Point Break – What About Us

Released: 20th November 2000

Writers: David Oliver / Brett Adams / Danielle Barnett / David Charles Holmes / Declan Bennett

Peak position: #24

Chart run: 24-43-64

Despite a run of quality singles during 2000, Point Break were met with ever-diminishing commercial returns. So, as the year drew to a close and the upper echelons of the chart continued to evade them, they posed a fitting question: What About Us?

Even the most ardent fans of Point Break must have struggled to maintain optimism by the time the group released their fifth single. 2000 started well when Brett Adams, Declan Bennett, and David “Ollie” Oliver landed a top-ten hit with Stand Tough. However, they couldn’t capitalise on that with follow-ups Freakytime and You, which peaked at #13 and #14, respectively. Though hardly a commercial disaster, it was hard not to feel that both tracks had underperformed somewhat. They’re exceptionally good and, by rights, should have elevated Point Break’s profile higher still. Instead, their impact was modest, at best, and it was a similar outcome when the group released their debut album, Apocadelic, which reached #21 and exited the top 75 after three weeks.

With time running out to turn the campaign around, releasing What About Us as one of the strongest remaining tracks made perfect sense. Yet, there’s also a degree to which it rendered the outcome more or less a foregone conclusion. If Freakytime and You hadn’t captured the public’s imagination, then a third ballad in a row seemed unlikely to change things, however good it was…

What About Us very much continues the standard set by the preceding singles. It opens as a brooding, downbeat ballad with repeated whispers of: “What about us, baby what about us” introducing the first verse. While Declan Bennett had always been a prominent vocalist within Point Break, he takes the lead here and delivers a tortuously pained performance: “Look into my mind, there’s visions of you, I cannot sleep at night, for fear of the truth, should I take the blame, should I stand in your way, or is it too much too late?”. His voice echoes within the sombre production, amplifying a contemplative melancholy. What About Us is relentlessly bleak: “Look into my eyes, I’m dazed by the light, it took me by surprise, your sadness last night…” and tenderly performed in an engagingly beautiful way, ensuring every word resonates with profound sincerity.

For its release as a single, What About Us received a radio edit titled the No Rap Version, which unambiguously states the major change made to the track. In truth, it was less a rap and more of a spoken verse – reminiscent of Freakytime – which certainly fits stylistically with Point Break’s material more broadly. However, it doesn’t necessarily work so cohesively within What About Us, which is exacerbated by some awkward phrasing to make the rhyming work (“What about us, baby you know you’ve got to realise, oh come on, you know you got me hypnotised, out of control, got no soul at the stage of the game, the danger of the roll of the dice, you’re playin’ around with our lives, makin’ all the decisions no alibis…”). It’s replaced instead with a reprise of the: “What about us, baby what about us” refrain, which fills the space competently – and helps reduce the track’s duration to a radio-friendly length – but doesn’t do much more than that.

Not that it takes anything away from the main focus of What About Us. As the melody builds through a brief build-up (“Maybe it is fate that we made this mistake, now it’s too much too late…”), soaring strings emerge to accompany the reliably epic chorus: “What about us, are you scared enough that you need someone to run to, what about us, are you strong enough to throw the dream away, what about us, are you scared enough that you need someone to run to…”. It concludes with a striking hook: “…reality, come back to me, come back to me” that becomes a beautiful harmony towards the end of the track. What About Us is further evidence – if any were needed – of where Point Break excelled beyond many of their peers. Three ballads of this quality in a row is no fluke.

There’s a slight sense of déjà vu with the music video for What About Us because, much like You, it involves the group pursuing a mysterious woman through various city locations. The setup is slightly different this time in that, after pulling up in a car outside a building where Point Break are on the rooftop, she sends Brett a note, which prompts him to leave suddenly with her. Declan and Ollie then follow in puzzlement until the final moments of the video, when the woman pulls out a photo of the group and proceeds to rip Brett out of it. In horror, he runs and leaps from the building they’re on and…that’s where What About Us stops.

Though there isn’t a clear thematic link between the lyrics and the visuals, they do, nonetheless, feel appropriate for the song; built-up areas – warehouses, tunnels, industrial wasteland – create a suitably oppressive atmosphere. Furthermore, while Brett, Declan and Ollie spend the video separated – which always carries a risk of disrupting the dynamic of a group – this is compensated with plentiful cutaway shots throughout of them performing What About Us together. Yet, the overarching narrative is so open-ended and ambiguous that it almost feels like there was supposed to be a second part. However, the photograph of Point Break being torn apart proved far more significant than presumably intended…

It was disappointing, yet not wholly surprising, that What About Us continued a downward trend for Point Break and went largely unnoticed, peaking at #24. With Apocadelic failing to reenter the chart, the album campaign was now done. In some respects, the group had almost ended up going full circle back to where they started 14 months earlier when Do We Rock reached #29. By this point, their record label (Warner Music) must have been at a loss because there are no obvious reasons why Point Break didn’t get the recognition they deserved. Sure, releasing What About Us a few months later in January would’ve allowed it to take advantage of the traditional lull in sales and likely achieve a higher peak, just as Stand Tough had done. But that would’ve been a short-term fix, at best. There’s perhaps even an argument the group could have been better marketed as songwriters and musicians. Yet, even that wasn’t necessarily such a strong selling point in 2000 as it might’ve been a few years later.

Ultimately, Point Break never got an answer to the question What About Us ostensibly posed. It merely confirmed that — for whatever reason — the timing wasn’t right for the group to establish themselves as a major pop act, and they quietly split after the release of this single. It is a shame their material doesn’t get more recognition and appreciation because Point Break’s contribution to pop music, particularly their ballads, was as impressive as it was all too brief.

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