The celebration of 20 years of Steps has officially begun. A countdown towards what is rumoured to be the announcement of a new album and tour has begun on the band’s official Twitter page. Furiously loyal Steps fans have already noticed a release titled Tears On The Dancefloor has appeared on some retail sites. In anticipation of the return of pop music’s most unapologetically cheesy band, I’ve counted down their Top 15 musical moments, in anticipation os all the wonder yet to come on a new album from everybody’s favourite line-dancing five-piece. (Spoiler Alert: ‘Dancing Queen’ isn’t one of them.)
15. Love U More
Kicking off the countdown with the song that should have been a single. With lyrics like, “you can make the sun turn purple, you can make the sea turn turtle,” they really missed a trick by passing on the single treatment for this one. Pete Waterman famously described Steps as “ABBA on speed,” and it’s on ‘Love U More” that description works more than any of their other songs. The verse is pretty sweet, with a typically great Claire vocal, but by the time the beat drops and that minor key chorus kicks in it becomes one of the best tracks Steps never released.
14. Light Up The World
Dare I say it, but I’ve always thought ‘Light Up The World’ to be a brilliant Steps single. It might not be the most upbeat Christmas single, but it’s up there in terms of quality with many from recent years. An anthemic ballad, complete with glittering glissando, lush strings and a soaring final chorus, it’s one of the most mature songs the band ever recorded. Everybody gets a turn on vocals, something that seemed a real bone of contention during Steps Reunion. Sadly it didn’t perform well, peaking at number eighty-two in October 2012.
In 2000, when Steps were promoting their upcoming third album Buzz, it was revealed they’d been in the studio with the writer of Jennifer Paige’s ‘Crush’ writing what they referred to as an Ace of Base revival, and I for one was there for it. It turned out that the album was much more varied than just a reggae-pop throwback, but ‘Buzzz’ and ‘Happy Go Lucky’ made it on the record, and they worked. Should have been a single – #JusticeForBuzzz, etc.
12. Love’s Got A Hold On My Heart
The lead single from Steptacular, the band’s second album, and features an incredible video – with top styling, I might add – that see’s the band recovering Steps: The Movie from thieves in Cannes. Don’t worry, they get it back, and they watch it in the cinema (alone, but they seem to enjoy it). ‘Love’s Got A Hold On My Heart’ is so cheesy that it’s almost indescribable, and it’s a clear nod to the success of ‘One For Sorrow’ with the camp dial ramped up to eleven. Either way, it’s iconic, brilliant, amazing and totally Steps.
11. Paradise Lost
Described as the sister track to Buzz lead single ‘Summer Of Love’ and absolutely bloody excellent, this late summer’s evening jam should have been released as a single without a doubt. Every and has one song that reaches beyond their genre (B*Witched – ‘Blame It On The Weatherman’, East 17 – ‘Stay Another Day’, Spice Girls – ‘Viva Forever’) and this is Steps’ transcendent hit that never was. Listen to the ‘La Isla Bonita’ channelling smash right now and appreciate how excellent it is. Thank me later.
‘Heartbeat’ was released as a double A-side single with ‘Tragedy’ and went on to be Steps’ breakout single, and first number-one. That success was due, no doubt, to Faye’s iconic dreadlocks and leather catsuit ensemble in the video, plus the controversy sparked by their breaking into Tilda Swinton’s home and beating her pet dwarves. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore… *sigh*
9. One For Sorrow
‘One For Sorrow’ was the third single to be released from Steps’ debut album Step One. And it proved to be hugely successful, narrowly missing out on the top spot in 1998 but spending eleven weeks in the chart. We learned years later, that Claire taking the lead vocal essentially made the other girls hate her, but it wouldn’t have been the same song without her lung power behind it. It was their first step from out of the novelty category they’d been boxed into since ‘5,6,7,8’, and one that still sounds great today.
8. After The Love Has Gone
Steps always loved a theme, and what could offer a costume opportunity more than an Orient-influenced single? ‘After The Love Has Gone’ is Steps in full-on ABBA homage mode, and it’s bloody brilliant. Claire’s vocal is epic, and the bittersweet melody over the uptempo backing is a clear nod to ‘The Winner Takes It All’. The video was filmed at the Universal Studios backlot in Orlando while the band were on tour with Britney. (You know, that time when H wouldn’t use the tour bus like everybody else and just had to fly on Britney’s jet.) So you can have fun looking for that subtext while enjoying the video.
