28
May 15

STEPS – “Stomp”

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#878, 28th October 2000

Stepsstomp A visit to budget supermarket Aldi is a pop semiotician’s delight. The shelves are lined with Aldi’s own versions of name brands, all designed to trick – or reassure – the mind that what you’re buying is almost the authentic one, or at least so close in look as to be close in quality. The game is always to create packs that feel as near to the model brand as possible without actually drawing down any lawyerly wrath.

At Asda, for instance – where name brands sit alongside the store ones – the own-label version of Coco Pops is called Choco Snaps and features a bemused bear, not a cheeky monkey, and a large black banner with the supermarket logo. Aldi has no such modesty: its Choco Rice comes in the bright yellow livery of Kelloggs’ and has a monkey of its own. Working as Aldi’s designers must be an entertaining job, with a measure of critical analysis required to negotiate the gap between the identifiable parts of a brand and the legally defensible ones.

And here we are at Steps’ “Stomp”, a song whose guts and foundation is Chic’s “Everybody Dance”, whose chorus is about everybody dancing, whose CD single – according to Discogs – carries the note “A Tribute To Nile Rodgers And Bernard Edwards”… and yet it isn’t “Everybody Dance”. And the “tribute” is of the kind that doesn’t involve writing credits. “Stomp” is the Aldi Choco Rice of pop, a song that is trying as hard as possible to be another song while making certain it doesn’t get there. “Would my honourable friend please acknowledge that clapping is a movement of the hands, whereas to stomp is a motion of the feet? The songs are clearly quite different.”

If you sit down to a bowl of Choco Rice, you’re still going to get a faceful of sugary cereal with doubtful nutritional value. And “Stomp”, while it’s playing, carries off its Chic impression with good-natured gusto. Steps were often cheap and often cheerful, and if those weren’t their very best qualities it’s fair enough that they landed the group at Number One twice. Even so “Stomp” is a strange record, very easy to ignore, its careful tinkering with a familiar classic somehow ending up as even more unnecessary than one of the era’s rash of cover versions. Other hits of 2000 explored disco as a space for drama and possibility: “Stomp” is closer to the majority experience of disco as it likely was – colourful, happy, tacky and forgettable.

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Comments

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  1. 1
    Mark G on 28 May 2015 #

    And a grand total of four weeks in the top twenty.

    I have to advise, however, the “Mr Choc” version of “Twix” is much nicer than the original.

  2. 2
    wichitalineman on 28 May 2015 #

    So it’s not the Brothers Johnson song? Agh! Full on false memory syndrome.

  3. 3
    lonepilgrim on 28 May 2015 #

    there are familiar but indefinable hints of other songs in there as well (possibly ABBA) making a bland blend of generic hooks that provide a sugary rush with little substance. Hard to remember enough to hate or love

  4. 4
    Mark G on 28 May 2015 #

    #2 yeah me too, had it playing in my mind as clear as.

    Somebody must have done a pop-lite version of the Bros’ J song, surely?

  5. 5
    Shiny Dave on 28 May 2015 #

    Cheap thrills indeed, but I think it’s a bit better than this makes out. Not nearly as interesting as Spiller or even Modjo, but as someone unfamiliar with “Everybody Dance” this pretty much just registered as a bouncy primary-coloured pop song. The (sampled?) strings definitely add a lot to it, and make it sound less cheap. It’s a solid 6 for me.

    Notable for making an appearance on European versions of Japanese arcade smash dancing game Dance Dance Revolution. Said European versions were referred to as “Dancing Stage,” reportedly because the DDR acronym carried… less favourable connotations in part of Europe. (A future bunny – one that samples ABBA, which makes for a rather apt link from Steps – will actually feature a Dancing Stage machine in the video. Oddly enough, I don’t think that particular bunny actually appears in any of the games, but there are multiple 2000s bunnies that do.)

