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Apr 15

SPILLER – “Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)”

Popular107 comments • 8,593 views

#871, 26th August 2000

spiller groovejet The revival of disco within pop put a spotlight on something that had gone missing over the 90s: a sense of music not just for dancing, but for dancing with someone. Disco was a music of mutual attraction: cruising, flirtation, negotiation. Its dancefloor is a space for immediate pleasure, but also for promises kept and otherwise. It’s a place where things start, but their resolution, let alone their meaning, is never clear. All of 2000’s great disco number ones explore how to play this hand. Madison Avenue look to impose their will upon it, to set terms and roles. Spiller is less rigid. “Groovejet” accepts the night’s changeability, happily sells out certainty for an amused smile and a few great one-liners. “Just for one lifetime I can be your pastime”, “In it together till I know you better.” Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s original chorus precisely caught the song’s resigned swoon: “And so it goes… how does it feel so good?”.

“Groovejet” – helped along by a whipped-up chart battle with Posh Spice – felt like the hit of the summer. Victoria Beckham’s song, “Out Of Your Mind”, was nowhere near as bad as some claimed – a surprisingly hard-headed, up to date, UK garage record, drenched in vocal effects. It was as modern and forthright as “Groovejet” was nostalgic and enigmatic. But its different parts grated where Spiller’s meshed. There’s a beautiful tension in “Groovejet”, an apt flirtation between Bextor’s languid, cut-glass vocals and the delightful indulgence of Spiller’s music. It’s not just any disco he’s reviving, after all. No Chic for Spiller, none of that poise or aspirational elegance. The sounds “Groovejet” loots are the syn-drums and ray-gun synths of disco’s overripe peak and decline, when it was corny, wonderful, mass-market pop music: you can hear hints of Kelly Marie or Amii Stewart in the song, before that sweetness falls back into the dreamy groove. “Groovejet” is a fond tour of disco when it ruled the world, and proof that it still could.

The music can be playful because the sophistication all comes from Ellis-Bextor. Her vocals were so appealing on this track she could ditch her indie-band baggage and spin them into a brief, well-loved career as a top ten presence, mixing instant hooks with finishing school froideur just as templated here. She offsets the track’s bubbly repetition, adds a bittersweet note without ever sounding like she’s above it. In fact she sounds carried along by it: Ellis-Bextor’s – and the song’s – most powerful moment is the breakdown – “Will you remember me, boy? Remember me – “ and her voice suddenly spirals up into the backing, the thought lost in the music. It’s blissful. And so it goes… but Rob Davis, who changed the chorus, made the right call, getting to an essence not just of the song, but of disco itself. Never mind absolutes, never mind reality, never mind the world outside the song and your body. Trust to pleasure, you’ll be alright. “If this ain’t love, why does it feel so good?”

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Comments

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  1. 1
    JoeWiz on 22 Apr 2015 #

    A perfect, perfect pop song, glistening and shimmering amongst some pretty pedestrian competition. There’s genuine joy here, which puts the cold mechanics of Victoria’s rival single firmly in the shade.
    This was number 1 when I got my (just about good enough) GCSE results. It was a typically warm August afternoon and, not being good looking enough to appear in any of the local papers photos of people throwing sheets of paper into the air, I trotted home alone to an empty house and listened to this about 70 times consecutively. This very much got the popular 16 year old vote – at that nights not actually that raucous house party poor old Posh never got a look in and this was heavily spun.
    This is the only time we meet Sophie isn’t it? The first two singles from ‘Read My Lips’ are NEARLY as good as this…

  2. 2
    SpecialGirlAKA on 22 Apr 2015 #

    Salsoul became a bit of a ‘thing’ to sample over the next couple of years. I particularly like ‘Salsoul Nugget’ (a number 6 hit the following April), which featured some Loleatta Holloway (hope she got paid for it this time…).

    Did anyone else quite like theaudience, or was it just me who bought their singles? I loved A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed.

