Liberty X – Jumpin’

Released: 20th October 2003

Writers: Mike Peden / Lucie Silvas / Charlie Russell

Peak position: #6

Chart run: 6-9-15-28-43-57-X-72

Expectations were high as Liberty X prepared to release the follow-up to their double platinum-selling debut album. But after a whirlwind year and a half where everything went right for the group, Jumpin’ was, perhaps, the first sign of a stumble.

After the success of their debut album, Liberty X moved quickly to maintain momentum by collaborating with Richard X on Being Nobody, which arrived just over three months after the final single from Thinking It Over. It was a great move, in principle, capitalising on the popularity of mashups and further reinforcing the group’s credibility. However, work continued on their next album – titled Being Somebody – well into 2003. It took seven months to release Jumpin’ as the next single, despite the song premiering on Liberty X’s arena tour at the start of the year. Thus, the group ended up in an unusual situation where the brief turnaround between album campaigns was significantly less than the gap between the first and second singles from Being Somebody. And, while there’s an argument that Jumpin’ could technically be considered the ‘proper’ lead, that’s not what came across given the prominence with which Being Nobody was – and continues to be – treated.

That wouldn’t have been an issue at almost any other point. However, after a seven-month build-up – and with Liberty X’s second album weeks away – Jumpin’ found itself in the thankless position of being a great track by almost any standard, but one that didn’t quite deliver for such a critical moment. It’s certainly not that the group should have been expected to consistently raise the bar higher with each single, but they needed to be at their untouchable best here, and Jumpin’ doesn’t ever quite manage to elicit that feeling. In part because it bore a passing resemblance to several recent hits by other artists, and though none is copied wholesale, the similarities were enough to paint Liberty X as followers rather than leaders.

Yet, getting those factors out of the way and putting the broader context aside, there’s no question that Jumpin’ is single-worthy. There’s much to like here, not least the production, which has a chaotically unpredictable energy. From cooly strummed guitar chords during the intro (“Everybody say…let me see you work it…everybody say”), to blaring Scandalous-esque sirens during the pre-chorus (“This time I’m gonna get it right, we’re gonna dance ‘til the morning light, all the boys and girls are out tonight, come on everybody say UH OH”), record scratches and even a glass-smashing effect after the middle-eight breakdown; everything but the kitchen sink is thrown at Jumpin’, which manages to stay (just) the right side of falling into total disarray.

Liberty X had every reason to go into a second album with confidence, and there’s a palpable sense of it throughout the track, which is teeming with attitude. Kelli Young flexes her reliably impressive vocals with a funky swagger: “Wait until the clock hits midnight, minute past I’m out the door, pick me up before you drop by, oh yeah…”; but she’s matched by Tony Lundon, who proves to be the biggest revelation of Jumpin’ by dropping some impressive falsetto during the second verse: “You know we won’t be home ‘til daylight, playing all my favourite songs, everybody’s looking so fine, oh yeah”. They both sell the track with assertion – as do the rest of the group when they join in – and there’s a clear vision of what Jumpin’ is trying to be. Threaded throughout is a catchy refrain: “Everybody say UH OH”, intended to prompt a response from dancefloors and live crowds alike. Whether it had the desired impact or not, there’s an infectious electricity about Liberty X coming off the back of a hugely successful debut album, knowing they commanded attention and using that as one of the main hooks of the song.

It culminates in a suitably anthemic chorus: “Everybody’s COMING, all the party’s JUMPIN’, and we’re gonna go CRAZY…BABY, now you HEARD IT, let me see you WORK IT, everybody say UH OH; everybody’s COMING, all the party’s JUMPIN’ and I’ll be movin’ my BODY…BODY, now you HEARD IT, let me see you WORK IT, everybody say UH OH…baby, YEAH” that is satisfyingly rousing, particularly during the final 30 seconds when there’s a subtle breakdown in the production and a crunchy electro bassline appears. However, the chorus is also where Jumpin’ most conjures a sense of déjà vu; the way the melody plays with emphasis bears a strong resemblance to Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty – released 12 months earlier – while the two songs are also thematically linked (even if Liberty X’s is far less sexually charged). That’s not to say this isn’t an enjoyable romp of a pop song composed with impressive ambition that would undoubtedly satiate the group’s fanbase. Yet, in terms of connecting with a wider audience, Dirrty remained so visible that Jumpin’ was rendered somewhat redundant from the off.

Visually – and choreographically, in particular – Liberty X go hard with this single. The video takes place in a grungy industrial-looking dance arena (which is also a storage area for mannequins…) where the group perform on a raised stage, surrounded by revellers. Unlike the smoother, rhythmic dancing that accompanied earlier tracks, Jumpin’ demands something more vigorous. The group delivers a thrashing routine full of zealous arm waving and jumping (obviously), which feels aggressive and raw. It’s given further dynamism with special effects that cause the group to shift formation around the stage. The muted aesthetic – which utilises black and white styling with lots of cold, grey backgrounds – won’t appeal to everyone, but it does fit with what the song was trying to be. Oddly, despite Jumpin’ being released as a DVD single alongside two CDs, it only included a behind-the-scenes featurette (and some audio tracks) rather than the music video itself.

Despite being heavily promoted and reaching #5 on the airplay chart, Jumpin’ was released during a busy chart week, which saw five new entries in the top 10. The track subsequently wound up peaking at #6 in the UK and ultimately sold 61,000 copies in total, ending 2003 as the 103rd biggest-seller of the year. That was hardly a disaster but did represent a slightly underwhelming comeback for Liberty X when many would have expected them to be challenging for the top spot. At this stage, though, the only real impact was perhaps a flicker of uncertainty about how the album might fare, where previously, there’d been little reason not to think it’d be a success. Alas, that is where things went unmistakably awry for Liberty X.

Several weeks later, Being Somebody debuted at #12 and spent just a month in the top 75. Reviews mostly agreed that the album suffered from being overlong (17 tracks, including a naff Intro) with a few too many similar-sounding ballads. Even so, the consensus was mainly that the material was at fault rather than the group. For the time being, at least, there remained critical goodwill for Liberty X to succeed, which is more than many acts would’ve had in the same circumstances. Maybe – in hindsight – some would argue V2 were over-ambitious in trying to launch Being Somebody at one of the busiest times of the year. Indeed, that did nothing to help soften the downward trajectory it experienced. But until Jumpin’, Liberty had only missed the top five once and proved they could sell albums, so it’s not as if the label overreached with this strategy. Instead, it’s possibly a culmination of factors: the bloated tracklist, misleadingly drab artwork, a song that wasn’t quite strong enough to carry a proper launch of the campaign and – to be brutally honest – material that didn’t always compare well to the group’s debut.

Nonetheless, one good single – a remixed Watcha Doin’ Tonight, I Just Wanna or even The Last Goodbye if they were dead set on releasing a ballad next – and possibly a re-release of Being Somebody in the new year might have been enough to turn things around. Alas, that proved easier said than done and ultimately, Jumpin’ marked the start of a decline from which Liberty X never truly recovered.

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