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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. 31
    iconoclast on 3 Nov 2014 #

    @9: no; why?

    @20: Which reminds me that a sentence mysteriously disappeared from my earlier post: “Bubblegum pop for the New Millennium, certainly, but completely lacking the wit and craftsmanship of thirty years previously.”

  2. 32
    Mark M on 3 Nov 2014 #

    Re 25/27: I’m with Andrew – there are plenty of things you could accuse Luc Besson of, but I don’t think abject cynicism is one of them. On the contrary, I think he makes exactly the films he wants to make, and in his head they are the best possible films he could imagine (and occasionally, he’s not totally wrong about that). The science is, of course, beyond ridiculous, something emphasised by just how much of the screen time is taken up by those bloody lectures. But I thought it looked good. The plot is simply there to serve the film’s central conceit, which is to take an action movie set up and then tip into something trippy/a mystical situation where violence becomes impossible (of course, you could argue that’s a standard Star Trek trope). I’m not convinced that it worked in the end, but I didn’t find it painful, and it made the correct use of Scarlett Johansson. Poor Morgan Freeman, though, he really needs to stop taking those parts.

  3. 33
    Andrew Farrell on 3 Nov 2014 #

    It may help to compare it to Transcendence, linked by Mr Freeman’s velvety tones :)

  4. 34
    Tom on 3 Nov 2014 #

    “I can’t think of a dance track that starts well and keeps improving”

    If you’re willing to stretch your definition of ‘dance track’ there’s one coming up relatively soon!

  5. 35
    swanstep on 4 Nov 2014 #

    @andrew f./mark m.. I’m at a slight disadvantage here because once a movie hits a critical mass of badness in my view, I just purge it from my memory – it’s simply not worth retaining what was wrong about it.

    That said, and let’s for arguments sake set aside the preposterous science and its sorry exposition by Freeman, Lucy felt desperately underwritten to me, not a single natural or memorable line of dialogue (cynicism alert: dialogue unimportance seemed obviously tied to Lucy‘s international distribution aims), not a single real character to speak of apart from SacrJo’s (incredibly Besson manages to do absolutely *nothing* with S Korean revenge-film icon Choi Min Sik – how is that even possible without imputing a combination of incredible cynicism and laziness to Besson?), the plot barely exists – there’s no real development after ScarJo gets beaten up after she has the drugs implanted (and, amazingly, even that rudimentary plot point was garbled: please, without looking anything up, tell me who the people are who beat ScarJo, and what was their point in doing so?) – editing and visuals were painful/primitive (clip-art-like) for the most part I thought. Truly, the only redeeming feature of the film is ScarJo herself kinda, sorta extending her Black Widow persona fused with a little bit of Under The Skin‘s alien. Lucy was made for just $40 million but has made over $400 million worldwide, and without ScarJo on board I doubt whether L. would have got much of a release. I hope and assume that ScarJo has ended up with a big piece of that gross – she deserves it, she *is* everything that’s good about the film.

    Anyhow, ‘mind-expansion’ films have been all over the place the last few years, but Lucy is easily the worst I’ve seen. Limitless, Inception, Her, Transcendence all seem to me to be qualitatively different from and better than Lucy, which, no bones about it, reads like a scam. Lucy is only just over 80 minutes long but one still feels it vamping, padding for time with its vapid cut-aways to early primates . etc.. The movie is *so* slight that you can *feel* (or at least I thought I could feel) Besson trying to get out of Dodge as quickly as possible with customers’ monies.

    p.s.. Pete Baran’s columns used to be a good venue for this sort of discussion. Miss them.

  6. 36
    Mark M on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Re35: ‘The plot barely exists’ – that’s certainly true. Could the film have done with more Choi Min Sik and less Morgan F? Undoubtedly. And so on. My issue was mostly with your assessment of LB’s motives. And now with your crediting of Johansson for the film’s box office success – Besson has a long history of internationally successful movies, whereas Johansson’s previous biggest hit in which she was the headline act is Lost In Translation, all those years ago. I think it would be pushing it to claim that many people saw those Marvel movies because of her…

    But more importantly, yes, a gentle campaign to persuade Pete to at some point start writing film reviews here would obviously have my complete backing. But people do have lives to get on with, though…

  7. 37
    Alan on 4 Nov 2014 #

    That’s a terrible low-res scan of the cover, but an object lesson in ensuring you scan 2x the dpi

  8. 38
    wichitalineman on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Late to the S Club party…

    The first time I heard this was on Newsround, or a similar children’s programme, which interviewed the 7 on set. So the single’s doing well, said the bouncy reporter. “Yeah, we’ll be number one on Sunday” said Rachel, Tina or Jo, with absolutely no enthusiasm. I was horrified.