  6. 6
    The Arn on 28 May 2015 #

    And the thing about ‘own brand’ stuff is as they’re designed to piggy back on the success of others and their design’s so close to something more memorable (fair bit of Chic, hint of Abba) they end up not having enough impact of their own to linger in the memory beyond the minute or two it takes to consume them. With the hook being the dance steps it means Steps are essentially ephemeral, meaning very little beyond the three and a bit minutes you might have found yourself dancing to. Probably wouldn’t even be remembered at the end of a night by most to be honest. The moment’s long gone now though, so this practically evaporates on contact.

    Mind you, I’d probably more generous if Summer of Love had made it to the top, it’s a better embrace of the cheap and cheerful Steps ethos and it’s got more verve to it.

  7. 7
    Shiny Dave on 28 May 2015 #

    Summer of Love was a bit good, yes. Also a good example of how Steps were often at least vocally a bit ambitious – can’t think of too many songs in any sub-genre of pop with a belted chorus that consistently high.

    They were absolutely followers rather than leaders, though. They were equipped to produce a string of solid bubblegum hits, and they did precisely that, and then went away early enough for a trailing wave of teenagers to be left wanting more.

    A few of them in my then-home town Weymouth – at least three went to my secondary school – actually ended up almost instantly forming a Steps tribute band called Here & Now. Such was the ephemeral nature of Steps that by July 2003 they were already moving away from just doing Steps.

    The “Lee” in that group is now a West End performer, a reminder of the porous boundaries between the theatrical and pop stages these days.

  8. 8
    Chelovek na lune on 28 May 2015 #

    Cheap and cheerful and brightly coloured – Tom’s review says it all, really. Not substantive enough to be dislikeable, nor particularly memorable, and I daresay worse 70s disco pastiches have been constructed (though none come immediately to mind…)

    I am reluctant to categorise Steps alongside the likes of Hot Chocolate or U2 as bands whose chart-toppers were not representative of them being them at the best that they could be, but really they did a far better job of ripping off Abba than trying to imitate Chic. (Curious, though, isn’t it, that it was this and “Tragedy” that got them to no 1. With five no 2s alongside them, it’s clear that the chance of release dates/seasonal singles markets played a large part in that)

    But still, meh, really. 3 or 4

  9. 9
    Izzy on 28 May 2015 #

    To my surprise I did know this, and somehow can’t ever have clocked it as Everybody Dance before, because I laughed like a drain just now at the sheer cheek of it.

    It’s a pretty good effort to be fair to them, and ‘if you must rip something off, rip off Chic’ is a decent maxim to live by. (7)

  10. 10
    Rory on 28 May 2015 #

    Wait, are they singing about “the spice of life”? You’ve gotta love the chutzpah… if not the song itself. 4 sounds about right.

  11. 11
    thefatgit on 28 May 2015 #

    Memory jogged by the “Everybody Dance” lift. Yeah, if somebody asked me what Steps were all about, I’d point them to “5,6,7,8”…but thinking about it some more, I guess “Stomp” sums them up a little more accurately. 5 for the sugar rush.

  12. 12
    AMZ1981 on 28 May 2015 #

    Steps managed to rack up fourteen consecutive top ten singles (never charting lower than 6) and would probably have added to that had they not disbanded in 2001. Heartbeat/ Tragedy was obviously their biggest hit but their only other number one sneaked through in a quietish sales week. They did better songs like this and I think even hardcore Steps fan might be hard pressed to get both their chart toppers (they’d get one but not the other).

    Far more interesting was what happened at number two that week. Two weeks previously Baha Men entered at number twelve with Who Let The Dogs Out. A week later it dropped to fourteen only to suddenly jump to the number two slot. In the year of the instant number one it was a rare example of a record suddenly catching fire after a few weeks under the radar. It was also a novelty record and a vile, misogynistic one at that. It was also the fourth biggest selling single of 2000.

