Released: 15th November 2004
Writers: Jan Kask
Peak position: #19
Chart run: 19-36-45-58-67-68-62
In what might be one pop music’s weirdest experiments, Dreaming was the product of a TV show that saw S Club 8 joined by five additional singers and then release a single featuring only two of them.
On paper, I Dream – the TV show – made perfect sense. It cast the members of S Club 8 (playing exaggerated versions of themselves, of course) as students who enrolled in a performing arts school. It used the age of the group as a means of putting a spin on the tried-and-tested formula that had been expertly executed by S Club 7. But the fact that the show omitted the S Club-brand from its title should have been an early warning that something had gone awry. For joining the group in their endeavours were five additional actor-singers (including Matt Di Angelo in one of his breakthrough roles before he joined EastEnders). Having missed the top ten for the first time with their most recent single Don’t Tell Me You’re Sorry, one would think that S Club 8 needed a vehicle to focus attention on them, rather than dilute their presence into a wider ensemble.
But at least with each episode following the formula of containing a musical number, there would be an opportunity for the group to debut some new material…right? Well, no. The songs were divided up between the cast members, and only two members of S Club 8 were given any lead vocals. Even the most lateral thinkers would struggle to work out what the aim was here because whether I Dream was a success or not, the group had lost their identity somewhere in the middle of Simon Fuller’s machinations. When the TV show’s theme tune – Dreaming – was released as a single, there was no viable reason that it couldn’t have been performed by S Club 8. But the group was so expendable by this point, that the track was fronted by Frankie and Calvin, with no sight nor sound of their bandmates present here.
Of course, some count the fact that this is not officially canon within the S Club Juniors / S Club 8 back-catalogue as a blessing. Because it’s true; Dreaming is not where the group’s previous album suggested they were heading. It ditches electro-pop in favour of something altogether more straightforward. The track is built around a reasonably simple hook: “Dreamin’, yeah yeah yeah yeah, all around the world now, all around the world now” and is very much a throwback to a simpler time in pop music. It was unlikely to garner a legion of new fans, but for those with even a passing interest, there is a naggingly catchy – and immensely gratifying – hook here. Not to mention a mean flamenco guitar instrumental breakdown. For all the criticism about the fact that Frankie and Calvin have been singled out, their voices work well together, which brings a distinctive tone to the performance that hadn’t always been evident before.
Thematically, Dreaming stays true to the S Club-brand in its focus on friendship and togetherness, even if there are some endearingly naff attempts at profundity: “Sing if you’re happy, cry if you’re blue, eat if you’re hungry, love if you’re true”. There’s nothing here that isn’t entirely appropriate for two young popstars in their mid-teens. However, one might argue that in itself represents a slight step backwards considering age had rarely defined S Club 8’s material. Nonetheless, there are some charming lyrics simply brimming with innocent naivety: “I’ve been dreaming about a place, where I can watch you smile as you let sunlight hit your face, where nothing can tear two people apart, a place where it’s cool to open your heart”. Maybe people wanted something with a little more bite, but this was aimed squarely at a CBBC audience, and thus Dreaming has its heart in the right place. It perfectly contextualises I Dream; you don’t need to have watched the show to know precisely what sort of vibe it’s going to have, and that in itself is a mark of success for the track.
And if you can buy into what Dreaming is – rather than ruminate over what could have been – then there are some aspects of the overall package that work really well, like the music video. It’s a relatively simple concept (which is a bit of a recurring theme for this single) but one that is delivered effectively. Using a bold colour palette, dynamic backgrounds and lots of transition shots, there’s a positive, infectious energy to the visuals, with both Frankie and Calvin delivering heaps of personality. They seize their opportunity to step into the limelight, and there’s a natural (platonic) chemistry simmering between them that is very watchable. Also, look out for Calvin mouthing along to the flamenco guitar, which typifies the cheeky enthusiasm running through the video. Of course, Dreaming doesn’t entirely forget what it’s there to do, and thus there are also scenes from I Dream interspersed at regular intervals throughout. Although again, this merely serves to highlight the oddity of everyone else being conspicuously absent.
Dreaming peaked at #19 in the UK and – if anything – it’s a (pleasant) surprise that it even got that high. Not because of the song, but just how ludicrous the concept was of releasing a single specifically intended to appeal to fans of the I Dream TV show, and then featuring two of the cast while completely excluding the rest. It was followed by a soundtrack album Welcome To Avalon Heights, which peaked at #133 (no, that isn’t a typo) and served to underline how misguided the project had been.
It’s unfathomable that across 13 episodes and a 16-track album, there wasn’t even room for one new S Club 8 track. But then, it wasn’t ever expressly clear what I Dream was supposed to be in a musical sense; was it a label designed to showcase acts featured within the TV show, or were they a hybrid supergroup? Whatever clarity the idea might have had when it was initially conceived evidently didn’t trickle down to the consumer.
Whether you consider Dreaming to be an S Club 8 single or not (we do), it is indisputable that the group deserved a better send-off than this. Pop acts don’t always get to call the shots when it comes to their final release, but few suffer the indignity of their legacy being actively dismantled. Dreaming is – in itself – not a bad song, but the way it was executed did a huge disservice to S Club 8, ending their career in a most puzzling fashion.