Popjustice » The Briefing http://www.popjustice.com Sat, 22 Nov 2014 11:47:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Proposed script for tomorrow morning’s S Club 7 event http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/proposed-script-for-tomorrow-mornings-s-club-7-event/132430/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/proposed-script-for-tomorrow-mornings-s-club-7-event/132430/#comments Sun, 16 Nov 2014 16:04:29 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132430 article-0-00480a0300000258-435_634x463

Thank you for coming this morning! Great to see so many familiar faces.

We’ve invited you here today to make a very special announcement. Some of you can probably guess what we’ve been planning today, but we’ve done our best to keep it all a secret until this morning!

Long story short, we’re splitting up.

On Friday night we had a chance to show the world that we could make sense in 2014. We had a chance to show the world that we wanted to make sense in 2014. We managed neither of those things.

Did we blow it? Not really. Instead, we were honest.

We were honest with you on Friday night in the same way we’re being honest with you this morning. We can’t do it in 2014 and, having taken a vote, it turns out the majority of us don’t really want to.

Our comeback ends this morning. It’s a comeback that lasted for a weekend. That feels about right to us. There will be no tour – even we wouldn’t have the audacity to try and launch a tour after Friday’s performance. There will be no new music. We’re not playing Hyde Park. There will not be a reality TV show on ITV Be showing us getting back into shape ahead of the greatest challenge of our lives. There will not be a fragrance.

Pop music is a wonderful thing. The best thing in the world. We defy anybody to ever tell us that pop should ‘know its place’. But we also understand that sometimes pop should know its time. And the time for the pop we made ended, quite naturally, over a decade ago. Another type of pop took its place. Then another one, and another one.

The pop of 2014 doesn’t sound like ‘Reach’, and the voices of S Club in 2014 don’t sound like the vocals you know on ‘Reach’, either. We only really ever had two great singers. Now we have one. 1:6 is not a great ratio when it comes to live performance. Maybe that’s why Children In Need stuck us on after 10:30pm. Or maybe they monitored the buzz after we’d announced the performance and realised that we weren’t going to be another McBusted.

Maybe there is demand for a tour. But that’s not the point. We know some of our former fans would come to see us live. But we know after Friday night that they would go away disappointed. We know that however many “WOOOO!!!” noises we made on stage, we wouldn’t be feeling “WOOOO”. We’d be feeling sad. We think that sadness would infect our audience. We do not want to spread sadness. That’s the reason we split up in 2002, and it’s the reason we’re splitting up in 2014. We couldn’t do it to ourselves again. We couldn’t do it to you again. You deserve better.

The S Club party is finally over. We’re glad, and you should be too.

BYE

S Club 7
x

PS: Rachel’s done a new album with Richard X and it’s out next Monday.
PPS: We’re going to be mentoring a new version of S Club. They’re great. Cathy Dennis co-wrote their first single with Charli XCX and it’s out the Monday after Rachel’s album.

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S Club 7 comeback liveblog http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/s-club-7-comeback-liveblog/132422/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/s-club-7-comeback-liveblog/132422/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 22:48:29 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132422 SCLUBLIVEBLOG

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Stop what you’re doing if it is safe to do so and watch this Kiesza album trailer thing http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/stop-what-youre-doing-if-it-is-safe-to-do-so-and-watch-this-kiesza-album-trailer-thing/132313/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/stop-what-youre-doing-if-it-is-safe-to-do-so-and-watch-this-kiesza-album-trailer-thing/132313/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 16:21:36 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132313 pj_276
In the above picture you can see Kiesza going record shopping and finding a copy of one of her own 7″ singles.

It has been incorrectly filed among the 12″s, but the video from which this image has been extracted is more than just a cautionary tale about the very real staffing crisis that faces a growing number of independent pop emporia.

The video, which you can watch below, is actually a promotional thing for Kiesza’s debut-if-you-don’t-count-the-other-one album ‘Sound Of A Woman’, which is out on December 1 and contains all the hits to date plus a couple of future ones too eg the title track which is a belter.