  13. 13
    wichitalineman on 29 May 2015 #

    Absolutely no memory of this (apart from the Brothers Johnson cover that my brain falsely remembers). It’s a decent enough song, with enough melodic twists to elevate it about total Chic steal, but the production is decidedly cut-price and lets it down: the syn-drums as sledgehammer disco signifier, the clipped guitar that is almost certainly a low-grade sample (session guitarist too pricy).

    There’s a moment around 2.40 where it couldn’t sound more English and weedy (not necessarily an insult), very Prestatyn – like it’s attempting to rehash something by Bucks Fizz or Guys & Dolls rather than Chic.

    The video is an extended riff on an old Yellow Pages ad.

  14. 14
    ace inhibitor on 29 May 2015 #

    The own-brand analogy is spot on. I’m a sucker for own brand footwear, the labelling of which can be quite witty: I’ve owned a pair of Nick trainers, and more subtly a pair of Woodworld boots (took me a while to spot the reference point there)

  15. 15
    DanusJonus on 29 May 2015 #

    I always found myself pretty ambivalent about Steps, I could see their appeal but then their songs would slip from my mind so quickly that I often forgot what that appeal was. I think the derivative nature of Stomp is part of its charm.

    It’s probably saying something that the part of Tom’s review I focused on was ‘Other hits of 2000 explored disco as a space for drama and possibility.’ I thought for a minute that he was going to go into a discussion on Space Disco. Which got me thinking; there was a lot of songs in the charts around 2000 that were heavily disco influenced. Why did Space Disco never make a come back? Spooks in Space by The Aural Exciters (oh my what a song that is!) would have done well again around 2000.

    (NB: I was going to put a link to Spooks in Space, but didn’t know the protocol and thus felt uncomfortable about it).

    I think a 4 is entirely spot-on for Stomp.

  16. 16
    Phil on 29 May 2015 #

    Admittedly I’m hungover at the moment – possibly the worst time to listen to a song like this, let alone watch that awful video – but that’s bad, on so many levels. I’ll go as high as 3, on the grounds that it’s not actively offensive as long as you only listen to about 20 seconds at a time. I’m going to put the Chic track on again – it’s positively soothing in comparison (Nile & Bernard always knew what to leave out).

  17. 17
    James BC on 29 May 2015 #

    We’re definitely into late-period (and declining) Steps here. Comment number 1 about only 4 weeks in the top 20 is very telling, as in their early days Steps were notable for bucking the chart trend of the time and having very long chart runs. 5-6-7-8 sold tons without even making the top 10 and it wasn’t the only example.

    So here “the mighty” Steps suffer a bit of an indignity, having turned into another 00s pop act with enough fanbase and radio support to make number 1, but no wider impact. I doubt this would be in many fans’ top 5 Steps songs, and non-fans (who may love Last Thing On My Mind or One For Sorrow) are unlikely to remember it at all.

  18. 18
    Phil on 29 May 2015 #

    Might I add that Everybody Dance (which I actually don’t think I’d heard before) is an absolute joy, even with a hangover. There can’t be much hangover-friendly dance music, when you think about it, but that definitely qualifies.

  19. 19
    Chris on 29 May 2015 #

    For some reason, I find the middle eight/drop at 2:40 profoundly annoying.. and one of the reasons I started avoiding ILR stations completely. The rest of the song is so nondescript as to be forgettable.
    Seeing the video now is hilarious – attempting to depict “party people” whilst only hinting at debauchery, “bling” with kid-friendly dance routines & Blue Peter badges. But at least they look vaguely human in comparison to the more generic clones of today, most of whom probably view this as nostalgia.

  20. 20
    Mostro on 29 May 2015 #

    First time I heard the chorus my immediate reaction was that it was so obviously close to “Everybody Dance”, how could they *not* get sued?!

    There’s no sign that they did, but this certainly sails close to the wind…

  21. 21
    JLucas on 30 May 2015 #

    A forgettable moment indeed from Steps, one of those pop groups who feel a little ill-served by their two chart toppers – one a cover version, one that might as well be. The former is undeniably their signature hit, but this is limp fare indeed, and reached the top largely because it was the lead single from their third album – which was their lowest seller but is easily their strongest, even if the singles from it weren’t terribly memorable.

