Released: 27th March 2000
Writers: Martin Brannigan / Ray Hedges / Tracy Ackerman
Peak position: #16
Chart run: 16-34-48-56-56-X-X-74-62
A year is a long time in pop music. And few acts felt that more than B*Witched.
The group’s second album Awake and Breathe arrived just 12 months after their debut and marked an alarmingly swift decline in their chart fortunes. Realistically, no-one expected B*Witched to continue effortlessly racking up #1 singles so there was always likely to be a slight downturn at some point. But when their comeback Jesse Hold On peaked at #4 and follow-up I Shall Be There missed the top ten altogether, it certainly felt like the wheels were coming off more quickly than anyone would have anticipated.
At this point, it began to feel that B*Witched were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. It’s clear that their traditional Irish denim schtick had lost its charm somewhat and whilst the group had form with ballads like Blame It On The Weatherman, their appeal and image was still largely based around effervescent, upbeat pop music. The obvious solution, therefore, was to try and move B*Witched in a more mature direction – in the first instance that meant an FHM shoot, because titillation sells. Except it generally sells magazines and not singles – so the music followed suit by toning down the quirks and turning up the pop sensibilities.
In truth, Jump Down was already poised to facilitate a transition for the group. The album version opens with the sound effect of crowds cheering, creating the impression of a euphoric stadium power-pop number – and for the most part that’s exactly what it is, albeit with classic B*Witched hallmarks like a frantic fiddle breakdown before the final chorus. Considering the original version isn’t vastly different to the radio remix, you get a real sense of just how desperate the label was at this point to firmly extricate any traces of the group’s past from this release. And so, gone is any suggestion of an Irish jig or folksy instrumentation and in its place a much cooler production.
It’s entirely possible that this was merely a side-effect of the group’s transatlantic popularity – there is certainly something slicker and more Americanised about this track. Whilst B*Witched’s earlier uptempos were a little rougher around the edges, here they sound streamlined and ready for business. As if to prove the point, there are some newly-recorded vocals for the radio remix – the snarled “Always laughing” during the first verse feels particularly pointed. In that respect, Jump Down is a prime slice of sunny, feelgood pop music, exuding the sort of boundless energy and euphoria that would make it the perfect fit for a teen movie soundtrack.
So far, so good then – but whilst the radio remix discarded as much B*Witched DNA from the song as possible, there are still some traces of it remaining in the lyrics. Very loosely based around the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle (anything was fair game in the ‘90s – lest we forget C’est La Vie drew heavily upon The Three Little Pigs for inspiration), there is something a little jarring about using such infantile source material in a song that is trying its best to sell a more mature image. Now, earlier in their career B*Witched would have delivered lines like “You ran away with my spoon” and “I jumped over the moon” with a knowing cheekiness, but here the delivery feels like a nonsensical after-thought – there’s just nothing about it at all that sticks out, which is a real shame. It’s not that pop lyrics always need to make sense – but they should be there for a reason and not just because.
You ran away with my spoon
You’ve stolen my heart
I jumped over the moon
Right from the start
You always make me feel good
Let us not dwell on this very minor bump in the road though; because what Jump Down gets right, it gets very right. The very definition of a shower, not a grower – what you see is what you get, and what you get is a chorus so immensely gratifying; it’s a total earworm and the “’Til now, I’ve never believed in us” hook is perfectly conveyed. There’s a key-change thrown in for good measure during the final chorus – but it serves more like a pleasant uplift than a climactic finale. The track zips briskly through its three minutes at pace; there’s certainly never any risk of Jump Down outstaying its welcome and although it throws in plenty of elements to keep the listener occupied, the song is largely without any notable peaks or troughs – making it a track that you can easily find yourself listening to on repeat (that’s our excuse for the 94 plays we’ve racked up this week and we’re sticking to it).
The music video for Jump Down very much complements the song as an attempt to align B*Witched with a cooler, slicker subsection of pop music. It’s not high-concept – in fact, it’s no concept whatsoever. The group spend the duration of the song dancing in a stylised corridor dotted with pulsing spotlights; there’s more choreography than in any of the preceding music videos and it’s also the first B*Witched routine to feature back-up dancers. There are a plethora of distorted transition shots linking the video together – a visual gimmick again borrowing heavily from the group’s American pop peers. Perhaps most notably, there is a definite hint of sexuality – not just in the choreography but also in some of the close-up group shots, where B*Witched are cast in warm blue lighting and gently writhe as if at a glamour shoot. We’d be lying if we said there aren’t moments when it looks a little awkward – and there is definitely something missing: the denim. Now, it’s not to say B*Witched should’ve been confined to one clothing texture forevermore, but pop fans are creatures of habit and it’s only when you take stock of everything that you realise what a leap this video takes in the group’s narrative.
And so that really brings us full-circle to the main issue confronting Jump Down. It throws an awful lot of new aural and visual information at us – and it’s then you start to realise that so much of B*Witched was cast aside with this single that there isn’t really much of them left at all. Brilliant as the song is, if you strip all the identity away from a group then there’s nothing left for their fans to buy – which might explain why Jump Down peaked at a lowly #16 and led to them being dropped.
It was a difficult situation to digest – we feel that the (relative) failure of the Awake and Breathe campaign was largely a textbook example of ‘too much too soon’, but pop music in 2000 was moving at a breakneck speed and there was little time to pause for thought. The end result was a somewhat curious juxtaposition which leaves Jump Down as a bloody brilliant pop song, but one that seems intent on doing everything it can to avoid looking or sounding like a B*Witched single.