Steps have announced plans for a new album, and I know I should feel excited, but I feel sad and deflated. This may come as a surprise to nearest and dearest to know that I am less than enthusiastic – whether that’s my loving parents, who bought me every Steps album in existence, my Auntie who took me to one of their amazing 90s concerts, or whoever gave me plastic Faye Tozer for Christmas. Even though Lisa was my favourite.
After all, as a child, Steps weren’t just a band to me, but a religion. When I first heard 5,6,7,8, I felt as though Handel had been reincarnated, and that the spirit of his Messiah had been transported into this classic hit. The music did something to me; it made me feel connected to something great out there. A Disco God, who’d sent Steps to save earth from Adam Rickitt.
It was never cool to like Steps, even if you were nine years old, which is why I’m sceptical about those who proclaim their affections now. Were they the same people who used to laugh at me when I sang Tragedy around the playground? Or when I proclaimed that H wasn’t gay, dreaming that one day he would whisper “lay all your love on me” into my Steps-loving ear?
Buying Steps albums was like voting for Donald Trump. Lots of people did it, but they didn’t always fess up. The swathes of Spice Girls fanatics would never understand why someone would go for the arresting staccato of Stomp. Occasionally something would betray the sign of a secret Steps fan – some sparkles falling out of a pocket, or a cowboy hat protruding from a backpack, perhaps. These were the symbols that told you it was ok. You weren’t alone anymore.
When Steps broke up in 2001, I barely noticed, in spite of my childhood fanaticism. Probably because I was twelve, and onto more ‘adult’ pursuits like staring at the boy in my street with binoculars. I was becoming a woman, and Steps were a symptom of my childhood; Chain Reaction, One for Sorrow and Heartbeat simply the soundtrack to years of obesity and sticker collecting. Chapter over.
Or so I thought, because the Steps story seemed to be a never-ending one. In the time since their demise, they have taken part in numerous television shows, the most traumatic being Steps: The Reunion. I say traumatic because it ruined my incredible memories. The episodes revealed nothing than a disturbing truth: Steps are not constantly happy. In fact, thanks to Sky, I now know that line dancing was simply a guise for a great range of interpersonal issues.
There were more Steps appearances after. H went on Big Brother, and Lisa Scott-Lee also had her own spin off, where she tried to reinvigorate her music career. Relax, Lisa, you’ve had a good run! I wanted to say, but she could not hear me in TV land.
The trouble with these reunions, whether on the stage or the television, is that they do become a strange betrayal of original fans. That is, the ones who were children when Steps came out. I know it sounds dramatic, but there’s something nice about being able to put a band in a passage of time, where they can forever live as heroes. Good things are made all the better when they are allowed to come to an end.
That was what Steps was; they were more than good, they were perfection to me. But as they try to cling on to their original project, as I watch on – aged twenty-eight – I cannot say I feel the same. I fear that’s what happens, as the Steps song goes, ‘after the love has gone’.