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Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Even on a cold, wet winter’s day in the UK, you’ve got to be in a pretty glum place not to feel uplifted by S Club 7’s “Reach” (often called “Reach For Stars”). It makes you feel summer has come back early…although in truth you’re only getting warmer because the heated seats in your car have kicked in…

I’m not going to pretend “Reach” is the most intellectually compelling pop song ever to hit the UK charts, but it’s an insatiably happy song and, let’s face it, we could all do with one of those every now and then. So I love it.

Writing about S Club 7 and “Reach” also allows me to pay tribute to the songwriting skills of Cathy Dennis, who wrote “Reach” along with Republica’s (“Ready To Go”) Andy Todd.

A “behind the scenes” songwriter, Cathy Dennis isn’t a name most people know, but she was responsible for some of the biggest selling songs of the early 21st Century — most recently with Swedish electronic duo Galantis, for whom she co-wrote hits like the very catchy “Runaway (U & I)”… ).

Cathy Dennis also had a reasonably successful singing career before moving into full-time songwriting — I always enjoyed her lovely cover of The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset”, for example (here if you’d like a listen…

Despite writing and performing some great songs during the on-stage part of her career, Cathy Dennis didn’t get the traction as a performer she probably deserved. But she really hit pay-dirt with her songwriting career.

Even if you don’t know Cathy Dennis’ name, you’ll know Kylie Minogue’s insanely catchy “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” (which went to Number One around the world won’t get out of your head all day now I’ve mentioned it), “Toxic” by Britney Spears and “I Kissed A Girl” by Katy Perry…all of which she co-wrote.

All told, Cathy Dennis had a hand in eight UK Number One records and has won five Ivor Novello Awards over the years. For someone who isn’t exactly in the public eye, her songs are still regularly played around the world today…in the case of “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” 20 years after its initial release. (Her co-writer, former Mud guitarist Rob Davis, also needs his share of credit for that stand-out composition…on the surface it’s a very simple song, but it’s a hugely addictive one, a trick which takes considerable songwriting skills to pull off.)

And, of course, one of the other records she co-wrote was “Reach” for S Club 7.

Sadly this wasn’t one of her Number One records, as S Club 7 stalled at Number Two in the charts with “Reach”, but it’s still one of Cathy Dennis’ career highs.

I never really got into S Club 7. My kids were the wrong age for it really.

It was one of those things I was vaguely aware of at the time — if for no other reason than the very photogenic Rachel Stevens…always billed as “Rachel Stevens from S Club 7”…was regularly pictured in most newspapers’ showbiz columns at the height of S Club 7’s popularity.

But near as I can figure out, S Club 7 were involved in a kids TV programme about some British kids who moved to the US in an attempt to make it big in Hollywood. Of course, they never did, but that wasn’t quite the point.

It was just an excuse for British TV to have some good-looking young people frolicking around in the Florida sunshine, bursting into song whenever the mood took them…which was quite frequently, apparently…

However, let’s not get too sneery about that. The truth is S Club 7 sang happy, sunny songs in happy, sunny places. And which Brit, in the middle of a cold, rainy, miserable winter’s day, wouldn’t like a bit more sunshine, even if that’s only vicariously through an S Club 7 record.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sentiments like these…

When the world leaves you feeling blue
You can count on me, I will be there for you
When it seems all your hopes and dreams
Are a million miles away, I will reassure you

That’s what the world needs, isn’t it? A bit more community spirit…a bit more picking people up when you know they’re feeling down…a supportive hand on the shoulder to remind you someone really does care about you, whatever you might think…

That’s the joy of “Reach”. S Club 7 help you feel the world is a much better place by the time they’re finished with you than it was at the start of their record…

Reach for the stars
Climb every mountain higher
Reach for the stars
Follow your heart’s desire
Reach for the stars
And when that rainbow’s shining over you
That’s when you dreams will all come true

The words themselves are uplifting, but what really makes “Reach” into such a happy song is the light, bright tone of the music. That somehow turbo-charges the already positive lyrics and is the secret sauce which makes “Reach” such a delightfully happy song.

We can thank Cathy Dennis and Andy Todd for that as well, as they produced the track between them, as well as writing it.

The video probably makes a lot less sense if you weren’t steeped in the lore of the S Club 7 TV show…frankly I’ve got very little idea what’s going on in the video, or why for that matter.

Thankfully, I don’t need to be an S Club 7 expert to appreciate a happy, bouncy, sunshine-infused piece of classic pop like “Reach”.

Nor do I need to be an S Club 7 fan to appreciate what a great songwriter Cathy Dennis is. Alongside a variety of co-conspirators, she pretty much ruled the radio airwaves of the early 2000s and wrote some of my favourite songs from that period (and I bet you still haven’t got the hypnotic “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” out of your head yet either…).

But S Club 7 make a great job of “Reach”. It’s just the song you need when it’s cold and wet outside and you’d rather climb back under the duvet than go to work.

It’s days like that “Reach” is what you need to hear. You’ll be out of bed and on your way to work in no time…with a spring in your step into the bargain…

There’s a place waiting just for you
It’s a special place where your dreams all come true
Fly away, swim the ocean blue
Drive that open road, leave the past behind you
Don’t stop, gotta keep moving
Your hopes, gotta keep building
Never forget that
I’ve got you and you’ve got me

Here’s S Club 7 with “Reach”… (if you’re interested, Rachel Stevens is in a blue sparkly top in the video below…the female lead on “Reach” is by Jo O’Meara, though — she’s in the pink sparkly vest top)…

If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here…

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Without words, it’s just a nice tune. Add words — now you’ve got a song. And songs can change your world. I write about some that changed mine.

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