Feb 16

FIVE – “Let’s Dance”

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#906, 25th August 2001

five lets dance Five were a band out of time. In the late 90s they’d made sense as a boyband who could appeal to the post-Spice audience, their Duplo version of hip-hop fitting nicely alongside Billie and B*Witched as pop aimed for youth. I had plenty of time for them – they were pushing a bright, colourful, hooky product that never pretended to be anything else, and in the early days they had a run of entertaining singles. It’s a redeeming feature of Simon Cowell projects – good or crap, and they’re largely crap, they rarely try to dupe you.

But by 2001 that moment for Five had passed – this and the next number one constitute a torch passed, a reassessment of what a British boy band should be doing. And besides, Five were in shambles. Likeable, unassuming Sean, the one who seemed least fazed by stardom in the first place, had quit. Not for Five the charade of the three-month replacement before the inevitable split: the band stayed honest to the last, replacing Sean with a cardboard cut-out of Sean, which was carted along to promo appearances for “Let’s Dance”. It’s one of the stranger episodes in boyband history, a group who clearly knew the game was up and chose this bizarre route to acknowledge it. There was something idiotic but likeable about seeing the four remaining men cavort around the cut-out – there had been something idiotic but likeable about their whole pop career.

“Let’s Dance” was an adequate memorial, a busy, blustery attempt to magic up the carefree likeability of their better moments. It’s trying hard – bounding from hook to hook, but none of them are very good, like they’d gone for a 3 for 2 chorus offer in Asda. It’s also dripping with vocoder, perhaps for a tiny hint of Francophone sophistication (Daft Punk’s “One More Time” and Discovery had brought the technique sharply back into vogue). As usual the elephant on the track is Jay’s rapping, which seemed to get more prominent with every release: “hoping that you people think this sound is unique”, he says, and as he clumps doggedly from beat to beat I think, yes, yes I suppose it is really.



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  1. 26
    Mark M on 29 Feb 2016 #

    Re25: So, that between my point and yours we have exactly the argument that swirls round Sven… (Poor Five: is it fair to potentially derail this thread? Anyway, though: my argument is simply that his is England’s most consistent decent period pretty much ever: qualified for every tournament, made it out of the group stages each time, and reached where I would have expected given the squads available. It’s not his fault that England’s talent pool was overstocked with attacking midfielders and understocked in other areas. A much better manager might – might – have taken England further, especially in 2004, but I don’t think many much better managers have managed England, or were available to manage England at that time. Maybe worth saying I’m not an England supporter, so I like to think – probably wrongly – that I have a clear-eyed view of these things.)

  2. 27
    Kinitawowi on 29 Feb 2016 #

    I think the derailment is itself a measure of how little overall impact poor Five had… (I’ve just pulled out Now! 50 to give it a whirl and I have no recollection of it even existing. Clumsy and forgettable, but at least not offensive; 4.)

    Sven is the only manager since El Tel to get us through a knockout match at a major tournament (and since Bobby Robson at a World Cup), and Graham The Turnip Taylor once described us as “a quarter finals side”, not inaccurately. But even with a surfeit of players in one position, there was a lot of hammering square pegs into round holes (Scholes, wasted out on the wings) and too many pegs into one hole (Steve and Frank). The so-called Golden Generation thus fizzled out until the complete ignominy of Brazil 2014, a shambles that finally solved the latter conundrum by having them both retire. A firmer hand, less beholden to the players-as-celebrities model that reached a nadir with the WAGs of Baden-Baden, might have been able to nip it in the bud from the start.

    Sven did a decent enough job with what he had at the time, but his legacy was somewhat ruinous.

  3. 28
    Izzy on 29 Feb 2016 #

    His post-England career is frankly pretty shameful, with some disgraceful results (Man City shipping eight to Middlesbrough must be a career low) and chasing the money at every turn. I suppose you can forgive him for taking life easy, but set against his stellar career pre-England it looks quite startling.

    It’s really odd to think that he would have taken over peak Man Utd in 2003, had Ferguson not reneged on his word. He may get a chance there yet.

  4. 29
    Cumbrian on 29 Feb 2016 #


    Wasn’t the Golden Generation Waddle, Lineker, Beardsley, Barnes, Pearce and David Seaman? All born within 3 years of each other. I reckon we’d give our eye teeth for someone as good as Beardsley in particular nowadays. The fact that we had Scholes, a similar sort of player to Beardsley in some respects, and got rid of him prematurely is definitely a black mark in Sven’s book. That said, he did get us to the latter stages of tournaments more consistently than anyone else has done.

