songs take opposite tacks, which – at the risk of flogging this topic to death – shed a bit of light on the failings I found in Luhrmann’s record. My objection to “Sunscreen” wasn’t exactly insincerity – it’s that it took sincere sentiments and applied techniques to them that emphasised their glibness and make them feel phoney to me: the combination of advert voiceover and continued rhetorical doubling-back. “Bring It All Back” does the opposite – it takes shopworn ideas which you suspect none of the writers have given two thoughts to, and expresses them with unwavering, wholesome positivity and brightness. I’m not won over by this approach either, and I think the two sets of advice are roughly equally sound. But “Bring It All Back” wins because it’s shorter and has a tune.)

  2. 2
    flahr on 2 Nov 2014 #

    B-b-but Tom this isn’t pastiche this is the sound of the MODERN SHINY COOL FUTURE and nooooo my childhood :(

  3. 3
    weej on 2 Nov 2014 #

    If I remember correctly Miami 7 was in the weekday afternoons at 5.10 spot rather than Saturday mornings, but I may be wrong.

  4. 4
    Tom on 2 Nov 2014 #

    Ah! If someone can confirm or otherwise I’ll change the entry. It doesn’t make much difference to the point of it :)

  5. 5
    AMZ1981 on 2 Nov 2014 #

    Credit where credit is due Bring It All Back held at bay Beautiful Stranger, one of Madonna’s best singles of the nineties and the only one of a run of three standalone singles for her (two soundtrack tracks and the lead single from a new album) to miss the top. It’s also worth noting that while Bring It All Back itself was relatively quickly forgotten other S Club 7 songs (some bunnied although Reach is not) have proved more enduring.

  6. 6
    mapman132 on 2 Nov 2014 #

    Ironically for a show about a group trying to make it in the US, there was only one S Club 7 hit in the US that I’m aware of and this wasn’t it. Did Miami 7 ever appear on US TV? I have no idea, but then I wasn’t exactly their demographic target. I find BIAB quite dull – almost makes me want to reach for the sunscreen again: 3/10.

  7. 7
    iconoclast on 2 Nov 2014 #

    What a great idea for a new way to sell more records: put a bunch of stage school kids in their own TV show about “being in a band”*, pitch it at an undiscriminating audience, make the songs available for commercial purchase, and watch the hits flood in. I bet nobody ever thought of that before!

    BIAB is exactly the kind of thing you might expect from such an enterprise: melodically clunky, lyrically inane and banal, produced cheaply’n’cheerfully, and finished off with a gratuitous key change. It all feels completely superfluous, and the best that can be said for it is that at least it’s also completely (well, almost) inoffensive. FOUR.

    *Never mind the awkward question about whether they deserved to be called a “band” or not. The correct answer is, of course, “Get back to your rocking-chair, Grandad, nobody cares about that any more”.

  8. 8
    MikeMCSG on 2 Nov 2014 #

    # 5 Agreed ; I think they are due some reappraisal although this is their “Ring Ring” rather than “Winner Takes It All”.
    OK Simon Fuller did have these on a tighter rein after his Spice Girls experience and even VB is a better singer than Tina or Hannah. But on the other hand Jo is much better than any of the Spicers and it’s a shame that personal demons and the lack of regard the UK has for genuine vocal talent ( see also Colin Blunstone , Julianne Regan ) have prevented her from capitalising on it.

  9. 9
    enitharmon on 2 Nov 2014 #

    Iconoclast @ 7, have you been commenting in the Grauniad lately?

  10. 10
    will on 2 Nov 2014 #

    Never minded S Club really. A Millennial multi-gender version of the Monkees was my take on them – all good clean fun. I absolutely adored the follow up, S Club Party (even if it was virtually a rewrite of Say You’ll Be There). This? Less so. 4 is about right.

  11. 11
    Tom on 2 Nov 2014 #

    I’m kicking myself for not remembering “Reach” only got to #2 – one of the reasons this entry is skimpy is that I was holding some commentary over for “Reach”! There will be other places it can go though.

  12. 12
    Tom on 2 Nov 2014 #

    And yes, “S Club Party” is as good as they got – I love the background “Ho! Hey!” stuff.

  13. 13
    Izzy on 2 Nov 2014 #

    Yes, S Club Party is their best – on the 911 thread I mentioned Party People as another antecedent. Would love to know if there are others in this particular late 90s dayglo party lineage. It would make an outstanding mixtape!

    I was surprised to find S Club 7 only issued eleven singles. A later bunny approaches the S Club Party peak, but overall it makes for a really strong collection I reckon.

    There’s an interesting discussion to have around S Club and pastiche, which is – does it matter at this remove? I can see how it might annoy in 1999, pop aspiring only to ape thirty-year-old pop – but now that one single’s 15 years old while the other’s 45, I couldn’t care less.

