Friday, March 24th, 2017

Steps – Scared of the Dark

Today’s theme is “Boys & Girls.” Wait, wrong group. Well anyway, clearly we know who the better British “90s stars” act this week was.


Claire Biddles: In a climate of comebacks that bend and stretch themselves to the shape of trends in chart music, that aim to disguise themselves against the top ten, “Scared of the Dark” feels like a rare diamond. Like Pet Shop Boys before them, Steps do not give a shit about pop trends but they do give a shit about pop music, valiantly making a comeback with a song that’s alien from everything else in the charts, but that feels (and I know how corny this sounds, to borrow some kind of superhero cliché) like what pop needs at the moment. The Ed Sheeran Chart Dominance Discourse™ is getting boring, but it’s undeniably exciting to hear this deeply unfashionable anomaly creeping into the top 40, sandwiched between the whole of Divide and countless cheap streaming-bait tropical hits. Its difference isn’t its whole appeal of course, not even close — taken without context it’s a classic Steps crying-while-you-do-a-synchronised-dance-routine single, like “One For Sorrow” or “Last Thing On My Mind” or “Deeper Shade of Blue”. The sheer audacity of “Scared of the Dark” is astonishing, and it’s high drama from the off — maximal production, thumping bass, disco strings, Claire-from-Steps’ massive belting high notes. It’s giving EVERYTHING and it’s a fucking triumph and if it doesn’t make your heart feel like it’s bursting from your chest with unabashed joy then I’m sorry but there is nothing pop music can do for you. I wish I could give it [11]. 

Katie Gill: It’s like disco, Kylie Minogue, and Abba got drunk off of cosmopolitans and had a threesome. There’s danger in this dated sound, but Steps manages to blow straight past that by their sheer lack of fucks to give. It’s bright, fun, borderline tacky at certain points, and doesn’t give a damn about current pop music conventions. So naturally, I LOVE IT. Why the hell can’t Britain submit something like THIS for Eurovision?

Alfred Soto: This isn’t disco or even disco-inflected so much as a remix of a Shania Twain song, preferably from Up! Bubblelicious in a middle aged pub turn sort of way, which means it tries too hard to make a show of having a good time.

Will Adams: The same disco-string revival as Agnes’ “Release Me” with about half the chorus, twice the vocal tracks, and plus one unnecessary key change.

Hannah Jocelyn: Even more so than Take That, Steps seems all but completely obscure in America, unless I’m mistaken, and listening to “Scared of The Dark”, it makes sense why. The American charts, Sheeranocalypse aside, are currently depressing and tuneless (if mostly in a good way), and nothing like this could ever be popular here. It’s definitely refreshing to hear something this unabashedly pop, and with a key change from verse to chorus that’s as unnecessary as the one in “Green Light” was necessary. But even “Green Light” didn’t pull a key change again like “Scared of The Dark” does. The joy of this song almost makes it sound dated, but it’s also too well-crafted to actually dislike. 

Edward Okulicz: Claire’s “stay.. by.. my.. side” is this close to infringing on the copyright of Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart,” but it’s a deliciously camp take on the dramatic exaggeration of the stakes of loneliness that I’d forgive it even if a lawsuit didn’t. It’s too stiff to be disco, but as theatre, it’s hilarious, tears-in-the-toilets stuff for gays and people with horrible taste. I don’t mean that as an insult, though; as far as what a comeback should be for a cheap ‘n’ cheerful pop group, this ticks all the boxes and is far better than expected. The attention to detail in the backing vocal swoons and strings suggests that a lot of effort has gone into this, and for once I am rapturously thrilled to have been born a gay man.

Katherine St Asaph: A pop song that doubles as pop trivia, in that it’s an interesting exercise to figure out everything being pastiched (the obvious ones: “Un-Break My Heart,” “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)”, “I Will Survive”). A winner is announced, a prize is awarded, then everyone secretly, guiltily listens to the song again on their way home.

Jonathan Bradley: The 1990s are back again if you go to the right DJ’s pub nostalgia night, and Steps don’t want you to forget it. This has a chorus with enough synth stabs to fill time between Whigfield and East 17, and a key change to make you wish you hadn’t. The points are for, nearly two decades after “Last Thing On My Mind,” still putting numbers on the board.

Micha Cavaseno: You know when you’ve called in sick and mutter something half-heartedly about getting a stomach bug or something, and the manager on call is audibly looking through you and your bullshit? Likewise, any sense of fear, need or any sort of feeling is definitely not here, and frankly I’m wondering why these folks even bothered to phone it in here.

Reader average: [6.75] (8 votes)

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9 Responses to “Steps – Scared of the Dark”

  1. team ‘gays and people with horrible taste’ 4eva

  2. I will proudly be a card-carrying member of that team.

  3. Thinking this would be good for Eurovision is the kind of misunderstanding of how the contest works that leads to entries like Scooch.

  4. Funnily enough given how this song managed to actually chart during the Sheeran Chart Apocalypse one of the songwriters of this co-wrote this. With, you know, Ed Sheeran.

  5. Claire, Katie & Edward totally get it. It’s remarkable that it made it to the Top 10 Download Chart (i refuse to acknowledge the chart with streaming included) considering our current zeitgeist & I love it so much. Filled to the brim with joy.

  6. re: Feathers, considering how abysmally mediocre I found last year’s Eurovision entries, I WELCOME a return to Scooch levels of camp. At least for me, Eurovision’s always been a mix of “really good songs that end up winning” and “the hot campy messes that everybody ends up talking about.” The fact that Eurovision entries as a whole seem to be easing up on the blatant camp really grinds my gears–something like “Scared of the Dark” certainly wouldn’t win but with a properly bonkers production, it would at least pull Britain out of it’s depressing Eurovision talent slump. plus like, I voted for Cezar so that tells you my taste levels right there.

  7. I’m onto you Alfred. A few more Shania references and bam, you will have wished that mythical new album into existence.

  8. this song is ridiculous and made me gayer

  9. I suppose there’s only two options for scores for a Steps song, and better this than 5.67…