Posted by Popjustice on
Oct 22 2014 at about 12:58
That picture above is the first one we ever saw of S Club 7.
A lady from their management company came to see us and brought the photograph with her. She also brought a 21st Century Girls VHS but let’s not dwell on that because the exciting thing about that day back in the late 1990s was that mysterious photo of seven popstars.
There wasn’t much extra information given at the time, other than some names on the back of the photograph.
We don’t know when ‘John’ decided to be Jon but we do know that over the next few years S Club refined and redefined the pop-as-a-brand malarkey and made some amazing songs.
Here’s how it all happened.
S Club was a second attempt at the Spice Girls
Two of the biggest pop acts at the end of the 90s were actually previous pop acts done properly. With Westlife, Louis Walsh figured out what all the shit bits had been about Boyzone, and created a far better group.
With S Club, Simon Fuller had a look at his success with the Spice Girls and perfected the formula.
That’s not to say S Club were a better act than the Spice Girls, but they were a more efficient and well-rounded pop entity. Most importantly, while the Spice Girls were simply a pop group that ended up being a brand, S Club was a brand with a pop group at its heart. Over the years that followed, this allowed S Club to become a range of merchandise, a TV programme… Even another pop group.
S Club launched off the back of a BBC TV programme
The first sight of S Club 7 was actually on Miami 7, a ‘dramedy’ effort shown on CBBC or whatever CBBC was called in 1999.
While not groundbreaking as a way of introducing a pop band (North & South had attempted something similar a couple of years earlier), Miami 7 was a stroke of genius in one important respect: its worldwide syndication was an extraordinarily clever way of shoehorning a new pop band into the consciousness of the entire planet. Miami 7 was seen by 90m people in over 100 countries.
They released some very good pop singles
‘Reach': amazing. ‘S Club Party': amazing. ‘You’re My Number One': amazing. ‘Never Had A Dream Come True': amazing. ‘Don’t Stop Movin”: amazing. ‘Have You Ever': amazing. ‘Alive': amazing even though it was just trying to be ‘Don’t Stop Movin’ 2′. ‘Love Ain’t Gonna Wait For You': we’re still fuming this was relegated to AA-side status.
Most of the best S Club songs were written by Cathy Dennis, who seemed to find that the band provided a good clearing house for her INCREDIBLE POP STUFF. In 2014, ‘Reach’ and ‘Don’t Stop Movin” are both solid gold wedding disco bangers that every DJ should have somewhere in their box.
Then S Club TV happened
S Club TV was an attempt at a TV programme. (It wasn’t very good.)
Here the hosts are, plugging it on a better TV programme.
Excellent cross-promotion with the ‘Reach For The Stars’ segment though, right?
(Holly from S Club TV went on to be Holly Willoughby, while Ben had a picture of S Club in his attic or something.)
Then S Club Juniors happened
S Club Juniors were like S Club, but smaller. However, because there was one extra member in S Club Juniors, the two bands were actually exactly the same weight.
As well as nicking S Club’s logo and songwriter (Cathy Dennis wrote their first single), S Club Juniors even appeared with a familiar first photo.
S Club Juniors ended up rebranding as S Club 8 and they knocked out some good songs (AND SOME SHIT ONES) during their time together. Among the best were ‘Fool No More’ and ‘New Direction’, the latter of which sounded a bit like ‘nude erection’ which as you can imagine was incredibly funny in 2005 and remains fairly amusing today.
When S Club 8 went tits up Simon Fuller invented a fame school-centred kids TV drama called I Dream, which featured Frankie and Calvin from S Club 8. That didn’t go very well.
As you well know, Frankie and Rochelle from S Club 8 ended up in The Saturdays, and one of S Club Juniors’ songs ended up being released in the US by American Juniors, who were a band formed by a reality show, but that’s just adding an extra layer of complication to the whole thing so let’s not get bogged down.
We were bored by acts with millions of intensely engaged fans (and millions of pounds’ marketing budget thrown at gaining those fans) being judged in the same Top 40 as artists with modest fanbases or modest marketing budgets.
Our idea was this: every popstar should be required to record the sound of themselves shitting into a yellow a bucket; the recording would then be put on sale on iTunes and the resulting sales (or lack of sales) by each artist would be fed into a Bucket Index, which would itself then be added into an equation that could then help make more sense of music sales.
For instance, you’d expect One Direction to be somewhere near the top of the Bucket Index. That Bucket Index placing would mean that if they scored a Top 5 single, we’d know that ‘hit’ was actually worth less than if, for instance, Gorgon City – whose Bucket Index rating would be comparatively low – also scored a Top 5 hit. The point is that if an act’s fans are so engaged that they will literally buy the sound of someone shitting in a bucket, and if the quality of all that act’s musical releases is therefore irrelevant, the act is not really selling songs and music – it’s selling an opportunity to ‘vote’ in the charts for 99p, which is quite different.
Sadly for reasons we still cannot fathom, and despite presenting many artists with their first and last opportunity to claim a full writing credit and production credit on a single release, our amazing idea did not catch on.
This is Taylor Swift.
Taylor Swift is probably the planet’s best popstar at the moment.
Taylor’s got a new album coming out soon and, as she recently wrote on Tumblr, she’s experimenting with a couple of different release strategies as that release date approaches.
Some strategies, such as only releasing instant grat tracks to certain counties, have been controversial but not too out of the ordinary. Yesterday, however, Taylor Swift stepped things up a level or two, by releasing a rather strange piece of music. It wasn’t quite the sound of Swifto shaking it off into a bucket, but it served a similar purpose.
‘Track 3′ is eight seconds of white noise. Within hours, it was Number One on the Canadian iTunes charts.
In fact, at the time of writing, it’s still there.
Slate report that the release was due to some sort of glitch but Taylor’s Tim Berners-Lee in sheep’s clothing routine doesn’t fool us. We think this was a carefully planned step in Taylor’s ludicrously well-orchestrated album campaign and, while she’s yet to take credit for this bold move, we can only applaud the way in which Swifto has embraced not only this brave new release strategy but also, of course, our Bucket Index idea.
What can we learn from Taylor Swift’s shite bucket challenge?
Naturally, the Bucket Index will only become truly useful when other artists also start to release eight seconds of white noise and we’re able to throw the resulting data against chart performance in order to recalibrate our understanding of the Top 40.
Additionally, when you consider that ‘Track 3′ has appeared at a point in the ‘1989’ campaign when four excellent songs have already been made public, its usefulness as a proper Bucket Index entry is diminished. The success of ‘Track 3′, rather than proving that Taylor Swift fans will simply buy any old rubbish, is actually more likely to show that people liked ‘Shake It Off’, ‘Out Of The Woods’, that one off the cat advert and ‘Welcome To New York’ so much that they have complete faith in the quality of everything from this album, and will confidently download a song without listening to the music first.
In a sense, then, ‘Track 3′ goes against everything the Bucket Index stands for.
But that’s not to say Taylor’s brave experiment is without merit. She has truly pushed an important pop boundary with this eight-second, tune-free, lyrically obtuse release. But we’ll only really know how far she’s prepared to push that boundary when the ‘Track 3′ video appears on VEVO.