Released: 7th June 1999
Writers: Eliot Kennedy / Mike Percy / S Club 7 / Tim Lever
Peak position: #1
Chart run: 1-2-5-5-6-11-16-18-24-28-34-42-56-65-72
It may seem a somewhat bizarre notion, but S Club 7 were arguably – at least initially – not the most important aspect in the launch of S Club 7. For what Bring It All Back really marked was Simon Fuller’s return to chart prominence having been sacked by the Spice Girls two years earlier.
Much had changed in the pop industry during that time, and S Club 7’s launch in many ways was a successful hybrid of the critical elements. The market for girl groups and boy bands was heavily saturated. But boy/girl groups – well, there was Steps. Elsewhere, we’d already seen the Fuller dynasty turn the Spice Girls into a box office success (commercially, if not critically). But movies are expensive to make – the positive reception to Cleopatra’s Comin’ Atcha TV series earlier that year created a much more appealing alternative. Why spend money getting pop fans to come to you when instead you could go directly to their living rooms? Bring It All Back was thus much more than a debut single; it marked a full-on simultaneous multimedia takeover by Simon Fuller – via S Club 7.
The premise of Miami 7 was to position S Club 7 as a struggling pop act in America. While one may initially have questioned whether the group needed to contain seven members, the show allowed Kim Fuller to create distinct personalities for Tina, Jon, Paul, Hannah, Bradley, Rachel and Jo in much the same vein as those earlier adopted by the Spice Girls. We would say the project fared well because no-one ever really questioned the mathematics behind S Club 7 – even when lead singers naturally emerged and became more prominent vocalists. Bring It All Back was installed as the theme tune to Miami 7 and it as only a matter of time before the track was released as a single in its own right.
Don’t you know it’s true what they say
That life, it ain’t easy
But your time’s coming around
So don’t you stop trying
While Bring It All Back is an undeniably catchy pop song, it’s also a mission statement. S Club 7 certainly weren’t exempt from the pop music tropes of love and heartbreak; but more so than any other act of the time, the commonly recurring topic within their music was empowerment and platonic peer camaraderie. And that’s precisely what we get here. The lyrics are a collection of moral affirmations that we probably all heard at one point or another during our teenage years, such as: “If people try to put you down, just walk on by don’t turn around” and “Imagination is the key, ’cause you are your own destiny”. We couldn’t ever deny that S Club 7’s launch was masterfully calculated but launching a group to create a movement of acceptance and positivity is not a bad thing, in our book.
In terms of the vocals, the song is carved fairly consistently to give the four ladies a turn in the spotlight – Jo and Rachel emerge early on as the more prominent vocalists, but Tina and Hannah also land half a verse each. And let’s hope they made the most of it because it’d be mid-2003 before they got another opportunity. As bubblegum pop songs go, Bring It All Back ticks all the boxes. The track zips along at a pace that ensures its ’90s teen audience, with increasingly short attention spans, are continually occupied with catchy “Na na na” post-choruses, shifts in melody and amplified beats announcing the next element – such as the lead-in to the chorus (“So don’t you stop trying”).
Bring It All Back’s finest moment though is reserved for the final minute when it drops – you guessed it – an incredible key-change. The lead up is glorious, as a chorus plays out with minimal production and gradually builds back, before catapulting at the last minute into a completely different key, with ad-libs that tear a hole in the fabric of pop music. Jo’s soaring ad-libs are the most technically impressive element, but it’s Rachel’s “Don’t STOP; don’t STOP” ad-libs that left us fully slayed back in the ’90s. The one downside to Bring It All Back’s euphoric climax is that it renders everything before it somewhat functional; it’s still a perfectly enjoyable pop song, but perhaps more so than any other song in the S Club 7 canon, it’s a means to a very satisfying end.
As if to further emphasise the synergistic approach adopted by Bring It All Back, the accompanying music video is part performance and part Miami 7 compilation. Now, we’re usually reasonably critical of any music video that utilises a clip show approach, but it works well here; indeed, we can’t imagine an alternative that could’ve done the job better. And we really must credit whoever was tasked with the painstaking job of finding clips that complemented the energy and tempo of the video. We loved Miami 7 as much as the next person but sifting through over five hours of content to find a few minutes’ worth is not an enviable task. Spliced together with a group dance sequence, the Bring It All Back video captures S Club 7’s personality and neatly positioned them as the newest and sunniest aspirational pop clan on the block. It wasn’t a high concept or cost debut video – but in terms of impact, it had the desired effect, going into heavy rotation on the music channels and no doubt steering viewers who weren’t already hooked on Miami 7 to seek it out. Indeed, we’ve always felt that the Reach video suffered somewhat from not adopting a similar approach.
By the time Bring It All Back was released, there was no question that it would be a hit – the only variable was how big. And what better way to firmly assert S Club 7 as a dominant pop force than a good old-fashioned David vs. Goliath chart battle. Going up against Madonna’s Beautiful Stranger was a bold move indeed. But it paid off, with Bring It All Back shifting 190,000 copies (55,000 more than Madonna) to debut atop the chart. Pop music had a significant new act, and Simon Fuller was firmly back where he belonged. More importantly, you sense that this time he was firmly in control and had a long-term plan to stay there.