Pop feels like an exciting place with Kiesza around.

She worked for a long time to get to the point where she could be an overnight success, but the way she quickly established herself as a Big Pop Thing is a good reminder that you don’t need endless dicking around with teaser singles, or courting ‘the style press’, or trying to get specialist radio on board, in order to make an impression.

Sometimes it’s alright if you just chuck out an amazing single, make sure it has a decent video, let everyone know you’re a popstar rather than just someone singing on a dance track, watch the whole thing sail to Number One and find that you’re a global pop property within six months.

In the best possible way, Kiesza makes this whole thing seem extraordinarily easy. One of our big hopes for 2015 is that there are more Kieszas in the charts.

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The new Neon Jungle video is all quite nice, BUT… http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/the-new-neon-jungle-video-is-all-quite-nice-but/132150/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/the-new-neon-jungle-video-is-all-quite-nice-but/132150/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 09:59:48 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132150

Above these words you will see the video for Neon Jungle’s next single ‘Can’t Stop The Love’. The song features your friend and ours Snob Scrilla, but the video features loads of footage of Neon Jungle fans singing and ‘larking about’ (alongside The Jungle and Scrillo).

It’s better than Kitty Brucknell’s attempt at the same thing and it conjures a pleasing ‘X Factor ad break’ feel, but it could have been three times better.

Basically in the final thirty seconds of the video, while Neon Jungle are singing their song in a poshly filmed studio location, all the fans and characters we’ve grown to know during the course of the video should appear behind the girls, sing along and be hugged by the band etc.

That’s it. Thirty seconds that capture the magic of pop and the magic of pop fandom. Fans and idols are not so far away after all. The internet is real life. Anything is possible. Blah blah bloody blah. Total cost: a few train fares and an Iceland buffet.

ALSO

While we’re here, let’s just have a proper look at the latest incarnation of Amira’s hair.

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pj_264

This is almost certainly the pop haircut against which all other 2014 pop haircuts can and must be judged. Good work Amira.

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McBusted are doing a tour in 2015 and you can get tickets tomorrow (or win some today) http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/mcbusted-are-doing-at-tour-in-2015-and-you-can-get-tickets-tomorrow-or-win-some-today/132108/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/mcbusted-are-doing-at-tour-in-2015-and-you-can-get-tickets-tomorrow-or-win-some-today/132108/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 11:56:21 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132108 McBusted press shot

We’re giving away tickets to see McBusted on tour!

“Hold on,” you’re thinking. “I heard rumours – or saw with my own eyes – that McBusted put on an excellent live show when they took their unique brand of UK punk-pop-but-mainly-pop on the road earlier this year. But how, unless I use a time machine like one in a film I’ve seen, could tickets to that tour be of any use to me now? Without bending the laws of time and space those tickets would be, at best, purely ornamental.”

Well the news here is that McBusted are GOING ON TOUR AGAIN – next year.

Video content

In order to draw attention to the forthcoming tour, ‘the lads’ have made an amusing piece of video content, which you can see here:

Ticket details

Tickets go on sale on Friday morning but if you’re an O2 customer you can get Priority tickets 48 hours (that’s two days) before general release by visiting http://www.o2priority.co.uk/Events/McBusted/1060 from 9am tomorrow (Wednesday). The presale ends at midnight on Thursday.

These are the tour dates:

MARCH
Monday 16: METRO RADIO ARENA NEWCASTLE
Wednesday 18: FIRST DIRECT ARENA, LEEDS
Saturday 21: MANCHESTER ARENA
Sunday 22: MANCHESTER ARENA
Tuesday 24: MOTORPOINT ARENA, SHEFFIELD
Saturday 28: BARCLAYCARD ARENA, BIRMINGHAM
Sunday 29: BARCLAYCARD ARENA, BIRMINGHAM
Tuesday 31: ECHO ARENA, LIVERPOOL

APRIL
Saturday 4: THE O2, LONDON
Sunday 5: THE O2, LONDON
Thursday 9: MOTORPOINT ARENA, CARDIFF
Friday 10: MOTORPOINT ARENA, CARDIFF
Monday 13: BOURNEMOUTH BIC
Wednesday 15: BOURNEMOUTH BIC
Sunday 18: CAPITAL FM ARENA, NOTTINGHAM

The competition bit

You might not need to buy any tickets at all because we have one pair of tickets – that’s two – to give away to a Popjustice reader.

