Imagine, if you can, a world in which the bestselling, ultra camp British pop troupe behind hits like “Tragedy,” “Stomp” and “One For Sorrow” decided to reform twenty years after their debut to release a huge, unrelenting up dance-pop record in the year 2017. A song that completely side-steps the moody midtempos, the tired tropical House template, the chorus-free beat breakdowns. A song that sounds like it was lifted directly from the track listing of Light Years, one of Kylie Minogue‘s most glittery, most gay records to date.
STEPS just did it. They did that. STEPS just saved pop.
The thing is, “Scared Of The Dark” is so boldly anti-radio, so anti-“cool,” and so entirely out of place in these morbid. moody times that it’s essentially a heroic move.
If it’s possible for a song to sound dated in a good way, that’s what “Scared” is: it just sounds as though the “5, 6, 7, 8” troupe carried on with their signature pop sound, updating the production value to 2017 standards, pretending like the last fifteen years of music just…never happened.
Specific incredible moments in “Scared Of The Dark” include a dramatic, string-filled opening that channels Kylie’s “Your Disco Needs You,” the predominantly female-led vocals throughout, especially Claire’s (legitimately incredible) belting — and of course, that massive, ABBA-level key change which would have the Eurovision crowd leaping to their feet in thunderous applause. (And Lisa! On a record again! Lisa! Electric! B-List! At! Capital! Scott! Lee!)
Upon their return, the group made a promise to uplift at a time when the world so deeply needs something to make them dance. Whether the general public will hear this (if they hear it at all!) and think of the track the same way? I’m unsure — and unbothered. (Update: oh, they’re definitely listening.)
Because, at least for this disco-pop loving homo in particular, my emo state of mind has briefly dissipated.
And it’s not as though the song doesn’t apply to these troubled times. Those dance-the-tears-away lyrics are actually quite fitting: “The way you move, I’m forgetting all the ghosts in my mind.”
It makes me want to frolic! And scream-sing! “NEEEEEHHVAH BE SCARED OF THE DARK!”
Too many reunions and comebacks by too many ’90s and early ’00s acts result in limp attempts to revive their glory days — or worse, get trendy. Not so for STEPS. Incredibly.
Thank god for good, unpretentious, unapologetic pop music.
VIVA LA STEPS.
“Scared of the Dark” was released on March 10.