I watched the S Club 7 reunion performance not from the studio in Elstree (because it’s an absolute ballache to get back into London that late at night) but in a living room filled with excited gays, who like me, were hyped up to the point of hysterical laughter about the whole situation. We watched it twice, back to back. It was so fun it made my body feel physically weak. I’m going to explain further, but first, a historical interlude…
S Club were Very Important to 10-year-old me. Do you remember picking your favourite S Clubber before you’d even seen or heard them doing anything? I do. I remember the playground excitement for the trailers for Miami 7 and how my best friend had chosen Jo as her favourite and I was hesitantly placing bets on Tina. (After the first show aired, I revised to Hannah as my bff and Bradley as my bf and that didn’t change apart from a brief period when Paul got inexplicably Really Fit.)
I displaced lots of my adolescent fervour for the Spice Girls onto S Club (and Britney Spears). 1999 was the year my family stopped being “very poor” and started being “normal poor” which meant my CD collection increased rather dramatically. Britney’s …Baby One More Time, Five’s Invincible and S Club 7’s S Club all came into my posession in 1999, and I didn’t even have to wait until Christmas! I knew S Club back to front, inside out, upside down and all the choreography to boot. I used to perform the whole ouvre in my room to an audience of no one. I was sensational. The fact that I didn’t audition for S Club Juniors is practically criminal, and possibly my biggest life regret.
I spent 2-3 years being fully immersed in everything S Club, but I’m ashamed to say that by the time the S Club break up rolled around, I was only mildly saddened (a sadness briefly elevated by the still utterly gut-punching ‘Say Goodbye’) because by that time I was 14 and more into Boys With Guitars. Sometimes I wonder if I’d stayed invested, would they have stayed together? One of my many character defects is assuming personal responsibility for things that I am truly not to blame for and the S Club break up is a burden I carry in my heart every day.
So that brings us up to present day. My anticipation for an S Club reunion was slightly tempered by this residual guilt about it being my fault they split up in the first place plus the fact that they kind of tarnished their legacy somewhat when (racist)Jo, Bradley and Paul terrorised the country as S Club 3. Paul, especially, has a right nerve considering he left the band anyway before S Club were even close to being done. Still, it’s very hard to loosen the bonds you form with bands during your most formatative years. In fact, the more ropey they are down the line, the more tangled you end up being. So, when it finally, FINALLY was officially announced – a comeback in form of a hits medley on the worst charity telethon ever, Children In Need, followed by an excitement mounting press conference on Monday – I knew no matter how dreadful it might be, I would be along for the ride 100% and more.
Here is the actual performance. Watch it please, again. Fill your entire senses with its glory.
Did you watch it? Did it stir your soul? It stirred mine. My heart rate accelerates when it cuts to their silhouettes. Who knew Hannah would be the one serving so much popstar pose? (Spoiler alert: me, I did. Why do you think I chose her as my fave all those years ago?) And then BLAST there they are. Look at how banging Rachel Stevens still is! Jon hasn’t aged a day past 30! Tina’s fucking hot pants! Bradley’s fucking voice! Ahhh, S Club, I love you so much.
Now admittedly, as some of the more churlish corners of The Internet have pointed out, this performance wasn’t perfect. Here is a laundry list of 7 (natch) things you can pick out and pick apart should you choose to be an absolute wanker:
1. Jo’s fucking hair, looking like Shirley from Eastenders’ sister or something
2. Bradley’s fucking hair, looking like a lil poodle tail coming out the back of his hat
3. Paul, in general, serving dad-on-the-dancefloor realness. He’ll ease back into it, I’m sure.
4. Tina’s hot pants – MARMITE. I liked them. Everyone else I was watching with thought they were ridiculous.
5. The styling in general. Pretty terrible, admittedly.
6. The fact that the countdown should have started from 7, not 10.
7. The live vocals being predictably hit and miss. Or did you think they were singing live in 1999?
Let’s just address the live vocals thing for a second. No, they did not sound great. It’s likely that they never did. The collective circle jerk about live vocals is a new phenomenon. Anyone of an age where they would be excited for an S Club reunion grew up likely never hearing a live vocal from any performer outside of church. Even the fucking greats mimed, because that’s how it was back then, when you could be an absolutely outstanding popstar and great “studio vocalist” without having to climb up and down the scales with melisma to prove your worth as an entertainer. You’ve heard S Club 7 sing live now. With the exception of Bradley, you didn’t like it. Can we all agree that they can absolutely mime the entire tour that they’re probably going to announce in a couple of days (just like they did during their heyday) and never speak another word about it? Smashing.
Okay, so those were the rough parts. Here is another list of 7 things that were absolutely life-giving, that completely negate the aforementioned criticisms:
1. The silhouettes. An iconic opening.
2. That shriek of “GET DOWN TONIIIIGHT!” as the medley kick off.
3. Rachel Stevens in general; absolute mega babe.
4. When they stand in a line behind their mic stands and spin in time with a pyro explosion.
5. Bradley owning ‘Don’t Stop Movin’.
6. Ending on “don’t stop movin’ to the S Club beat”. I never will. I will never stop movin’.
7. The fact that there was more movement, enthusiasm and charisma on that stage for 5 minutes than there has been for 5 weeks of The X Factor.
That last reason, for me, is why everyone needs to pipe down about how and why S Club “fucked it”. I don’t know about you lot, but for this mainstream pop music fan, this Q4 has been a dull slump of music that is “accessible to everyone”. I don’t like accessible music. I don’t like music that appeals to teenagers, young professionals, suburbanites and those of retirement age. I like music that appeals to teenagers. I like music that appeals to young professionals. I like music that appeals to suburbanites and I like music that appeals to those of retirement age. I don’t like music that appeals to all those people at once. Appealing to everyone at once means not appealing at all, which is why there have been no WOW! moments on this year’s X Factor (either from the contestants or from the guest performers) which is ostensibly the only place to see a multitude of different performers all at one time without paying a really-not-worth-the-price sum to hit the Capital FM Jingle Bell Ball. The S Club 7 hits medley was far and away a better performance than any of the group medleys performed by the X Factor contestants on a Sunday night and a hell of a lot more fun than watching Sam Smith, or The Script or Jessie J or Maroon 5 or Taylor Swift. Sure, they’re past their prime adults in their early to mid-30s now (not you, Rachel, you’re totally perfect) but they still ran circles round our talent of tomorrow.
What I’m saying is: the S Club reunion is what it is. Right now, they’re not McBusted. They’re not trying to compete. They shouldn’t be judged in the New World Order because they’re not trying to establish a footing there, and if they are to be judged against charting artists of now, please remember that One Direction barely phoned it in on both of their performances last night and Cheryl Cole wasn’t in the business of bringing the thrills either. S Club were the Q4 moment I was waiting for, the exciting water-cooler, rewatch again-and-again bright spot in a world where we’re not getting the Nicki Minaj album until the year is pretty much over. I can’t wait to see them on tour.