    Sven also, inevitably, a tabloid figure of fun in the end. Stay in the England manager’s job long enough and it’s bound to happen. He likes money and he likes sex with women above his league. I don’t think I can really hold this against him. Certainly his career in Italy and his time with England showed him to have a reasonable tactical brain, imo.

    The 5-1 was a remarkable result and further proof that Michael Owen, when he was fit, was another player that you’d be desperate for in the current set up. A 2-D player – pace and an eye for goal and that was it, but every time England had a critical game, he always seemed to score. That 2nd round match in 1998, the 5-1 game, scored in the first knockout game against Denmark and then the quarter final against Brazil in 2002, got in a good position and hoicked a really odd goal past the Portuguese keeper in the quarter in 2004. This is obviously confirmation bias (there must have been loads of critical games he played in where he didn’t score) but he always seemed to be there when you really needed him. Contrast with Rooney, who seems to never really score goals in the big games. Rooney is almost certainly the more complete player but it wouldn’t half be useful to have someone like Owen in France this year.

  5. 30
    Izzy on 1 Mar 2016 #

    Would it be harsh to say Theo Walcott is that someone, with the goal threat removed?

  6. 31
    Erithian on 2 Mar 2016 #

    You’ve maybe heard the gag about the Sven-Goran Eriksson satnav, which starts out being really accurate but then leaves you in the middle of nowhere and just says “Welllllllll…”

    The bar where I watched a lot of Korea/Japan 2002 had a guest beer called “Sven You’re Smiling”, the handpump label for which featured a silhouette of Sven giving a thumbs-up. You’ll remember that many of the games in that tournament were 7am kick-offs, and I got into the swing of watching the footy with a “pint of Sven” in hand at breakfast time. And so I knew we were going out 45 minutes before the rest of you did – when I went to the bar at half-time in the Brazil game for the customary pint only to be told that Sven You’re Smiling had run out. Heavy omen alert!

    It may yet be that Sven’s most lasting contribution to English football will be as the manager who signed Kasper Schmeichel for Leicester City…

  7. 32
    Cumbrian on 3 Mar 2016 #

    Korea/Japan 2002 was the one World Cup that I watched almost every kick of, as my finals finished the day before England’s opening game with Sweden – and I too got into the swing of getting up early and going to a pub with some friends. Being young and stupid, we basically switched our body clocks to going to bed at about 8-9 and then getting up early so we could watch something like South Africa v Slovenia.

    In retrospect, that Brazil game was a real kick in the teeth – the draw had fully opened up. We’d have got a beatable Turkey in the semi and, had we not crapped ourselves and managed to get through that game, a side we’d just beaten 5-1 in Munich in the final. Sven’s failure to solve a 10 man Brazil in that second half is probably his biggest failing as England manager. That was one game we didn’t go to the pub for. We were in the common room with a couple of tins a piece instead. Maybe it was our fault for breaking our routine…

  8. 33
    Steve Williams on 4 Mar 2016 #

    Always happy to reminisce about World Cups. 1998 remains my personal favourite because, like above, I literally had no other commitments or responsibilities so I could watch every minute of it, but 2002 with its 7am kick-offs seemed a very special tournament, unlike any other. I got into the habit of squeezing in the first half of matches before going to work, and getting up at 6.30 at the weekends.

    As for England, from a Welsh perspective, it looked like England were sort of doing the right things. I wonder if a bit of the goodwill around Sven was because he was in charge when England didn’t have a home ground and played all over the country, where they always got a good reception because it was a special occasion. The other thing that happened when he took over – again something arranged in the Keegan era, but which didn’t actually happen until Sven arrived – was that the FA signed a deal to show England games live on the BBC, whereas for the previous decade they’d been live on Sky, which felt a really progressive and fan-friendly move. Sven had nothing to do with either, but it was all part of making England seem a bit more approachable and fan-friendly.

    This record was also number one when I got my first proper post-university job after several months of grimly ploughing through Media Guardian every Monday, so hooray for Five. Quite a period in my life.

  9. 34
    MUSICALITY on 24 Apr 2017 #

    This song was ok but they had so many better ones than this. Quite forgettable as a song to go out on.

  10. 35
    XePlayer Android Emulator on 29 Jul 2017 #

    Never saw the video at the time but it’s a fascinating period piece now.

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