To stand a chance of winning, simply email us at mcbustedtickets@popjustice.com and tell us whether you think McBusted SHOULD or SHOULD NOT cover Andrew WK’s ‘Party Hard’ on their 2015 tour.

The competition closes at 5pm today; we’ll pick a winner at random and pass our findings onto the band who will no doubt be grateful for our help.

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Steve Brookstein’s got a book coming out. But what’s in it? http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/steve-brooksteins-got-a-book-coming-out-but-whats-in-it/132094/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/steve-brooksteins-got-a-book-coming-out-but-whats-in-it/132094/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 12:40:26 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132094 steve-brookstein-vook

Years before livetweeting turned The X Factor from an enjoyable light entertainment telly experience into a bloodsport, one man was yelling “WORRALOADOFOLDSHIT” at anyone who’d listen. Now, he’s written a book.

In 2004 Steve Brookstein was The X Factor’s first ever winner. He released a Number One single and a gold-selling album, then he was dropped. The X Factor has since written him out of its history.

These days Steve is usually portrayed as bitter, and his Twitter feed is not exactly one that depicts a man capable of cheerily LOLing away his experiences. To be honest, if Steve was bitter that would be quite understandable – would any of us really not hold a grudge if we’d been fired for doing a decent job? – but he seems angry more than anything else, and it looks like the book is all about explaining why.

Steve announced the book over the summer, and finished writing it five weeks ago. “The book I’ve been meaning to write for years is finally finished,” he wrote, “and on it’s way to be printed.” With any luck he ran it past some subs before he sent it off. Either way we have high hopes for the book, and here’s what we’d like to see in it.

Humility

Back when The X Factor was auditioning contestants for its first series, few might have predicted how huge the show would eventually become – or how much it would contort over the next decade. Even so, Popstars and Popstars: The Rivals had already happened, as had two series of Pop Idol.

You could argue that Steve Brookstein was poorly treated but you could also say that as someone who’d been in and around the music industry for a long time and who’d had ample opportunity to figure out the (often hidden) truth of previous reality pop shows, Steve shouldn’t have been surprised about what happened to him.

To put it another way: if you sign up for a Cowell-helmed ITV juggernaut, what do you expect to happen?

So we’d like to read Steve addressing the fact that he should have known what he was getting himself into, even if some of the stories he’s likely to tell (which we’ll come to in a minute) could never have been predicted.

But we’d also like to read Steve considering this question: if he hadn’t been so vocal about how The X Factor had tried to bury him, would The X Factor have tried so hard to bury him? Did his reputation as the leading tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist of the X Factor world mean that nobody else would work with him, or take him seriously as an artist? Would he have done himself a favour by not saying anything about the way he’d been treated? Or – and we expect this will be covered in the book – is it exactly that sense of fear that all these TV shows exploit?

Some properly explosive stories

In recent years we’ve made two attempts to interview Steve Brookstein.

Most recently we tried to speak to him was when we were thinking about writing a book about ten years of The X Factor. That would have been a pretty good book, right? Well we knew we needed Steve’s input for it to make any sense, and when he declined – very politely, but very firmly – we binned off the idea.

Hopefully some of Steve’s book will cover some of the areas we wanted to write about because if the story’s told properly there’s an opportunity for this to be a really strong book about what really happens (or happened) on The X Factor, and what it’s really like to move forward in a career when you’re high profile enough to attract criticism, but deemed ‘over’ by the labels, the media and the gatekeepers who’d make your work a success.

The first time we tried to talk to Steve, about four years ago, was for a magazine feature, and it was more interesting. We dropped him an email one morning and later that day he called us for a chat. Despite his obvious mistrust of journalists he was immensely candid in what he told us; we were only on the phone for about twenty minutes but a couple of the stories he mentioned in passing were truly astounding. Maybe he was testing us. Anyway, after years of reading him rant against The X Factor, for the first time we were on Steve’s side.