7. Here & Now
‘Here & Now’ is an excellent Steps single, except for that H lead vocal… You can tell that Claire’s heart wasn’t really in it by this point though, the despondency on her face is almost comical to watch in the video. It’s all worth it on the chorus though, when the track drops out and Claire ad-libs over the rest of the band. Why we never got a solo album from her, I’ll never know…
At the point ‘Stomp’ was released, I honestly believed Steps were the coolest band on the planet. I mean, that video is sublime isn’t it. The dance routines were getting more complex, and hours of practicing in my room paid off in Popstastic every thursday night, when Steps got played and the place went off. What a time to be alive. ‘Stomp’ was also released in a much simpler time when you could essentially rip off a song (Chic – ‘Everybody Dance’) but call it an homage to the original and get away with it no questions asked. Take me back…
5. It’s The Way You Make Me Feel
Steps hit the big leagues with this one. Written by Jörgen Elofsson of Cheiron Studios (Max Martin) fame who was responsible for production on many of Britney’s earliest hits. That influence is all over ‘It’s The Way You Make Me Feel’ which was likely written with Britney, N*SYNC or Backtreet Boys in mind – H does his best Britney impression on the chorus’ “the way that you make me feel” sections, and it’s all kinds of brilliant awkward. The video is also incredible, and was inspired by Dangerous Liasons and sees the band having a go at ‘acting’. An absolute classic, not just for seeing H flirting with one of the female dancers back when he was straight.
4. Better Best Forgotten
‘Better Best Forgotten’ is probably my favourite Steps single from Step One. BUT, and this is an important but, the definitive version is the album version with the proper a Capella ending, not the god awful single edit that fades out. Glad we cleared that up. Oddly, the video doesn’t exist on YouTube, which is a shame because it’s quite funny. Here you can watch them performing the track on TOTP. See how the crowd is instructed to surround them to protect them from the sneering gaze of the ‘real’ artists that were performing that week. Also see the style in the crowd. The nineties were wonderful in so many ways, but oh so cruel in others. One word: curtains. *shudders*
3. Deeper Shade Of Blue
I think Steps were always aware their fan base was primarily made up of gay men, but it wasn’t until ‘Deeper Shade Of Blue’ that they truly embraced their gay following by essentially venturing into S&M, and finally getting Lee to take his top off. I mean, this video is a true work of art, isn’t it? Interestingly, for a single that’s so highly regarded, it’s one of their weakest performing tracks. It entered the charts at number-four, and only spent one more week in the top ten. It was most likely ahead of its time. Gaga basically based her whole career on what she saw in this video as a young New Yorker. Would Christina’s ‘Not Myself Tonight’ have happened without ‘Deeper Shade Of Blue?’ No, is the answer to that question. Trailblazers. If you want a real sense of my teenage years, grab a bottle of poppers and stick on ‘Deeper Shade Of Blue (Sleazesisters Anthem Mix).’ You’re welcome.
2. Chain Reaction
Incredible cover of an incredible song. Better than the original, some might say. Those bongos just go off, don’t they. I’d stopped learning the dance routines at this point, and it looks like Claire really wishes she could have too. What else is there to say? It’s all about that final chorus, the bongos are going crazy, Claire’s about to give herself a hernia as the key just keeps on shifting higher, and the rest of the band are dancing like maniacs. Then, all of a sudden it’s over, and you just need to stick it on again. That, music fans, is true joy.
1. Summer Of Love
I could write an essay on how much I love this song. ‘Summer Of Love’ is a joyous, euphoric Summer sensational smash that should have been number one for 6 weeks during the school holidays. The minimalist, West Side Story-themed, Good Steps vs. Bad Steps video treatment is a work of genius. We are not worthy of all that Steps gave us with this blockbuster Latin-influenced club banger for the masses. Pair it with ‘Paradise Lost’ as a song that captures the sun-scorched lust of a holiday romance and you have yourself an example of true artistry in action. Now, lay back and feast as this audio guides you through new and exciting dance routines from the legendary pop act that is Steps.