Released: 3rd December 2001
Writers: Steve Duberry / Steve Hart / John McLaughlin
Peak position: #14
Chart run: 14-33-39-34-37-52
Having defiantly rejected the “Flopstars” label with a critically and commercially successful debut single, Liberty were looking to score a follow-up hit. Doin’ It didn’t quite deliver, but it is a cracking, underrated hit, nonetheless.
In the immediate aftermath of Thinking It Over reaching #5, Liberty’s career started to pick up steam. Arguably, things were starting to move almost too quickly; the group’s label V2 had decided to bring forward the release of their debut album To Those Who Wait (in hindsight, a profoundly ironic title given the sudden rush) but in the process had drawn some unwanted attention. Liberty found themselves embroiled in a trademark dispute over their name. The case was brought by a funk group formed in the ‘80s who didn’t have a record deal and weren’t actively performing together, but argued that they had a loyal – albeit modest – fanbase (311 followers on Facebook as of right now) and this would limit any future ventures they might wish to pursue. V2 were clearly confident that they would be able to assume ownership of the name because Doin’ It was released despite this dispute rumbling away in the background. However, To Those Who Wait was temporarily shelved, which ended up being a wise decision, because the original Liberty won their case. This set a precedent for the major labels and has led to many subsequent re-brands for reality TV groups before they even come close to landing a deal.
The real victim in all of this was Doin’ It, though. For it suffered perhaps the ultimate indignity of becoming the least important part of Liberty’s narrative at this point when it should have been the driving force. Not least because it’s a phenomenal track which confirms a core part of the group’s appeal: it is effortlessly cool. This is a sweltering sexy jam that had its finger right on the pulse (and probably a few other places as well). Indeed, long before ‘thirst’ had entered into our everyday vernacular, it was right here: “Oh I’m thirsting for you, every night, every day, got a hunger inside and it won’t go away”. It feels authentically adult too; free of the pressure to try and court the approval of a family-orientated ITV audience, Liberty were able to deal in lyrics reflecting the sort of things that a group of people in their late-teens and early-twenties would be singing about.
The smouldering intensity is mirrored in the production, and there is so much happening here. Doin’ It shifts rapidly from sharply strummed chords during the verses to the dramatic stabbing synths of the choruses. In the background, there’s a further cacophony of additional squelchy, twangy sound effects that make the track feel dynamic and irresistibly unpredictable. It spills over into the vocals as well, because there’s some incredibly effective use of vocoder applied to the groans of: “Oh you know you’re really doin’ it”. This all culminates in the brilliant middle-eight, with chants of: “Doin’ it, doin’ it, doin’ it, don’t you know you’re doin’ it, doin’ it doin’ it” spliced between choppy, filtered: “You’re-ore-ore…” interludes. The track proves that credibility doesn’t have to come at the expense of fun, because Doin’ It is every bit as adventurous and playful as pop music should be.
There’s much more to the song than a flourish of production quirks though. It quietly carves an identity for Liberty that is distinct from their peers in the way it arranges the vocals; Kevin and Tony lead the first verse and remain slightly more prominent during the chorus as well. Doin’ It never hammers the point of “look, the boys can sing too!” – it feels entirely organic, and finds something for every member of the group to contribute (Michelle’s dramatically carnal: “Feels SO right…” shortly before the final chorus is an unmitigated highlight) without any of them feeling shoehorned in. There are no weak links here, but Liberty don’t need to go out of their way to prove that; it’s just in their DNA.
If Doin’ It was occasionally surprising, then the music video was less so, in that it features a plethora of shots where the group are gazing sultrily into the camera while caressing their backing dancers. You can feel the heat emanating from the screen; it’s shot and styled in a way that looks uncomfortably humid, with the sun-drenched daytime transitioning into deep blue night shots. The colour palette is strikingly effective, but there’s no escaping the fact that this very much belongs to the formative part of Liberty’s career; the visual identity of the group isn’t quite there. The chorus, in particular, looks like it wants to do a bit more with them, but the choreography – if you can even call it that – doesn’t progress far beyond bobbing from side to side. That’s not to say the video is bad. It’s not; it’s perfectly pleasant, and there is a lot to admire, besides the unnecessary slow-motion shots which look more like buffering. But was it enough to firmly grab the public’s attention? Evidently not.
During an incredibly busy week on the chart, which saw nine new entries in the Top 20 alone, Doin’ It managed a peaked of #14 in the UK. Even taking the distraction of a legal battle out of the equation, there is perhaps a sense that V2 had been over-ambitious. There’s no denying that Liberty had defied expectations up until this point, but they still needed to tread carefully. However, the group was put in an impossible situation when Hear’Say launched their second album at the same time, which presumably necessitated a response. As it turns out, they needn’t have worried, but Doin’ It became the collateral damage and brought Liberty perilously close to being dropped.
Fortunately, that pesky lawsuit which threatened their very identity ended up being convenient because it afforded them time to undergo a soft reboot under the guise of it being a legal obligation. It was, of course, but the likelihood is that it needed to happen anyway. The newly-rebranded Liberty X recorded new material – including their next single Just A Little – and spun the whole palaver into something that wound up being wildly more successful than if they had ploughed on with the release of To Those Who Wait.
Sandwiched between two more prominent singles, Doin’ It is an oft-overlooked part of Liberty X’s debut album campaign. One might have presumed that’s because it just wasn’t very good, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Doin’ It is sublime and at almost any other point of the group’s career would’ve been a much, much bigger hit.