We won’t print his stories here because they’re probably in his book and they’re his stories to tell but if he’s managed to get those tales past the lawyers then readers may find that they, too, start to see things from Steve’s point of view.

Even so:

Not too much ‘needless to say, I had the last laugh’ business

This is currently Steve’s Twitter bio.

pj_259

Steve elaborates on this point in a blog, posted in July, about his intention to publish the book.

“Talk to the press, we will bury you.” Max Clifford, August 2005
And let’s be honest, he did a pretty good job. How did he do it? Often through newspapers edited by Andy Coulson.
It is this more than anything which, ten years on, tells me that now is the right time to tell my story.

Clearly this book is going to be about the settling of scores but with any luck the book won’t just be 320 pages of “Max is in prison in 2014 so I shouldn’t have been dropped in 2005″.

It’s easy to understand the temptation, but the more Steve grinds this particular axe, the less credibility some of his claims may have. If the whole book reads like a vendetta against Max Clifford, there’ll be a point where the reader wonders if Steve’s being objective, which will harm the credibility of his argument. Presumably some of the details of his post-X Factor life are so shocking that they won’t need ‘BECAUSE MAX CLIFFORD WAS AN ARSEHOLE’ at the end of each sentence.

A decent sense of context and self awareness

Steve is not the only X Factor winner who’s been swept under the carpet by the show. Leon Jackson is never mentioned these days; Sam Bailey’s album was not exactly given the full Leona treatment. Some X Factor winners are voted to victory by people who do not buy music.

For some X Factor winners there just isn’t a decent future as the sort of act a major label needs them to be and Steve Brookstein was always going to be one of those artists. It’s probably easier to see that when you’re not Steve Brookstein.

There also needs to be an awareness that if you’re a difficult artist – and in the world of X Factor winners that can equate to saying “do you know what I’m not sure about doing an album of covers” – certain labels won’t bust a gut to make sure they get to work with you again.

Finally, Steve’s book needs to show an understanding of the fact that while some of his experiences may be directly linked to an organised attempt to keep him quiet, the media are not cruel to or militantly dismissive of all X Factor contestants who’ve fallen in popularity: they leave Leon Jackson alone, nobody laughs at Stacey Solomon, Joe McElderry’s given a decent reception. But they all smile and get on with their lives, and that just wasn’t Steve’s style. If you’re negative and disruptive in the media the media will reflect that in future coverage, but not everybody in the media is under Cowell’s thumb, or one of Max Clifford’s lapdogs.

Finally: closure

After he’d sent to book off the printers, Steve wrote about the experience and described how the cathartic process of examining the last decade of his life would allow him to close that particular door forever.

My parents had kept so many magazines both good and bad that I can now happily stick in the bin. I will keep some articles for my children so they can see what I did back then but I see this as the beginning of a new chapter in my life. Louis Walsh couldn’t help have a dig at me in the papers this week calling me “that awful Steve Brookstein” but luckily the negativity towards me is on the slide like The X Factor ratings; it’s only a matter of time before it is cancelled.

It’s all so nearly over and I can’t wait to get my own copy of the book even if it to just place it on the shelf, out of sight and out of mind.

After this book’s publication will Steve stop talking about The X Factor? Will he fuck. But maybe, for the first time, people will understand exactly what he’s talking about.

The book’s out later this month; you can pre-order a signed copy from Steve’s website.

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The 2014 Popjustice Twenty Quid Music Prize: as it happened http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/the-2014-popjustice-twenty-quid-music-prize-as-it-happened/132047/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/the-2014-popjustice-twenty-quid-music-prize-as-it-happened/132047/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:47:26 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=132047 Little Mix

As you now know, Little Mix’s ‘Move’ won last night’s Twenty Quid Music Prize.

As ever, judging was a complete bloody shambles but it did follow a strange sort of structure so if you weren’t there – and even if you were there – the below account of what happened when, and to whom, and why, might help make sense of the whole thing.

