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Oct 15

S CLUB 7 – “Don’t Stop Movin'”

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#896, 5th May 2001

S Club DSM The unspoken advantage of kit-built pop groups, especially ones made for kids: they’re liberated from attempts to be cool. Often they don’t make full use of this potential. Some decide they want to be cool anyway. Some don’t, but never try for anything more than slush or formula. So why is it an advantage? Because it gives groups access to a toybox of sounds and poses they can use, combine and discard, severed from fashion. Vocoders, for instance, were actually in minor vogue at this point – Daft Punk had found a way to use them sentimentally – but S Club 7’s deployment of synthesised voices is a guileless joy. “Don’t stop movin’ to the S Club beat!”

Their upbeat hits are where the point of S Club 7 comes into focus. Like “Reach”, “Don’t Stop Movin’” is bold hooks and primary colours, an instant infant disco classic that’s just the right side of the line between obvious and banal. The division of vocal labour helps the track enormously – Jo a smooth and secure contrast to the more enthusiastic, slightly rawer Bradley. It’s a fine way of making male-and-female voiced pop work when you don’t need to frame it as a duet. The rest of “Don’t Stop Movin’” mixes the classy and cheesy in similar measure – glossy string punctuation next to sharp vocoder buzz. The results are endearing, an easy high point for the band – finding a space where they can be the likeable, bouncy everybodies they are on TV.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Ronnie on 20 Oct 2015 #

    Knowing very little about S Club 7, these American ears hear a cool disco track being lowered by some dorktastic kid’s show singers, and I suspect the reviewer is coming at it from the opposite angle, a disco track elevating S Club 7 above their normal baseline.

  2. 2
    Revelator on 20 Oct 2015 #

    This is one of these songs that could have been pretty bad. Pop group goes ‘urban’… and also tries to do classic disco at the same time? While Bradley’s rapping is a bit kid’s TV presenter trying to sound street, it gets away with it on some genuinely committed singing. The really smart choice was limiting the lead vocals to two group members and giving them a good interplay, although Bradley does rather get lost towards the end (probably for the best). For all the potentially-cringy aspects of it, the vocals put in the effort, and at the time this should have sounded like a confident step forwards musically, not almost the last thing S Club 7 would release.

    This was also a real staple on youth-targeted pop radio at the time. I think it was one of those songs that achieved crossover respect as a party track. I was 13 at the time and within a few years it became clear that it had stayed popular with the alt music obsessives who had grown up knowing it. I regularly heard it at university parties programmed into Spotify playlists by twentysomethings you wouldn’t expect to be seen dead admitting they liked S Club 7 tracks.

    Listening to it again, I remember (just like with ‘Survivor’) how bad the radio speakers I tended to hear pop on at the time must have been – aged 13, I was in the target age but was really getting into classical at the time and never got a CD of it. I must have heard it dozens of times on radio but simply didn’t realise that the first line of vocoder was meant to be intelligible – I distinctly remember thinking how clever it was that you’d hear it first as some kind of keyboard, then you’d get that it was a processed voice recording when you heard ‘S Club beat.’ (Or did I get better at making out lyrics over the next few years?)

    It’s interesting production-wise as a case study of late pre-Timbaland pop, before minimal electronic production got into manufactured pop – the second death of disco, if you like.

  3. 3
    mapman132 on 20 Oct 2015 #

    This track could be looked at one of two ways:

    1) Isn’t the premise of the S Club 7 TV show that they’re supposed to be trying to break into the US market? If so, releasing a disco song in 2001 was a pretty big blunder. No way was this going to be a US hit at that time.

    2) OTOH, if the point is to sell records to British kids, I can see why this succeeded. Surprisingly catchy – this could almost define the words “guilty pleasure”. So yeah…6/10.

  4. 4
    thefatgit on 20 Oct 2015 #

    What jumps out for me is that the beat and bassline are supermarket own-brand “Billie Jean”. This reinforces Tom’s assertion that S Club’s “liberation from cool” allows them -ok, their producers- to raid pop’s spare parts bin without getting called out on it. Like many at the time, I heard this everywhere without paying much attention to it. Listening now, all I hear is immense mashup potential. Obviously a Good Thing! (7)

  5. 5
    Cumbrian on 20 Oct 2015 #

    For Christmas 2001, a friend bought me a copy of The Manual – by no means an original version, it’s a very small (smaller than A5 – it fits in the back pocket of a pair of jeans) reprint of it. I set to reading it and had just finished the middle section – arguably the least dated bit that goes on about the suggested structure of a single – when the TOTP Christmas edition came on and I noticed DSM is, absolutely, single making via The Manual. You can almost literally tick the chapters off as the song goes by – even as #4 notes, the use of the Billie Jean, or a close variant thereof, to build the groove is called out in the relevant chapter.