  14. 14
    JLucas on 2 Nov 2014 #

    There’s a subtle but important distinction to be made between pop music that can be marketed towards children (i.e. almost all of it) and pop music written specifically and exclusively for children. S Club fall very much into the latter camp for me, which is why in the battle for post-Spice Girls hearts and minds, I always had much more time for Steps.

    Whatever else you might say about Steps, their original material (post-5,6,7,8), was clearly a sincere attempt at reaching ABBA-esque heights. They couldn’t possibly achieve it (and lets face it, the credit goes entirely to their writing team, the group themselves were no more creatively involved or – I suspect – invested than the S Club alumni were), but I can listen to One For Sorrow, Deeper Shade of Blue and After The Love Has Gone now and have an emotional response. They’re good songs, written about grown-up emotions. That they were presented with easy-to-mimic dance routines by a group of perma-smiling entertainers doesn’t take away from that, it just gives younger listeners a way in.

    S Club songs on the other hand I can pretty much only enjoy on a nostalgic level. You can really tell that they were written primarily to soundtrack a TV show. The production is a lot cheaper for the most part. They’re simple, children’s party music. There’s nothing at all wrong with that. But I think it explains why there’s far less residual affection for them. The difference between S Club and The Tweenies was only flesh and blood. (Number One by The Tweenies would actually have been a perfectly convincing S Club hit).

    Bring It All Back is a decent song. But it sounds like what it is, a TV series theme tune transformed into a buyable product. Hey Hey We’re The Monkees for the CITV generation.

    6

  15. 15
    Lazarus on 2 Nov 2014 #

    #10, 12 ‘S Club Party’ = ‘White Lines’ I always thought.

    Five number twos in addition to their four chart-toppers, so a group that clearly found a good deal of favour with the GBP, and yet didn’t outstay their welcome – three years or so and they were off. Although a reunion of sorts has been attempted recently. And discussion of the ‘Juniors’ can wait for another day I suppose.

  16. 16
    Tom on 2 Nov 2014 #

    I think the point re. pastiche isn’t “this isn’t original” – as you say, you get to a certain point and think, so what? – but “this limits its capacity for surprise”. If a record is trying to be like another record, that doesn’t completely render it incapable of doing something interesting, but it lessens the likelihood. And the further away and more canonical the template is, the easier it will become to get the impression right, think “job done”, and leave it at that.

    (Which is the difference between pastiche and, er, ‘scenius’ – when it’s a bunch of people working to do something their peers are doing, the formula won’t quite be locked down yet – there’s more room to get things intriguingly wrong.)

  17. 17
    Chelovek na lune on 2 Nov 2014 #

    Hmm, admin call – in a strange turn of events (I write as someone who has time for “Thou Shalt Always Kill”…) I am being offered the chance to edit Tom’s last comment (#16). The temptation, the thrill, the abuse of power…… I am not logged in, so possibly we share a ISP, talktalk (tho surely not an IP address…)

    It’s kids music, obviously, mega-blatantly manufactured but it is kind of good quality as far as it goes – no emotional depths to plunder here, and a fairly shameless key change too. In the spirit of Disney, Grease, etc, (…Rebecca Black….) wholesome, too wholesome, uncomplicated but still fun. I found it profoundly irritating at the time (I distinctly remember it blaring out at full volume at the end of Brighton Pier that summer) – but it has really grown on me. I disagree about “S Club Party” being as good as they got – I’d make the case for another #2 of theirs, “You”, being a lost gem of a song.
    6, or maybe even 7. (I’m afraid this will not be the last piece of ultra-cheesy pop from this summer of which I will speak in support, the next will be along soon…)

  18. 18
    lonepilgrim on 2 Nov 2014 #

    musical haribo – artificial as hell and as saccharin as ‘Sugar Sugar’ yet the video only confirms my feeling that the singers seem to be on a joyless treadmill, running to stand still

  19. 19
    katstevens on 2 Nov 2014 #

    Yes, it was definitely broadcast in the Grange Hill slot.

  20. 20
    thefatgit on 2 Nov 2014 #

    “The Monkees were my S Club” might yet be the Great Unwritten Pop Tome, but S Club 7 have a long way to go to achieve the level of awesome that The Monkees did.

    “Bring It All Back” is a perfectly serviceable example of tweenpop, but it’s no “I’m A Believer”. I’m deliberately being unfair. Of course the S Club model and the Monkees model only share a thin veneer of familiarity. I find myself siding with Iconoclast to an extent: cheap & cheerful, banal, clunky…well yes, absolutely. But then there’s something about this pre-millennium positivity that’s counter to the burgeoning Y2K paranoia of the time. I remember our IT department beavering away on contingency plans and examining lines and lines of code to see if our company systems were exposed to this phantom bug. The threat might be 6 months away, but for all that time, those guys and girls were living in another reality, but then so were S Club 7. For that, I will give it a 5.

  21. 21
    Ricardo on 2 Nov 2014 #

    Does anyone here think a phenomenon like S Club 7 would actually be possible these days, what with children themselves increasingly turning their backs on TV and adopting the Internet earlier and earlier into their lives?