  3. 3
    StringBeanJohn82 on 22 Apr 2015 #

    The best number one of my lifetime. Sometimes things just are what they are and this is that. Unimprovable. (10)

  4. 4
    StringBeanJohn82 on 22 Apr 2015 #

    @ #2 Yeah I bought all their singles as like many a ‘straight in at no. 36’ indie act they could reliably be found in the Woolworths bargain bin for 99p or less. I Know Enough, a pessimist…, if you can’t do it when you’re young were all regulars on my bedroom hifi. SEB was also my teenage pin-up. Cor!

    I paid the full four quid for this one though!

  5. 5
    Auntie Beryl on 22 Apr 2015 #

    Borderline 9 or ten, this: I think it falls into being a nine. It *should* by now sound dated, maybe to some it does, but for me it encapsulates its time perfectly whilst also sounding somehow timeless.

    “I Got The Wherewithal” is my go-to Theaudience track.

  6. 6
    anto on 22 Apr 2015 #

    Great song, still sounds fresh – if only all collaborates could bring the best out of both participants the way this one does.

    Re: Out Of Your Mind – Compared to the effortless glide of Groovejet, this perfectly reasonable Beckham/Bowers track sounded as though it was trying a little too hard. What sticks in my mind about it is the talking bit before the end – ‘Ice cream, you’re out of your mind’ and then what appears to be ‘Tempelogue, you’re out of your mind’ – the first is weird enough, but Tempelogue is a middle-class area in South Dublin. I daresay it’s a mishearing, but I prefer not to check what she was actually saying.

  7. 7
    mapman132 on 22 Apr 2015 #

    One of the unfamiliar 2000 bunnies I was most looking forward to hearing for the first time. In this case the title alone was somewhat intriguing and I was not disappointed. My initial mark would be 7/10, but as this is exactly the type of track that grows on me, I could see it stretching to 8 or 9 with repeated listens. Too bad this sound was mostly missing from the US pop charts at the time (anti-disco prejudice as usual) although it appears to have reached #3 on Billboard’s dance chart.

    I also listened to “Out of Your Mind”. Not the worst thing I’ve ever heard, but the vocals could’ve easily been generated by a computer program. Of course then you wouldn’t have a Spice Girl to promote your record, would you?

    Suffice it to say, British record buyers got this one right.

  8. 8
    flahr on 22 Apr 2015 #

    This is so obviously ‘perfect pop’ I am slightly baffled it wasn’t a 10. I mean, I don’t think it’s a ten, I think it’s probably an 8. But nonetheless.

  9. 9
    AMZ1981 on 22 Apr 2015 #

    The statistics; Groovejet ended up the eighth biggest selling single of the year but Out Of My Mind managed a very respectable twenty first – respectable give the rapid turnover at the top of the charts in 2000. It would have been number one in most normal weeks and was the second biggest selling Spice Girls related single of the year. It was perhaps Victoria Beckham’s misfortune to be denied by an exceptionally strong record but she did herself no favours by (if rumours were to be believed) fighting for Groovejet’s release date to be changed as the songs were on the same label. There was a perception by this time that the Spice Girls considered the number slot their personal property and it was always good to see one of their number get bloody nosed in a chart battle.

    So Groovejet. It had everything going for it and was a genuine crossover hit. And yet … I remember that it came eight in a Channel 4 `Best Number One Single Of All Time` poll (if I recall Imagine just edged out Bohemian Rhapsody by a narrow margin) far ahead of anything else that was contemporary at the time. I didn’t watch the programme myself but my Mum did and reported that Sophie Ellis Bexter was bigging this up as a song that would be played years from now (`it doesn’t even have a tune,` my Mum sniffed). And fifteen years on Sophie Ellis Bexter was wrong – I can’t remember the last time I heard this, even in venues where the playlists are friendly to songs like this.

  10. 10
    Tommy Mack on 22 Apr 2015 #

    At least a 9. Maybe a 10. This was a song that for ages, I thought I hadn’t heard because whenever I did, I assumed it was a bona fide disco classic from back int’ day. I like Posh ‘n Dane’s robo-step effort too though clearly the better record won.