    It’s not because of The Manual that I love it but I do nevertheless. There’s something joyful about it, particularly in the Jo sung pre-chorus, that I just never got from any of the similarly disco inspired UK pop hits of around this time. It’s way better than a 6, I reckon. 8 or 9 for me – the best thing that any of the mixed gender British pop bands ever did.

  6. 6
    Steve Williams on 20 Oct 2015 #

    #2 Not sure about it being one of the last things they’d release, we’ve got another two years of S Club to come.

    I always take this an example of why radio playlists are a good thing, because Mark Radcliffe had to play this on daytime Radio 1 and a couple of weeks in had been completely won over and became quite an enthusiastic champion of it, I remember he would always take any opportunity over the next few years to shoehorn it into the Cheesily Cheerful Chart Challenge and all other features. I used to love it when Scrawn used to be won over by a pop song like that, I recall he was a big fan of I Won’t Change You by Sophie Ellis-Bextor among others.

  7. 7
    Tommy Mack on 20 Oct 2015 #

    My brother and I were so taken with this we swore we were going to cover it but by the time we got another band together times had changed.

    7 or maybe 8 for me.

  8. 8
    Mark G on 20 Oct 2015 #

    Well, I was fully expecting this to be a nine or ten. Its one of a select number of perfect pop tunes, feelgood without being cheesy, and dancepop without losing the soul element. Even manages to get a Michael Jackson backing beat without blatant thievery or watering it down too much.

    Anyway, it was way better than anyone could reasonably expect, and I did hope this would continue. It didn’t, really, but hey. Ten from me.

  9. 9
    Chelovek na lune on 20 Oct 2015 #

    Such good fun to dance or listen to, unpretentious, uncomplicatedly joyful. Only downside: the branding in the lyrics (“the S Club beat” – which is as naff as Craig David constantly being name-checked in his discs round about this time, but still, neither as intrusive nor as unconvincing as their earlier claim about the superlative uniqueness of an “S Club Party”. Although there really is something far too bland and wholesome about the group for words, they could make more than a half-decent pop record when they put their minds to it, and usually when they sped the beat up a bit, too.

    As successful on the dancefloor as any number of immeasurably more “credible” tracks from the 70s.

    Gotta be an 8, at least, for me.

  10. 10
    AMZ1981 on 20 Oct 2015 #

    Obviously this was S Club 7’s biggest hit at the time although Reach has probably proved more enduring (Don’t Stop Moving was a disco favourite at the time but it’s a while since I heard it). It was their crossover hit and the seventh biggest selling single of a year where the `proper` hit single made a comeback. It’s nothing special, just a good pop song and its success really proved how few and far between good pop songs were in 2001.

    It could be added that Don’t Stop Movin’ didn’t cross over overnight as it had two non consecutive weeks at the top, split by a fortnight.

    It was also an impossible single to follow and with hindsight the beginning of the end. There is another bunny to come but only four more singles overall and all their better known songs were now behind them.

  11. 11
    IP on 20 Oct 2015 #

    The pinnacle of naff. 10.

  12. 12
    swanstep on 21 Oct 2015 #

    It’s OK I suppose. Obvious roughly contemporary (inescapable-on-MTV) points of comparison include Backstreet Boys’ ‘Larger than Life’, Aguilera’s remixed ‘Come On Over’, and Madonna’s ‘Music’ (which got the same Tom-score). When you play DSM back to back with those (as I just did), there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just less hooky/memorable/committed than those. DSM does feel slightly amateurish and enthusiasm-driven overall and kit-set in the backing track but those features could easily be seen/heard as selling-points and as a virtue given S Club’s putting-on-a-kids-show origin and their consequently young-skewing fan base. For me, however, this is a step down from the other S Club hits (all of which have grown on me):
    5

  13. 13
    lmm on 21 Oct 2015 #

    After the initial rush of music I remembered it’s getting harder to say anything. I know this, it was fun, it’s still fun – but this was also the time I started drifting in the metal directing.