(Please note that we put together the Storify while battling a fairly epic hangover, so let us know if any of it’s a bit all over the place.)

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Only The Young could be 28 hours away from being the best pop group in the country http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/only-the-young-could-be-28-hours-away-from-being-the-best-pop-group-in-the-country/131963/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/only-the-young-could-be-28-hours-away-from-being-the-best-pop-group-in-the-country/131963/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 15:39:50 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=131963 only-the-young

‘Not being funny right’ but every time we see Only The Young on The X Factor we’re struck by the thought that they could actually be an insanely brilliant pop act if only they stopped singing songs that are completely ludicrous.

Well, judgement day comes TOMORROW because as part of X Factor’s ‘Movie Week’ Only The Young are due to perform Charli XCX’s ‘Boom Clap’.

Imagine that lot in the picture above singing this song in the YouTube embed below.

It won’t be as easy as Charli makes it seem but if Only The Young pull this off they’ll be unstoppable.

And yes, by unstoppable we mean out in Week Six, but there’s so much potential for this band to be great that we just want to believe in the idea that sometimes pop miracles happen to the right people.

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1,989 words on the new Taylor Swift album http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/1989-words-on-the-new-taylor-swift-album/131956/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/1989-words-on-the-new-taylor-swift-album/131956/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 14:33:55 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=131956 taylor-swift-1989

On ‘1989’’s opening track ‘Welcome To New York’, Taylor Swift sings of “searching for a sound we hadn’t heard before”. To many of her younger fans this albums 80sisms – more subtle, it turns out, than initially hinted – might well be a fresh sound, but Taylor Swift has cultivated and earned a fanbase that extends far beyond teenagers. ‘1989’’s sound will not represent an unheard musical palette for the over-35s who actually lived through it, or those in their twenties who’ve already been through one 80s revival. Whatever the frame of reference, a huge proportion of this album situates itself outside the sounds that dominate Top 40 radio on either side of the Atlantic, just as Taylor has nurtured a popstar persona that contrasts with the public images put forward by most of her peers.

Sonic landscape aside, the vital element in the brilliance of ‘1989’ is that the songwriting is of a phenomenally high standard. As well as being expertly written the majority of these songs are also skilfully structured – ‘1989’ is an album of great post-choruses and great middle eights accompanying the expected barrage of extraordinary choruses. Repetition is used sparingly, repetition is used knowingly, repetition is used to great effect. ‘1989’ is the sound of a popstar whose powers are scaling new heights finding the perfect executive producer in the shape of Max Martin, whose formidable talents are going at full throttle on a number of these songs. Ultimately, there’s a clarity of vision that’s virtually unrivalled in the current pop scene.

Fans of Taylor’s earlier work complain that this former country singer (was she ever, really, an actual country singer?) now makes electronic pop music ‘like everybody else’. The truth is, nobody else is making electronic pop music quite like this.

There are incredibly few artists who could carry off at least three quarters of this album. Ironically, given the presence of much-discussed beef bonanza ‘Bad Blood’, one of the few albums on which some of these songs would fit is Katy Perry’s ‘Prism’, an album that flirted with full-on pensivepop via songs like ‘Double Rainbow’, but bottled it and found it necessary to counteract that elegant sophistication with too many tracks like ‘Birthday’ and ‘This Is How We Do’. ‘1989’ isn’t full-on pensivepop either – ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Shake It Off’ stand out a mile – but it still feels like a body of work in the same way classic Madonna albums always did.

The supposed 80s sound, by the way, is a slight red herring – there are references to the likes of OMD but Taylor hasn’t exactly stormed along with an album that sounds like T’Pau and Bucks Fizz. Still, the synths soar, the drum machines patter along and the powerful melodies are old-fashioned in the best possible way at a point in pop history when traditional songwriting has, largely, been barged aside by tracks built around hooks and little else.

