The average person, I imagine, would be pretty embarrassed if someone caught them listening to S Club 7. And if S Club proper are embarrassing, then what of their bastard offspring S Club Juniors? If S Club are a guilty pleasure, then S Club Juniors are the full death sentence pleasure. Like the Tweenies, but singing songs about relationships with the vacant eyes of fourteen year olds who clearly think Puppy Love is about finding a young dog really really adorable. The band who sang a song called ‘Automatic High’ with clearly no idea of what a high is. Or, in fact, what the word ‘automatic’ means.
And yet, at the risk of never being taken seriously as a music writer ever again, I genuinely love ‘New Direction’, the band’s third single after ‘Automatic High’ and their debut ‘One Step Closer’, which admittedly was a great song to do a literal dance to at a school disco (an underrated quality in a song). But ‘New Direction’ is not just a good bad song. It is a genuinely good song, and a weird oddity in their bubblegum sweet catalogue. In fact, one could say it is a deliberate new direction for the band itself, if that was not giving them too much credit in understanding the complexities of Sugababes meta-pop.
Unlike their other songs, this song deserved to have nearly made number one. It has this strange Indian electronic influence that is like nothing you have ever heard. The sort of thing that could have been amazing had this been a Girls Aloud song, but in this case is slightly ruined by the sight of eight young kids (none of whom are anywhere near Asian) in cheap badly-fitting kaftans culturally appropriating the hell out of Bollywood without the charm to pull it off. Ignore the video, however, and it is full of great pop moments; the best ‘huh, huh’ backing vocals this side of Destiny’s Child’s ‘Lose My Breath’, the inexplicable break into auto tune at the beginning of the second verse or the crackly record effect and strings at the beginning which bring to mind a neutered version of Madonna’s ‘Erotica’ could all have been totally owned by a more distinctive artist.
Given to an artist who really was ‘looking for a new direction’, this would have been legendary. ‘Circus’-era Britney, post ‘Jai Ho’ Pussycat Dolls and even early noughties Kylie could have easily taken this to number one with far better sari-inspired get-ups and far less of a dead look in the eyes. Two future Saturdays, and six other ordinary kids, however, were given a far better song than they could cope with, and we are merely left with a great song that we can never have on our iPods in case someone we fancy looks through them. But put on a Spotify private session and imagine what can have been. Although never let it automatically play on to ‘Puppy Love’. You just don’t deserve that.
(Published by ARTSCLASH)