    ‘It’s The Way You Make Me Feel’ was a #2 hit following this and is held in much higher regard by Steps fans. ‘Here & Now’ is also one of their prettiest slices of proto-ABBA scandi pop, and album track ‘Paradise Lost’ is one of the great lost pop hits of the era for me, though I may be blinded by my love for the amazing crowbarred-in literary references. “Paradise lost is a place without you / in the shadow of love / there’s no room with a view”.

    But yes, I’d much rather be talking about Deeper Shade of Blue, The Way You Make Me Feel or Summer of Love (Which borrows almost as heavily from Saint Etienne’s ‘Pale Movie’ as this does from ‘Everybody Dance’, but at least they had impeccable taste in the songs they shamelessly ripped off).

    I would dispute that this was the start of the downward spiral though. The Way You Make Me Feel and their subsequent cover of Chain Reaction both outsold this I believe, and certainly had stronger chart runs. Their Chain Reaction cover is much more successful than this IMO. I prefer Diana’s version, but the addition of the Safri Duo drums is quite inspired, and I love how hell-for-leather the vocals are. By about the sixth key change poor Claire is just reduced to honking like a foghorn.

    5 for this, which is about the lowest mark I’d give to any Steps single post-5,6,7,8.

  22. 22
    JoeWiz on 31 May 2015 #

    Was there any real need for the hard man at the start of the video? Was it some kind of Lock Stock hangover?

  23. 23
    Andrew on 31 May 2015 #

    Say You’ll Be Mine would be an easy 8 for me, possibly even a 9

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDZoefLylcY

  24. 24
    Inanimate Carbon God on 2 Jun 2015 #

    I like how the second worst Manics single off their worst album (whose title track is their worst) starts exactly like this one :D

    This also does something unthinkable in recent years (bonjour, les lapins des robots) by its sacrilege to Chic, making them look a bit naff and disposable… and it’s one of the reasons why I’m struggling to push above a 3 :-/

  25. 25
    Andrew on 3 Jun 2015 #

    #24 Yep, pretty hideous in comparison.

    That said, there can be something to be said for cheap’n’cheerful, and with the chronic overexposure of Get Bunny in the last two years I’d probably rather listen to Stomp, given the choice.

  26. 26
    Inanimate Carbon God on 3 Jun 2015 #

    #25 Overexposure indeed. I fear for Get Bunny when we get there. As radio overexposure goes it’s verging on becoming a funkier Hotel California :-/

    Though when we do eventually get there we’ll all be flying around in spacehoppers and nobody in restaurants will be eating from external hygienic surfaces, never mind twitter.com/wewantplates

  27. 27
    sbahnhof on 4 Jun 2015 #

    Aldi was far from the first shop to ape more popular brands. For example, Morrison’s Weetabix rip-off used to be so similar, right down to the font, that as a kid I didn’t realize it was different. “Wheatbiscuit”!

    Was there an upsurge in imitation-brand groups off the back of Steps and S Club? The only one I remember is Word On The Street who came to our school. I never heard of them again, but they stuck it out for a while http://www.kirstynicole.com/pages/main/wots.php

  28. 28
    Inanimate Carbon God on 4 Jun 2015 #

    Perhaps All*Stars and future Eurovision disaster Scooch? This thread is getting scary.

  29. 29
    Tom on 4 Jun 2015 #

    Not an imitation brand band, but I was just reminded of this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t65NQg6iXDw – which does a similar I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Chic move to “Stomp” but 10 times better, especially as it turns out to be a feint for a far more unexpected steal.

  30. 30
    Inanimate Carbon God on 4 Jun 2015 #

    Ha! Tom, you won’t believe how gutted I was to find out Sunshine After The Rain by Berri was a (2-in-1) cover, after spending a childhood thinking “Wow! How did she/they do that synth part at the beginning?”

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