    Anyone else see SEB covering Pulp ‘s Do You Remember The First Time on the BBCs Britpop farago a few months back? Nice job, when it could have been a John Lewis/Jools Holland nightmare.

  11. 11
    lonepilgrim on 22 Apr 2015 #

    my recent enjoyment of this single has prompted me to listen to a)the Salsoul sample source track b) the original instrumental version of this track and c) SEBs work with theaudience. What struck me was a) how small the sample was, although it does capture the syncopated latin percussion of the original; b)how much Spiller adds to that sample with Philly style strings and harp creating the retro feel but alongside that the glitchy manipulation of the digital signal to emphasise its contemporary quality; c) the particularly English grain and phrasing of SEBs voice (which put me in mind of Kirsty McColl) and again how its cooing quality is reminiscent of the original disco era as well as being distinctly different.
    The crowded Bangkok setting of the video and SEBs almost artificial porcelain beauty suggest Blade Runner remade as a cheery romcom.
    A 9 for me too.

  12. 12
    JLucas on 22 Apr 2015 #

    A welcome Popular appearence for Sophie Ellis-Bextor; for my money one of the most enjoyable British pop players of the 00s. Already a minor indie pin-up, this was a star-making performance that deservedly – if briefly – shot her into the big leagues, aided by her position on the winning side of an irresistible tabloid-fuelled chart battle (Posh vs Posher).

    While not exactly a Madonna-esque chameleon, over the years she’s demonstrated a genuine passion for pop and strong instincts that have helped her to maintain a presence without necessarily being a major hitmaker. She caught onto the 80s revivals and the spiky electro-pop boom with Mixed Up World and Catch You respectively – both just a couple of years before those sounds really caught hold here. I highly recommend her Trip The Light Fantastic album, which is excellent from start to finish. Last year she made an impressive left-turn into witchy baroque pop with the aid of Ed Harcourt, and was rewarded with her bestselling album in a decade. Such an interesting career, and one that I hope endures for many years yet.

    10 for this – the perfect marriage of song and singer.

  13. 13
    Mark M on 22 Apr 2015 #

    Unlike some people here, I had zero love for theaudience, from the super-annoying name on down. I saw them play live once – they were supporting someone (Alan Tyler’s Famous Times, possibly?) at Water Rats. They were v. poor. A friend of mine also had a slightly oblique story about how SEB had behaved badly towards him, but I never wholly bought it.

    In any case, Groovejet is terrific, for all the reasons discussed already. Also terrific, the video, which uses the pale blue/strong red palette of J-L Godard’s early colour films, and that’s a wonderful thing.

  14. 14
    Pink Champale on 22 Apr 2015 #

    TEN! My first since Into the Groove. While this may be built out of the bits and bobs of unclassy disco I think the key to its brilliance is that it’s joyousness is shaded with aching melancholy like you got with prime Chic (or Dancing Queen, though I’d argue that is about disco but not disco). Agree on the video too – which pulls off the rare trick of having impossibly beautiful people being glamourous in a lovely place and making it involving and inclusive rather than alienating. Eleven with the vid.

  15. 15
    Rory on 22 Apr 2015 #

    Australia was a little behind with this, taking it to number one for three weeks in late October/early November, but that seems only appropriate: it’s a perfect fit for warm spring nights. I remember it being everywhere when I got back to Oz after months of travel – along with “Teenage Dirtbag” and “Who Let the Dogs Out?”, it was one of the biggest hits of late 2000 there. Glorious for all the reasons mentioned, and an 8 or 9 for me.

    Because I wasn’t paying much attention, I never made the connection between the track and this Sophie Ellis-Bextor person who seemed to get mentioned a fair bit in early 2000s Britain. I only really knew her as an album cover, thanks to Read My Lips and ye olden-days pastime of frequenting actual record stores. Sounds like I should keep an eye out for it in charity shops, and check out the album within.