In any case the 80s references that do underpin the album never overwhelm: this isn’t pastiche, songs such as ‘I Know Places’ and ‘I Wish You Would’ sound really fresh, and there’s a strong influence of Joel Little’s work with Lorde on the likes of ‘Blank Space’ and ‘Bad Blood’.

The edges of that Lorde sound are smoothed off, just as ‘Out Of The Woods’ feels like Chvrches fed through the pop machine. But Taylor Swift is in the business is making Actual Pop, and smoothed edges come with the territory. Actual Pop is a metagenre whose gravitational pull reels in everything from orbiting genres and does whatever the hell it likes with the raw materials. That is why it’s amazing. Critics might identify the resulting music as a watered down sound. Actually – if we’re going to run with the watered down idea and situate this whole metaphor in the kitchen – it’s a reduced down sound. To put it another way, it’s pop stock.

The base ingredient for most pop from the last seventy years is Stuff About Love. Stuff About Love is simply the default lyrical setting for most chart music. Obviously there are hits that are all about going out and dancing around on a table, and there are hits about how amazing the singer is at everything they do or how the haters are going to hate, and you’ll occasionally find hits that completely bash down all the boundaries and discuss something totally different. But Stuff About Love is what pop is all about. For this reason – because almost everyone sings about love, and has done for the best part of the century – finding a new way to talk about it is the Holy Grail of pop songwriting. It’s tough, but there are several moments on ‘1989’ when Taylor completely hits the spot. ‘Out Of The Woods’ is just one song that feels like it innovates in this area, or at least takes a look at love from a new perspective.

Equally the desolate and jarring ‘Clean’ takes a brutal look at the part of a relationship where everything’s gone tits up. “The drought was the very worst,” Taylor sings, “when the flowers that we’d grown together died of thirst … The rain came pouring down, I punched a hole in the roof, let the flood carry away all my pictures of you … When I was drowning that’s when I could finally breathe.” The song wrings dry the dead horse of mixed metaphor by adding that the cleanliness felt in the wake of this watery scenario is a bit like being clean following a spell in rehab (“ten months sober, ten months older, now that I’m clean, I’m not gonna risk it”) but the song’s a belter nonetheless.

The album’s centrepiece – to these ears, anyway – is ‘Style’, a track for which iTunes’ single song repeat function could well have been invented. There’s a great detail in the middle eight when Taylor sings “I heard that you’ve been out with some other girl”, then admits, “I’ve been there too a few times”. As jolting middle eight turnarounds go, this is a plot twist right up there with The Human League’s ‘Human’.

Stuff About Love often feels so bland because lyricists dilute and blur their experiences in an attempt to make them relatable to every listener. Actually, as Taylor Swift proves on ‘1989’, the best way to conjure the true feeling of love in the listener’s mind is to describe one’s own experience of romance in such specific terms that it reminds the listener of their own private moments. This is why lines like “we moved the furniture so we could dance” on ‘Out Of The Woods’ and “it’s 2am in your car” work so well.

Studies of lying show that when telling a lie, most people are tempted to add a huge amount of detail to their stories; they believe that the more detail they add, the more believable their stories will be. ‘1989’ does not feel dishonest, but you could argue that the suggested extent of this album’s intimacy is an illusion of sorts, or at least an example of sleight of hand.

In media training, artists are often advised that the best way to avoid difficult personal questions is to pre-emptively offer up personal information. Divulging personal information whose boundaries you’ve defined allows the interviewer or reader to feel like their thirst for hot gossip has been quenched, so they move away to a different area. In order to do this effectively you must compartmentalise your personal life into areas that seem off-limits and those that actually are off-limits. And that in a sense – probably instinctively, rather than as the result of media training – is what we have with Taylor Swift. You end ‘1989’ feeling like you know what it’s like to be in a relationship with Taylor Swift, and maybe one or two other popstars to boot. In fact, we know none of the ‘interesting’ stuff – all that nonsense that would crash the servers of most gossip websites. But we feel like we know enough.