    That really set up my (non) relationship with S Club 7*. You don’t care about number ones? You don’t really deserve them.

    BIAB sounds perfectly OK to me now: dry, straight forward, does it’s job like plenty of ’69-era bubblegum, and the Jackson 5-ishness is fine. It’s an earworm too. I can stretch to a 5.

    When do we get to talk about Rachel Stevens’ solo records?

    *excepting a “thing” for Tina. Was that just me?

  9. 39
    Steve Mannion on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Love the idea that the first act to not care about being #1 (for the first time) was a teenpop act but maybe they were just really really tired?

  10. 40
    Alan on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Did Rachel get any higher than #2 in 2004? edit: sweet dreams got to 2 as well (in 2003)

  11. 41
    Tom on 4 Nov 2014 #

    #38 I can’t think of an obvious place! Whatever kept them at Number 2? There’s bound to be an entry that talks about ‘Popjustice Pop’ in some depth, which for better or worse I file RS’ records under.

  12. 43
    James BC on 4 Nov 2014 #

    I always thought Tina was the least stand-out of the girls. Once Channel 4 Teletext were interviewing her and asked for “questions to ask Tina from S Club 7”. My brother suggested “Which one are you?”

  13. 44
    wichitalineman on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Ha! Thanks Alan… I really try to avoid finding out what’s imminent on Popular, so that was very thoughtful. Though I’d have thought a future S Club 7 entry might need a bit of Some Girls/LAX discussion to spice it up (are there two more?).

    So I’m guessing it was just me, with my thing for Tina I mean. Jo “stood out” for unsavoury reasons a few years later, of course. Rachel Stevens’s FHM ubiquity has always baffled me.

  14. 45
    StringBeanJohn82 on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Looking forward at their next two singles (neither got to no. 1, but sorry if I’m breaking any rules here):

    Bring it all Back – Say Hi to the gang as we all get to sing/here’s our manifesto
    S Club Party – Hip-Hop/R&B one
    2 in a Million – Slushy ballad/has a number in the title/ tilt at Christmas No. 1

    Seem familiar?

    Wannabe
    Say You’ll be there
    2 become 1

    S Club were a great manufactured band. All top 5 hits, 3 years of ubiquitous chart dominance, and then out, every single record memorable. This is the worst of their singles by some distance but it was their manifesto (put it to the test-o) – that manifesto being we are 7 seven young people who are wholesome and sexless that your kids can look up to without threat. Compare the raunch of ‘2 become 1’ to ‘2 in a Million’ for a good example.

    Being BBC sponsored, I guess they had to be. I remember when the Spice Girls came out they were interviewed in mags like Select and Vox, and even footy mags aimed at adults like 90 Minutes (much missed) where they were frequently off topic and veering into areas perhaps not suitable for their core demographic. Licence fee funded S Club had no such ability and remained trapped in primary colour. primary school purgatory.

    On topic, this is the worst of their singles but it was the obvious debut single. It’s catchy as hell and has the message of positivity and protestant work ethic that will stand their fans in good stead for their imminent entry to adolescence and the turmoil that brings. As Tom said, enjoyable without being good. [4]

  15. 46
    Tom on 4 Nov 2014 #

    So anonymous are S Club that I just looked ahead to their other bunnies, saw one I really liked, and realised that I’d reattributed it to a completely different band, obviously in my shock at SC7 having a memorable track.

  16. 47
    wichitalineman on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Well, I can remember the Christmas one to come.

    I was blanking on S Club Party on Reach, so I just listened and didn’t remember either (the first – pretty good; the second – it’s their Stop, isn’t it, with bloody awful lyrics).

  17. 48
    thefatgit on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Weird isn’t it? This and “Reach” are the only S Club 7 songs I can call to mind, and by some margin, might be their “worst” offerings. I’ll stave off my curiosity re: the bunnies until the time is right.

  18. 49
    James BC on 4 Nov 2014 #

    Reach is massively memorable to people my age because it quickly became a student cheese night staple. It would generally be played between Wake Me Up Before You Go Go and, say, Brown Eyed Girl. I would glance nervously towards the exit, curmudgeon that I was.

    Yes, the lyrics are awful. You can’t “climb every mountain higher.” If you climb a mountain, the height you climb is dictated by the height of the mountain.

  19. 50
    Tom on 4 Nov 2014 #

    The students I knew found ways to do pretty much anything higher.

  20. 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.

  21. 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).

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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?

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