    One “Groovejet (ITAL)” factoid nobody has mentioned yet: according to tech writer Steven Levy, it was the first song ever played on an iPod.

    Another is that its parenthetical acronym is ITAL, which is some coincidenza, signor Spiller.

  16. 16
    thefatgit on 22 Apr 2015 #

    “Perfect pop” is at least subjective, and I nailed my colours to the “Dancing Queen” mast a good while back. As far as Disco was concerned, “I Feel Love” with its propulsive electronic groove, was far more appealing than the songy stuff I heard as a little kid, exciting as it all was back then. Nevertheless, “Groovejet” is a real thing of beauty, compared to the sausage machine trance anthems peppering the charts in 2000. See how the shift from the appeal of the machine-driven, propulsive music of my childhood (I’m including stuff like “Magic Fly” and YMO tracks as well as IFL) to a more emotionally nourishing, songy Disco revival, with “Salsoul Nugget” placing a foot each in both camps in 2000, is almost a complete reversal of what excited me as a kid. My tastes had changed. Still, “perfect pop” from my perspective was DQ and will probably remain so.

    I can fully understand why SEB and Spiller provide a compelling marker for a younger generation. There’s a tricky balancing act at work. I tend to hear aloofness in SEB’s voice. That’s just me, and in no way a slight against this or her solo debut (is that bunnied, btw?). There’s something else, though. The tension between the strings and syndrums, seems to complement her precise diction. Not a single syllable goes to waste, which is surprising, because in interviews on radio and TV, she seems to come across a little gushy in an enthusiastic way, with a wicked laugh. Again, that’s just my perception. Put her in the recording studio, and it’s a much more formal-sounding prospect. There’s some discipline there, perhaps a hangover from her famous mother’s RP? Anyway, I’ll give it an 8.

  17. 17
    Izzy on 22 Apr 2015 #

    Another ten! I first heard it earlier in the year as backing for a BBC looking-forward-to-the-summer ad – a fat guy dancing himself thin as I recall – and it was so good I genuinely couldn’t believe that I hadn’t heard it before, a distinction it shares with maybe three other records in my life. Charly, Sinnerman …. maybe it’s not even as many as three. It’s even sort-of a JFK moment for me – I can remember where I was (Bermondsey), where I was sitting (I wasn’t, I was standing), what time of day it was (early evening), even my posture (open-mouthed). I remember asking all around at work the next day if they knew what this incredible record was. I was slightly disappointed that one of my friends was in fact already familiar.

    Anyway, it’s a perfect record and nine is too low. (10)

  18. 18
    23 Daves on 22 Apr 2015 #

    I remember having a conversation with friends in a pub about this single getting to number one, and we all took the position that it wasn’t nearly as good as everyone was claiming – that somewhere between SEB’s victory over Posh and people’s allegiances towards her as a former indie star, perspective was being lost. We all agreed, having one of those “But I thought I was the only person who felt that!” moments. And it still feels as if we were the only four people in Britain to hold that perspective.

    Listening again, it’s still not really my bag, though I do enjoy a lot of other SEB material. It’s too glossy, laid-back and looping for my liking, and not remotely on a par with (for example) Stardust’s “Music Sounds Better With You”. SEB’s detached style works wonderfully on a lot of records, but on this one it feels faintly out of place. The track feels as if it needs a bit of grit somewhere in the works to push it forward and take it to slightly different places, and that element certainly wouldn’t come from her.

    But… for all that, still quite good. But that’s as far as I’ll be pushed.

    As for Theaudience, I loved “A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed” and “I Know Enough”. Their album was patchy, though, and their career seemingly nixed by the fact that they emerged just as the cleaners were knocking on the doors to mop up after the Britpop party. I’ve always had the impression that if they’d arrived two or three years earlier, they’d have had a more successful run (notwithstanding the fact that SEB really would have been far too young to pull it off at that point – we’re talking ‘parallel universe’ type scenarios here).