Nowhere is this perceived intimacy as well-honed as in ‘I Know Places’, a song about hunters and foxes, which promises “I know places we won’t be found”. Once ensconced in these places, the couple in the song will leave the hunters “chasing the their tails trying to track us down”. On first listen this seems to be a song about photographers, but given the circumstances of the relationships covered by this album the song could just as easily be about attempts to escape the glare of two different sets of fans.

In 2014 fans are a paparazzi swarm in their own right; Taylor herself recently wrote that these days fans just want pictures instead of autographs. But then nobody else understands 21st Century pop fame the way Taylor does, or if they do, they don’t demonstrate that understanding like Taylor does. The ‘Shake It Off’ video was either too clever for its own good or too dumb for its own good, or perhaps a combination of the two. Either way it misfired, but at its heart it was a shrewd way of Taylor recognising – then owning – the pop space she occupies.

Does she occupy that space by accident? Does she bollocks. Nothing about this album or Taylor’s career seems left to chance. That’s not to say this album feels stilted. On the contrary, she seems to have fun with the space she’s in. In ‘Blank Space’ – as in the opening lines of ‘Shake It Off’ – she plays on the way she’s caricatured. With lines like “hey, let’s be friends, I can’t wait to see how this one ends”, “oh my God, look at that face, you look like my next mistake” and “I’ve got a blank space baby, and I’ll write your name” she seems to be singing from the perspective of the woman she’s made out to be, satirising the snark cloud that hovers above her public image.

That caricature is one she might not encourage, but she certainly does little to dispel it. Naturally, that’s to her own advantage – all fame is about caricature, and just like she’s managed the private details she wants the world to know, Taylor’s effectively defines her own caricature, nominating the parts of her personality she permits to be exaggerated.

Waffle aside, there are loads of top tunes here. ’1989’ feels effortlessly enchanting, and of course, it’s not effortless at all – this is a laser-guided pop – but there’s a feeling of relaxed charm to most of these songs, and it’s a feeling many artists find hard to engineer. Taylor pulls it off. This is not a perfect album, but it does contain enough perfect songs (three) plus enough 9/10s (three) and few enough sub-5/10s (none) to make it the best album of the 2014, not to mention the best of Taylor’s career.

Problems with this review

1. Where are the jokes? This is too serious for an album that in parts feels so joyful. There could at least be a GIF.

2. Ineffective in terms of describing what the songs actually sound like. ‘A bit 80s’ and ‘pensive’ doesn’t really cover it.

3. Too bogged down in half-baked ‘grand’ theories about pop.

4. Some of the lyrics are probably slightly wrong.

5. tl;dr

6. It doesn’t even mention what Taylor’s voice sounds like.

7. Surely all reviews based on 1.4 listens run the risk of being unreliable.

8. The writer probably missed an explosive lyric that blows the lid off pop.

9. There’s too much repetition of points about Taylor doing things on purpose rather than by accident.

19. You’re likely to be better off with Sam Lansky’s review for TIME, or Alexis Petridis’ review in The Guardian, both of which probably deal with most of these problems and, undoubtedly, do so with considerable flair.

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S Club 7: BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK BACK (but who were they?) http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/s-club-7-back-back-back-back-back-back-back-but-who-were-they/131887/ http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/s-club-7-back-back-back-back-back-back-back-but-who-were-they/131887/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:58:46 +0000 http://www.popjustice.com/?p=131887 s-club-back-back-back

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.

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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

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

Ta-DA!

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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.

(At the end of 2002 we joined S Club Juniors for two days for a piece for The Guardian, which is quite funny.)

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.

S Club 7 became S Club

In 2002, Paul from S Club 7 cleared off in order to be in some sort of bloody awful nu-metal outfit. He stayed with S Club for a few months – with hindsight he was basically working his notice period – before disappearing for good.

S Club 7 renamed themselves S Club and made an astonishingly shit film called ‘Seeing Double’.

It was written by Simon Fuller’s brother Kim, and directed by Nigel Dick, then man who’d also directed Britney’s ‘…Baby One More Time’ video. It didn’t do very well at the Oscars.

S Club and S Club 8 all went off on tour together

The S Club United tour was supposed to be a joyous coming together of 14 pop behemoths.