  14. 14
    JLucas on 21 Oct 2015 #

    This definitely feels like S Club’s uptempo peak, and it endured as a student party classic for several years afterwards. Now that I’m staring into the harsh glare of my thirties, it’s a while since I’ve been to a student party, but if you hear an S Club song at a gay bar (and you probably will) it’s more than likely going to be this or Reach.

    I never quite loved it, as I never quite loved them – and severe overplay has dulled it’s sheen – but it’s as carefree and effortless-sounding (though obviously meticulously put together) a pop song as you’ll hear at the top of the charts in 2001. Despite the top ten success of Never Had a Dream Come True, it didn’t do a thing in America due to being very much in contrast to the prevailing mood at the time – it was due to be pushed to radio around September time there – though perhaps it was too European-sounding to have been a US hit in any context.

    A song in a very similar style to this that was a modest success in Europe but never crossed over here was Floorfiller by the A*Teens – another mixed-sex pop outfit that sold a few albums in America due primarily to TV popularity. I like that one a fair bit more.

    https://youtu.be/y08pFwmgKz8

  15. 15
    Andrew on 21 Oct 2015 #

    Sleevewatch: they’ve ditched the cheap and cheerful perma-grin Blue Peter vibe in favour of mood lighting, moody pouts and slightly more expensive-looking photography. I suppose this was supposed to be a subtle indicator that S Club had now Grown Up.

    Indeed, it was a big crossover. I can’t stand the term ‘guilty pleasure’, but there was definitely a feeling among hipster circles that this was pop it was ‘okay to like’. I remember NME were as wild for it as Smash Hits (although as far as I remember, to be fair, effusively so, not with a hint of irony).

    It was later voted ITV’s Record of the Year (a televised viewer-vote competition that ran from 1998 to 2012).

    I think the 6 a little mean :(

  16. 16
    wichitalineman on 21 Oct 2015 #

    “Enthusiasm-driven” is something I don’t get from many S Club records. Still, this sounds starchy to me. It makes me think of offices, and girls in grey suits. Photocopier fumes in the windowless room. An odd kind of party. Everything’s in the right place, but it’s too airless.

    Re Reach – is it on X Factor, or Strictly, or other shows I don’t watch? Because I never hear it anywhere and I’m confused as to why people think it’s S Club’s legacy hit. DSM, as others have already said, has always seemed to have been the S Club record it’s OK to like (though I’m personally much keener on Never Had a Dream Come True).

  17. 17
    Chris Barratt on 21 Oct 2015 #

    And in stark contrast to the hectoring ‘Survivor’ along comes a track that makes no apologies for being derivative and no attempt to be anything more than good time pop music, and won people over with its joie de vivre.
    I can’t pretend to have been a fan a S Club 7 – but then I was 27, and this new style of pop music for kids wasn’t made with me in mind. At their previous uptempo best – S Club Party, Reach – the pop music rose from it’s Tweenager origins into the nations playlists and parties. Don’t Stop Movin’ was something much better – so deft in construction that it could have been the work of a name producer, mated to a video that managed to successfully straddle the line of appealing to the S Club fanbase and beyond (not looking out of place amongst the ‘serious’ dance & R’n’B on the music channels), and cementing the girls (particularly Rachel Stevens) as (more than) ‘ok’ for the likes of FHM.
    It’s not earth-shattering in it’s brilliance, but the nuance, charm and deftness of touch made it’s chart life last all that summer (no mean feat for a single that charted at #1 at the end of April) and, nearing 15 years on, it still sounds one of the last great pop records.
    And, if not just because it’s one of the last mainstream ‘pop’ hits that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve moved to another planet, Oi’ll give it a 9.

  18. 18
    Ed on 21 Oct 2015 #

    I can’t remember anything else by the S Club, but I absolutely love this, and I am pleased to see quite a few people agree with me.

    I think DSM would have fitted perfectly on Discovery, released the following month. It pulls off a similar trick: taking the standard toolkit of turn-of-the-millennium disco, and doing something magical with it.

    A 9 for me.

