S Club 7


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Determined to prove they weren't just the manufactured pop puppets of media mogul and manager Simon Fuller, S Club 7 took a much more hands-on role for album number three, Sunshine, co-writing five of its 13 tracks and sharing the vocal duties much more evenly than their two previous efforts, S Club and 7. Established songwriters Cathy Dennis and Eliot Kennedy were still on board to steer the ship, but apart from the forgettable, watered-down R&B of "I Will Find You," the band's self-penned compositions ensured their path to teen pop dominance remained on course, with the laid-back grooves of the Fleetwood Mac-sampling "Summertime Feeling," the sugary sweet '50s pastiche "You," and of course, their uplifting chart-topper "Don't Stop Movin'" a feel-good fusion of '70s disco strings and "Billie Jean" beats; both are just as accomplished as their more experienced collaborators' efforts. Eschewing the slight urban vibes of its predecessor, the Eurovision-style harmonies of the Alcazar-esque "Dance Dance Dance," and the all-smiling, all-dancing brass-fused Motown of "It's Alright" are also worthy additions to their canon of bubblegum pop classics, but unlike their previous offerings, the anthemic pop ballad eludes them this time round. "Have You Ever" is a dreary attempt to replicate the formula of the far superior Disney-esque ballad "Never Have a Dream Come True" (which for some reason, also appears here as a bonus track), while the title track is an overly simplistic midtempo number which fails to shake the feeling that its vocalist Jon is far better suited to the stages of Broadway than the stages of Wembley Arena. Indeed, with all seven members allowed a solo lead for the first time, Sunshine is the first real opportunity to compare each S Club member's abilities, and while Paul's young Billy Joel impression on the summery acoustic pop of "Good Thing" suggests he deserved a few more shots at the limelight, Tina's strained vocals on the Gallic disco of "Stronger" and the non-descript whisperings of Rachel on "Show Me Your Colours" explains why Jo managed to grab most of the lines. Mirroring the optimistic outlook of its title, Sunshine is a relentlessly upbeat and infectious affair which stands head and shoulders above their fellow boy/girl rivals, Steps, and their third effort, but Sunshine's lack of progression from their debut explains why their more mature follow-up was so difficult to pull off.

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