Sadly it turned out to be more of an elaborate attempt at handing over the S Club baton, and it ended quite badly.

That’s a fairly epic interpretation of “we’ve got good news and bad news”, isn’t it?

S Club eventually said goodbye for good

S Club’s final single was ‘Say Goodbye’.

The song was sent out to the media with promotional handkerchiefs, which seemed to be making light of an incredibly sad moment in the history of pop, but we all deal with grief in different ways and over the intervening years we’ve found a way to forgive S Club’s label for their terrible lapse in judgement.

‘Say Goodbye’ and its accompanying video remain one of pop’s best “it’s all over let’s just put everything in a box and have a cry” farewell moments.

Classic Cathy Dennis. Classic Dennis. CLASSY DENNIS.

Then Rachel Stevens was briefly responsible for a load of tremendous tunes

When the S Club party was in its ‘putting out the bins and clearing up the wine stains’ stage, Rachel Stevens decided to be a solo artist.

Things kicked off extremely well with the Top 3 single ‘Sweet Dreams My LA Ex’.

The song had been written by Cathy Dennis for Britney Spears as an answer record to Justin Timberlake’s ‘Cry Me A River’, but Britney was an idiot and Rachel got the song instead.

Then Rachel released a bizarre postmodern second single called ‘Funky Dory’, which sampled David Bowie’s ‘Hunky Dory’ album track ‘Andy Warhol’, and referenced pop art in its lyrics.

THEN – this is the really good bit – Rachel accidentally released one of the greatest albums of the 21st Century in the form of ‘Come And Get It’. (It got to Number 28 because the record buying public were extremely irresponsible.) The album included the Number Two single ‘Some Girls’, which was produced and written by Richard X and Hannah Robinson.

Geri Halliwell was so furious she didn’t get this song that she locked herself in her car, an event later referenced in the X-and-Robinson-helmed Annie song ‘Me Plus One’. (‘Me Plus One’ ends with a sample of Geri Halliwell’s dog.)

Jo O’Meara released an amazing single…

…and a shit album. Then she went on Celebrity Big Brother and everything went a bit wrong.

S Club 3 became ‘a thing’

Jo, Bradley and Paul weren’t really fooling anyone with the whole ‘four backing dancers’ debacle, but they did a load of student gigs and nightclub PAs. They also appeared on Australian television. :(

You would have thought that this sort of behaviour would put S Club – or S Club 3, or S Club 4 or whoever was available – into classic Big Reunion territory. But S Club did not appear on The Big Reunion. Could it perhaps have been the case that Simon Fuller was looking at The Big Reunion – much like he’d looked at the TV programme Popstars – and thinking, “I can do that myself”? Was he DEVISING a CUNNING POP PLAN?

Look this post’s going on a bit now so let’s just cut to the chase: S Club 7 are back together.

s-club-2014

For a band that launched off the back of a BBC TV programme, it makes sense that S Club should relaunch off the back of a BBC TV programme.

This morning the BBC announced that S Club 7 – that’s all of them, even Rachel – would be performing together for the first time in however many years it’s been on this year’s Children In Need. (Last year’s Children In Need was also the location for McBusted’s first TV appearance.)

There hasn’t been an official announcement regarding new material, but if you think that’s not on the cards you’re a fool to yourself. Could there also be a tour?

Whether or not the band manage to pull off a McBusted remains to be seen; McBusted announced 13 live dates and ended up selling out over thirty – the genuine public demand and affection for that band has been extraordinary. But while McBusted benefit from Busted splitting before their time was up and McFly’s continued existence providing a clear line from the past to the present, S Club ended a few months after it should have done and the profile of S Club’s individual members has gone slightly adrift in recent years. Theirs is a proper revival in the way McBusted’s kind of wasn’t.

Anyway, the success or failure of any full S Club comeback rests on the reappearance of the most important person in S Club’s history. It’s not Rachel, and it’s not Paul. It’s not even Simon Fuller.

Five words:

1. GET.
2. DENNIS.
3. ON.
4. THE.
5. PHONE.

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