  19. 19
    lonepilgrim on 21 Oct 2015 #

    what I enjoy most about this is the emulsion of professional production touchs combined but never quite gelling with the ‘enthusiastic’ vocals and generic lyrics. It creates a space for the song to breathe and let me in as an audience member, unlike ‘Survivor’ where, as much as I admire the song, I (thankfully) felt shut out from all the drama

  20. 20
    James BC on 21 Oct 2015 #

    #16 Reach has been an enduring staple of weddings and cheesy discos, at least in the circles I move in. I’ve never heard it on the X Factor.

    On this one, I like to imagine it’s Paul doing the vocoder.

  21. 21
    Andrew Farrell on 21 Oct 2015 #

    This would probably be an 8 or 9 by itself, but it’s also a great social song – the space mentioned in #19 can be filled up by a lot of your friends who know the words singing along at the top of their voices. There was a pop music night attached to this site when I came over to London in 2005, but another one that ran 2006-2010 was *named* Don’t Stop Moving, and so played this song every month. For that, an absolute 10.

  22. 22
    Tom on 21 Oct 2015 #

    Perhaps the reason I only mildly like this is that I never went to DSM! I’m sure it was played at Poptimism too, though. But most of my great “go out dancing” pop records of the 00s are yet to come.

    I think also it’s that – as the 2000 entries proved – I was a little less hot for the disco revival than a lot of people here. I love disco, but it seemed to me (and still seems) there were a lot more interesting and fun strands in early 00s pop than making a pretty good disco record. (I am horrible enough to find “Survivor” fun, in its way)

  23. 23
    wichitalineman on 21 Oct 2015 #

    Re 20: Thanks James. I’m guessing that means I’m showing my age. Though I wouldn’t be surprised to hear DSM at a wedding or similar do.

    Re 22: Horrible. Quite horrible.

  24. 24
    Lazarus on 21 Oct 2015 #

    Covered, quite effectively in a sort of rolling country-pop style, by The Beautiful South on their 2004 covers set ‘Golddiggas, Headnodders and Pholk Songs’ which I suppose ties in with previous comments about this being the one S Club song that got grudging respect from, let’s say, more credible quarters. ‘Reach’ is probably more of a wedding disco favourite but I’d sooner hear this one again – I also liked ‘Never Had a Dream’ and another slowie whose title escapes me for now but which was based around a classical melody.

  25. 25
    Erithian on 21 Oct 2015 #

    #16 – I googled “Photocopier fumes in the windowless room” to see if it was a lyric from St Etts that I’d not heard elsewhere. Cracking line. I can almost hear it in Morrissey’s voice.

  26. 26
    Phil on 21 Oct 2015 #

    An easy 8. It does very much the same cheerily fake imitation-of-pop thing that Pure and Simple did, but does it so much better. (I mean, Billy Jean is a good bassline, but it’s not just that.) I listened to it all the way through* – although I averted my eyes from the video – and it wasn’t a second too long. Fun.

    *I only made to 2:28 in Survivor – hope it doesn’t suddenly improve in the last minute.

  27. 27
    Phil on 21 Oct 2015 #

    Photocopier fumes in the windowless room,
    Spineless swine, demented…
    oh, hang on

  28. 28
    flahr on 21 Oct 2015 #

    A*Teens (#14) remind me through asterisk shenanigans of another, less successful TV-powered mixed-sex pop group, allSTARS*, who will grace the lower reaches of the Top 20 later this year. They were somewhat less credible than S Club 7.

  29. 29
    Steve Williams on 21 Oct 2015 #

    #15 Being named Record of the Year on ITV is another good example of its crossover success because that was almost always a massive fanbase-driven vote and usually won by Westlife, so for it to be won by something not by a boyband or a band with an enormous teenage fanbase who were prepard to vote a million times surely emphasises its immense popularity.

    The other thing I used to love about Record of the Year – I won’t link to the winners on Wikipedia cos of spoilers – was that it was based on a vote of the ITV regions, which meant a) they had to mention the ITV regions loads, which I always like and b) each region counted the same regardless of its size, which meant votes in the Channel Islands and Scottish Borders counted far more than a vote in London or the Midlands, so I always imagined record companies getting their pluggers to travel to Carlisle or Jersey to register loads of crucial votes.

  30. 30
    Mark M on 21 Oct 2015 #

    I’ll go with the apparent consensus on this – I like this more than Tom does, as indeed I like Survivor less. As somebody who warmed to disco late in life – in the late ’90s – it probably was well timed for me.

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