The other day my boyfriend casually mentioned to me that Steps were at the number two spot behind Ed Sheeran in the UK album charts, and their successful reunion had also yielded a well-recieved single.
“……what?!” I responded, struggling to believe that this was actually 2017 and I hadn’t somehow time traveled back to 1998. Seeing I still had an adult body instead of that of a seven year old child – I realised we were in fact still in modern day 2017, this wasn’t a joke and I now needed to see this new material that had managed to launch Steps into relevancy again.
When Steve pressed play on the YouTube video for their single ‘Scared Of The Dark’ – which was touting over a million views – I guess I was expecting to hear an incredible tune that warranted their seemingly out of the blue success again. Instead, it just sounded like a standard Eurovision entry; a disco pop harmony of female and male voices – the same Steps from years of yore. Their video even had all the elements of the 90’s pop era; coordinating outfits, H doing intense stares into the camera and a group dance routine; all of which you forget are so dated and cheesy until you see them in action nearly two decades later.
“This album is number 2 in the charts?!” I was baffled. It was just a standard Steps song, but I guess that was the point; it sounded exactly like Steps had when I was a kid – and people in the comments were loving it:
‘The fact it still “feels” like Steps is the best thing here, so many bands come back and they dont feel the same.’
‘I’m a metal head but I was obsessed with Steps as a kid and this makes me feel like a child again. It’s a great feeling’
‘Wow Steps really haven’t Lost it , infact they are so much better now!’
‘Back to good songs and music just what’s been missing in these modern times of shit rapping etc’
It would appear from the thread of comments below the video that the modern times of “shit rapping etc” have finally met their match in this new release from Steps. Step off Kendrick, you’re irrelevant now. I honestly thought there was some kind of conspiracy as I read one positive comment after the next; just like how you can buy YouTube views and subscribers, I thought maybe they had paid people to leave such flattering praise – but no, it was real, genuine support.
Let’s be honest here, it’s not an amazing song. It’s just …a song. The Steps superfans in the comments who declare it a return to ‘real music’ are not people I would be able to last a long car journey with – but music taste is all subjective and they’re welcome to think that. I think the majority of support Steps have garnered is because they’ve managed to evoke that nostalgia we all have filed away in our brains under ‘when things in the world didn’t seem so bad’. Usually when a 90’s band reforms they attempt to modernize their sound a little, but Steps stepped straight back into their matching leather and chiffon getups and sang the same ol’ same ol’, and it’s worked for them. You can’t knock Steps for sounding like Steps. You could knock them for trying to sound like Kendrick Lamar though.
It was only announced a few days ago that Bananarama are also reuniting for a tour, seemingly cashing in on this second coming of musical escapism and nostalgia comeback craze. Bands from previous decades reforming is nothing new, but bands from previous decades reforming to be themselves – rather than trying to release new sounding music – seems to be the way to go. Instead of trying to fit their bulky Nokia 5110 into an iPhone 7 shaped hole, they’re just being the Nokia 5110. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
Nostalgia is a powerful feeling, especially nostalgia that can be triggered by our senses; like listening to music or smelling something that reminds you of your childhood. (Sidenote -that second article link has THE cutest dog photo ever.) Just like how drugs can neurologically hijack your brain and (temporarily) make you feel good, I think there’s money to be made in the products of nostalgia that can evoke the same kind of happy, distracting feelings. Okay, heroin and Steps are two completely different things – but the point is that anything that evokes human emotion and feeling will always be a powerful force and a business opportunity.
I have, on occasion, obsessively smelled a candle or a perfume that reminds me of a certain time. You know, just closing your eyes, getting a good *sniff* of nostalgia and sinking back into those memories for a few fleeting moments. Listening to a new Steps track that sounds like the old Steps transports people back to the 90’s; when negative media wasn’t shoved into our realm of consciousness 24/7 and the Saturday night telly lineup was the highlight of the week. It’s like a mild form of escapism – a little boost in the midst of some challenging times for mother Earth. It’s also considerably less life ruining than turning to actual, harmful forms of escapism.
If someone made a candle that smelled like the warm, wax crayon and wooden chair scent of the junior infants classroom, would I buy it? Yes, in a heartbeat. If they made one that smelled like lunchtime in primary school would I buy it? No, that shit was the worst, most gag-inducing thing ever. Just thinking about the smell of children opening their lunch boxes in primary school makes me shudder. I can still the balls of white bread tumbling around in wide open child mouths.. UGH!
But I digress, music or smells can take us back to both bad or good times. Find something that triggers the latter feeling in humans, and I think you’re destined for success and revenue – no matter how simple and unrefined the product seems. I’m not going to haughtily dismiss the Steps comeback from a condescending implied lack of musical taste point of view; if people are having fun and remembering pleasant times, I say leave them to it. And if you ever see me and I’m obsessively smelling a Yankee candle, please also leave me to it.
– Aisling Abbey