  22. 22
    flahr on 2 Nov 2014 #

    I think S Club 7 were the first band I ever saw live (obviously this was my older sister’s doing, as I scowled at the idea of music in general until I was about 15, pigeonholing it – music in toto, to remind you – as something Other People Liked). It might have been Steps, it might have been Forthcoming’Bunny. But I think it was S Club 7.

    I feel slightly annoyed at myself for not being able to remember their names – watching the video I think it’s Hannah, Jo, Rachel-From-Friends, Other Woman, and then (possibly showing that Westlife were the pop wallpaper of the day) Brian, Brian and Brian.

    My girlfriend offers “I thought they were called S Club 7 because there were seven S Clubs.” A bit like Stargate teams (although obviously neither of us watched Stargate at the time).

    Anyway. Assembly pop*, bright ‘n’ breezy, nice enough nowadays even without the obvious nostalgia value though I can’t say I’ve listened to it or missed it in the intervening decade and a half (!). S Club [5].

    *not a typo for “assembly line pop”, I mean the sort of pop that they played in the much-dreaded (though not particularly by me) Singing Assembly in primary school; my primary memory of Singing Assemblies concerns an upcoming bunny so I will spill all then, but “Reach” was a perennial favourite and I suspect all of SC-7’s oeuvre enjoyed outings at some point.

  23. 23
    Tom on 2 Nov 2014 #

    #20 Every team in our company had to give someone the responsibility for Millennium Bug preparedness. Our Y2K rep was an affable Icelandic guy who approached the job with what turned out to be the absolutely appropriate level of effort. 17 songs to go!

  24. 24
    Chris on 3 Nov 2014 #

    I played this again the other day, and approached it with an open mind – at 25 in the summer of ’99, S Club 7 weren’t aimed at me so it wasn’t really on my radar at the time… it still sounds a bit too twee & by-numbers to my ears but I can’t dislike it much either.
    The follow-up single was equally derivative but much better IMO.
    I scoffed at the “retro” S Club reunion tours of 2008 across the nation’s universities but six years on I suppose they must seem a real snapshot of a more innocent age to those in their original audience demograph.
    4

  25. 25
    swanstep on 3 Nov 2014 #

    Sounds like a sound-a-like concocted for an ad with a bunch of session players when the customer was too cheap to spring for the expensive rights to the blissful original (I Want You Back, Satisfaction, Look of Love, London Belongs To Me,…). But, sigh, the kids will never know the difference. Note that BIAB got to #1 in NZ, and S Club would have 2 more #1s in the next six months there. Not sure about TV status there, but I’m guessing that the established Spice marketing channels made that unnecessary.

    I recently saw Lucy (2014), whose primitiveness (dialogue-wise, visuals-wise, plot-wise, and the ‘science’ loudly appealed to in the film is beyond idiotic) BIAB reminds me of. Anyhow, it’s absurd to complain about Lucy as I do here: no one who made it was under any illusion that they were making anything good. ‘Good enough to lighten the pockets of consumers worldwide and fatten those in Paris and Hollywood and Seoul’ just is the presiding spirit of the thing. S Club 7, then, is the sort of stuff that triggers in me comparable cynicism about the music business. But BIAB isn’t my childhood:
    3

  26. 26
    The Riverboat Captain on 3 Nov 2014 #

    Crapulous? No way.

  27. 27
    Andrew Farrell on 3 Nov 2014 #

    I’m reasonably certain that Luc Besson thought he was making something good when he filmed Lucy – I’m also reasonably certain he was right, a tight flashy high-paced film that takes itself as seriously as it needs to to keep escalating – more Injected with a Poison perhaps than this track.

  28. 28
    Andrew Farrell on 3 Nov 2014 #

    (That’s not a great comparison but I can’t think of a dance track that starts well and keeps improving – possibly due to the fact that you’ll have buggered the next track on – and I can’t bring myself to compare Lucy to something non-dance such as, say, Bohemian Rhapsody)

  29. 29
    weej on 3 Nov 2014 #

    I found Miami 7 a huge disappointment at the time – I was into plenty of pop music that seemed to be superficially aimed at the pre-teen market, but Aqua/B*witched this was not. I attempted to watch a few episodes, but it was just dull, and the theme tune was worse, a half-arsed sketch of a pop song which wouldn’t have stood a chance of getting on a Spice Girls album. Of course they would redeem themselves a bit later by virtue of bringing some decent songs in – S-Club Party we’ll get to, Reach is one of those instantly memorable songs that would’ve been massive anytime from the thirties to the present day, whoever performed it.

  30. 30
    James BC on 3 Nov 2014 #

    Miami 7 made no sense because (from seeing a few episodes) the plot was always “We need to write a song before the big performance.” Well (1) you clearly don’t write your songs and (2) no one wants to hear a new song at a big gig – just do your old stuff.

    “Bring it all back to you” is also terrible advice – so self-centred. 90s-00s nu-morality.

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