  19. 19
    Garry on 23 Apr 2015 #

    #15, definitely one of the sounds of spring summer that year in Austraia. At my student radio station we played it a lot despite the station having ignored pop for a couple of years. But this was an era when when disco and house and related music were not only popular but trendy for those who ensued pop,.

    For me this was when Indie and Pop merged. Men Are Not Nice Guys, Green Velvet the next year. Maybe it was the continual rise of the producer album, which had been going for a few years. They were now able to have the pick of singers from any background to guest. Genre-mashing was in. I’m still impressed X-Press 2 got David Byrne a could of years later.

  20. 20
    swanstep on 23 Apr 2015 #

    @12, JLucas. ‘Posh v. Posher’. LOL. Exactly. My sense (from the other side of the world) is that SEB’s warm presence (together with pretty good music) has allowed her to be largely unresented for her poshness whereas VB’s avid (and fairly successful) social-climbing (not to mention not-so-great music) has made her an object of ridicule and resentment for many.

    Anyhow, I ‘m with 18, 23 Faves in finding G(ITAL) both then and now somewhat overpraised. SEB’s vocal’s fine, but she kind of swallows the end of the middle 8 that Tom identifies as a highlight, and this is symptomatic of a record that was just good- and smooth- and inviting-enough to be a consensus smash (e.g., 7 weeks at #1 in NZ – that’s appealing to a range of audiences alright) but nowhere near the quality of a one-for-the-ages, epochal chart-topper like ‘I Feel Love’ or “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough’ or ‘Le Freak’. I concur with AMZ1981@9 that one never hears G(ITAL) out these days or at weddings and related mixed social events (whereas, e.g., ‘Spinning Around’ and ‘Sandstorm’ and Britney’s and Destiny’s Child’s singles from this period do get played in my experience).

    The vid’s not a sensation for me either (Godard? really?). It may, however, have been a subterranean influence on the vid. for Clean Bandit’s big bunny so there’s that.
    7 or 8 depending on mood.

  21. 21
    Eric on 23 Apr 2015 #

    Long time reader first time comment-er here. My main memory of this is how much my mother hated it and anything with SEB’s involvement (along with much of the disco revival that was happening at the time I might add). Personally I quite like Groovejet, although I’ve always had problems with SEB voice and I found a lot of her solo stuff somewhat grating. Maybe it’s how cold and aloof she sounds or it could just be something I picked up from my mum, either way to me this is a 7.

  22. 22
    Chelovek na lune on 23 Apr 2015 #

    Yeah, fabulous, perfect, polished pop, that succeeds in pulling off the trick of doing rather more than nodding to its influences and sources while sounding utterly contemporary, current, and relevant. (I think that repeated “alarm bell” sound is the single specific thing that drags the track, smoothly rather than by the scruff of its neck, from the mid-70s, by way of 1989, into the new millenium). Why does it feel so good? A surefire (9)

    All that said…I am open to direction about what else SEB has done that really warrants a mention. “Murder on the Dancefloor” apart, nothing else I’ve heard of hers has made much of an impression (least of all a positive one) on me, so I was under the impression that “Groovejet” was something of a fluke – the singer’s contribution is certainly as important and as smooth as the producers’. And I don’t know theaudience at all…

    Glad we are not obliged to discuss Impossibly Crass and Vulgar Spice’s record here – featureless, generic twaddle, not interesting. From the singles of her thankfully brief solo musical career, only “This Groove” really warrants much in the way of repeated listening IMO, although world class it is not.

  23. 23
    mrdiscopop on 23 Apr 2015 #

    As much as I enjoyed Sophie’s subsequent hits, nothing ever matched the effortless joy of this track. Her disengaged vocal style somehow conveys the bewilderment of the chorus – she’s in love but standing apart from it, wondering how on earth she got here.

    Unlike so many looped backing tracks, this one never goes stale. It’s the little touches – the Latin flourishes, the cheeky guitar lick at the end of every phrase and the occasional stutter of the sample being triggered.

