V – “Hip To Hip”

Popjustice’s pet boyband make – as you might expect – wonderfully infectious singles, and when I’ve seen them on TV the enthusiasm has crackled off the screen. But just what is it that makes V so different, so appealing? One thing that strikes me is the lack of an R&B influence. After East 17, the R&B element in British boyband music rose steadily. Five’s best singles were breezy pop (the gorgeous “Keep On Movin”) but they also put out things like “Slam Dunk (Da Funk)”, which were basically inconclusive experiments in whether a boyband could get away with a bit of rapping.* Bands like 911, Another Level and Blue all fancied themselves as more-or-less credible smoothies. The only early-00s group to find much success without off-the-peg soul stylings were A1 (who decided to write their own songs instead, but that’s another story).

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with doing R&B stuff, it’s just that when real actual R&B is so hot a British boyband needs to put in a titanic amount of effort to come up with any goods. Blue managed it on their first album – their bump’n’grind moves weren’t too embarassing and enhanced the pop core of songs like “All Rise” – but since then have gone the easy way into mic-hugging balladry and duets with cash-eyed oldies. So doing arsewaggling dancey pop like “Hip To Hip” is a way out of this sweaty quandary, a way of doing boybands without their members continually looking over their dipped shoulders at Usher et al.

The only thing is – will it float? Poor old Phixx did a ‘pure pop’ boyband thing and seem to have flopped, though their songs were worse and their eighties image more stylised than V’s. And V’s first single didn’t set the charts ablaze. It may be that there’s a rockist McFly in the ointment here, that the return of songwriting and instrument-playing to the boyband arena has shifted the game in directions the likes of V are unable to follow. Hope not, though.

*(The wayback prototype for boyband rap being Wham!’s peerless first three singles, but a lot had changed since ’83, i.e. the punters’ realisation that some level of ‘mic skillz’ might be expected of rappers, rather than the form being a novelty free-for-all. V remind me of Wham! with their energy and confidence and occasional wit and lo and behold “Hip To Hip” DOES have a rap on it but it’s that kind of loveable old-school not-really-rapping rapping you got on “Wham Rap!”, and after Cowboy Troy’s turn on “Rollin'” it’s the best example of same this year and makes me smile invariably.)