Released: 24th July 2000
Writers: Mike Stock / Matt Aitken / Steve Crosby
Peak position: #15
Chart run: 15-30-36-44-60-68
In a textbook case of releasing the right song at the wrong time, Scooch opted to switch things up for their fourth single. But far from providing assurance, For Sure may inadvertently have derailed the release of their debut album.
In itself, the track presents something of a puzzle. It’s a brilliant pop track that showed (yet) another side to Scooch, and there’s certainly nothing to begrudge about the fact that it was a single. But there was a lot – arguably too much – riding on For Sure to justify releasing it at this point in their career. Waiting until after the fourth single to launch an album is a risk, but that’s the strategy that had been adopted here. Therefore, Scooch needed to galvanise sales straight off the bat by ensuring that their audience knew precisely what they were buying into. The two previous singles had done just that, with a consistent sound engineered by Mike Stock and Matt Aitken creating a clear indication of what one could expect to hear from Scooch. But For Sure threw that off-kilter – ditching ABBA-esque melodies in favour of hi-NRG flamenco – creating the impression of a last-minute crisis of confidence.
All of which reflects rather badly on this single, which is a jot unfair because it’s a lot of fun. And while the sudden shift in sound may have been a tad puzzling, it’s immediately apparent what Scooch’s record label was hoping to achieve with For Sure once the: “Ba-dup-bup-baya, ba-dup-bup-baya-ba-da-bup” hook kicks in. If the song had been able to capitalise on soaring temperatures and the end of the school year by becoming a soundtrack to the summer, then it would have given the group a shot in the arm when they needed it most. It’s easy to say in hindsight that it wasn’t worth the risk, but at a time where Scooch were still looking to consolidate their solitary top ten hit, one might argue that it was better to give For Sure a punt than to sit on it and wonder what if…
And there’s no denying that the track goes in hard to be exactly the sort of thing you would expect from a pop song released during the warm summer months. It kicks up the tempo to a relentless pace that never falters; the production is frantic, slightly chaotic and triumphantly punctuated with brass stabs. For Sure uses a foolproof lyrical gimmick for its verses, basing them around the days of the week to tell a modern love story: “Monday, I thought I saw him smile, Tuesday, I caught that look in his eye, as he was walking by…”. However, considering Scooch manage to squeeze four days into the first verse, it’s impressive that they still manage to omit Sunday altogether. The chorus, on the other hand, is concerned with little more than being a giddy celebration: “I love him that’s for sure, and I’ll never let him go, ba-dup-bup-baya-ba-da-bup BAAAAH”. After a few listens, and once the frenzied production ceases to be a distraction, For Sure reveals itself to be joyously uplifting. There’s not a hint of disco-misery here; it’s an out-and-out declaration of happiness. And if this track alone didn’t quench your thirst for calendar-themed pop music then by sheer coincidence, another one – 7 Days by Craig David – was released the very same week as this single.
Sonically, For Sure was a complete change of tact for Scooch, but in terms of pop music circa-2000, it makes total sense. However, there’s a more significant shift lying at the very heart of the song, and it’s in the vocals. Natalie Powers had become the de facto lead singer within the group. But here she’s almost wholly sidelined – other than calling out the days of the week – in favour of Caroline Barnes, which gives the song a completely different sound. There’s no dispute over whether her voice is suited to the track because undoubtedly it is; the vocoder effect applied at the peak of the chorus is sterling work. But it does mean that For Sure has mostly stripped away anything and everything that cohesively linked it to Scooch. It’s entirely feasible that one could hear the song and not have a clue who is performing it, which is an unusual approach for a group still striving to establish their identity.
The music video, at least, isn’t quite so polarised. It opens with a bit of acting as Natalie and Caroline indulge in some bathroom banter to frame the theme of the song and the disdain with which Natalie delivers her: “Is that it? WELL?” line is genuinely brilliant. Presumably, the BAFTA nomination got lost in the post. From there, the visuals are split between Caroline recounting the events of For Sure to the rest of Scooch in a bar, and cutaway shots that show her working in an office where the story is allegedly unfolding. We say allegedly because, despite the whole theme of the song being about infatuation, the object of Caroline’s affections is never shown. Instead, she’s left to make eyes at the camera lens, which is an odd role to leave unfilled given the plethora of backing dancers and extras featured. The colour scheme of the shots is excellent, though; eye-catchingly garish blue walls and yellow-purple tiled floors make the aesthetic pop.
Meanwhile, back in the bar, someone’s had a few too many glasses of fizzy wine and things are getting out of hand. Caroline isn’t just telling her story; she’s up dancing on the table! The rest of the group laugh along while – presumably – being secretly mortified and whispering for her to get down before they’re kicked out of the venue. Before things escalate to that point, the dance breaks are great (audible hand claps in a choreography sequence are always a win), and the only thing that feels remotely lacking is the colour scheme. For Sure is a song that evokes images of a bright, vivid carnival atmosphere, rather than muted grey/green warehouse chic. But it’s a small grumble in an otherwise competent package.
Despite – or perhaps because of – its deviance from the status quo, For Sure peaked at #15 in the UK, which is a real shame. It’s commercial prospects certainly wouldn’t have been helped by the fact that the track was included on Now 46, which was released the very same day. But it’s unlikely that would have been enough to deprive it of a much-needed spot within the top ten. This left Scooch in a perilous position; they’d played the slow game with their debut album, but four singles into the campaign, this was not the desired trajectory that the group should have been following immediately prior to the release of Four Sure. And – unfortunately – so it came to pass that the album charted at #41. It was an ironically fitting peak because it very much reflected the fact that Scooch were always close to the cusp of success but only once definitively on the right side of it. For what it’s worth, the album is well worth a listen; Stock and Aitken knew what they were doing (even if the singles didn’t necessarily demonstrate that) and it’s a solidly enjoyable collection of pop songs.
Alas, if For Sure suggested that Scooch were on borrowed time, then Four Sure put it beyond doubt and the group quietly split up. For a while, this single marked the end of the group. At least, until a Eurovision-shaped reprieve came six years later.