    A great big smile of a song. 10/10.

  24. 24
    lmm on 23 Apr 2015 #

    I didn’t like this at the time and I don’t like it now. Too much looping, the backing too prominent when it never goes anywhere. Even that breakdown was just swallowed by that inexorable twang and clop.

  25. 25
    Tom on 23 Apr 2015 #

    #18 At the time I felt something similar, to be quite honest – “Groovejet” was everywhere, it was obviously a likeable record, but compared to the American R&B and hip-hop I was occupying myself with it seemed pointlessly retro, diffident, polite. It felt like the UK was settling. (Outkast’s “B.O.B.” – which ended up as my single of the year – leaked at around this point, IIRC).

    (Ha – the fossil record of my reserve exists, in this NYLPM post! http://freakytrigger.co.uk/nylpm/2000/08/spiller-groovejet-if-this-aint-love/ )

    In the context of the year’s number ones, it stood out a bit more, obviously. And it’s aged well, and frankly I’m more receptive to its nostalgic elements than I was in my hardline mid-20s. I still reckon a lot of the stuff upthread about how modern and year 2000 it sounded is wishful thinking, though.

  26. 26
    Mark M on 23 Apr 2015 #

    Re20/13: Just in terms of the colours, but I love the colours. (Last year’s Pixie Lott video that borrowed heavily from
    Le Mepris was, on the other hand, woeful).

  27. 27
    Weej on 23 Apr 2015 #

    I’m pleased to see some support for theaudience on here. They were an odd little group, too mainstream to be indie, not famous enough to be pop – you got the idea that they would be world famous or just break up, then their singles all flopped and yup, they broke up, after what seemed like half a year of existence. I have also heard that they were terrible live, but don’t really care, they exist for me as a short series of brilliant singles – and also b-sides. Can I share my love for The Beginning, The Middle and The End from the b-side of ‘If You Can’t Do It When You’re Young; When Can You Do It?’ (the only song I can think of with an (entirely justified) semicolon in the title).

    I also enjoyed Groovejet, but it was tarnished a bit by being on rotation at every high-street clothes shop well into 2001 – and I’ve already gone on a bit too much about the funky house bollocks this disco revival spawned, so a generous 8 seems about right. The video, BTW, is rubbish, just “let’s film it in Thailand” and that’s about it. The bit with the kids makes me go :-/ too. Why not film this in a night club, where it obviously belogs?

  28. 28
    Phil on 23 Apr 2015 #

    But a semi-colon is wrong for that structure! If it had been “You Can’t Do It When You’re Young; When Can You Do It?”, that would have worked (as well as being a more interesting sentiment).

    I never, ever, not for a second bought into the idea of SEB as ‘posh’ (she disclaimed it herself – not that that means a lot); her intonations are pure Estuary (listen to “Take Me Ome”). But I never really ‘got’ her as an artist – I loathe that over-made-up look & I’m not very keen on that flat “yeah, I’ll do the actual singing in a bit” sprachgesang delivery (although, listening to it again, she does time it very well, as per #16).

    Love this record, though!

  29. 29
    weej on 23 Apr 2015 #

    Re:28 Respectively disagree that it’s “wrong” – it’s a creative use of punctuation, one that works better than a comma as it reflects the way she sings it, drawing focus to the second clause rather than the first.

  30. 30
    Tom on 23 Apr 2015 #

    I think “Murder On The Dancefloor” is a fantastic pop record, FWIW, and am very sorry not to be writing about it here (it would also be a 9, though I like it more than Groovejet) – I was a little surprised it didn’t come up more on the Gregg Alexander thread. It makes a mockery of my objections at #25 as it’s even more spirit-of-79 than this is. But I needed it more than I needed this, too – I was living on my own, in a shitty flat in Oxford doing a job I realised I shouldn’t have taken, and “Murder” lit up that time. The actual records at No.1, on the other hand… well, we’ll get to those.

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