Who would have thought that in 2011, late '90s British pop sensation Steps would be atop of the iTunes albums charts? The five-piece capitalise on the ten years since their split with the release of their second greatest hits collection, aptly titled The Ultimate Collection, because it's ultimately their first greatest hits collection Gold with the addition of the new recording of "Dancing Queen" and the exclusion of single "Words Are Not Enough" and exclusive 'Gold' track "Only In My Dreams." Here's a quick rundown of their singles from the beginning (because lets face it, despite their success, I didn't even know back then that they even had albums):
1997 - 1999
In an attempt to re-create the joyous pop of ABBA, Steps were created. The cheesy line-dancing pop of "5, 6, 7, 8" was their debut single. I think it's the only Steps single that Lee (the one that's not gay) actually sings something. I don't remember liking it back then, and it still sounds quite insufferable now, but it's all in the fun, I guess? Unlike in Australia where it became their first #1 single, in the UK it was a mild hit, peaking at #14--their only single to miss the top 10. I suppose, rightly so. Their second single, a remake of Bananarama's "Last Thing On My Mind," kept up the cheese, however a little more listenable and a lot less cringe-worthy. It landed the group their first top 10.
Between 1998 and 1999 the group had grown well into their happy-go-lucky, sparkling dance-pop sound with singles "One For Sorrow," "Better Best Forgotten," "Loves Got a Hold On My Heart," "Say You'll Be Mine," "Better the Devil You Know," and "After the Love Has Gone," (which I always thought was a remix of "Sorrow," it's basically the same song with different lyrics) all following that musical frame. However, their biggest hit came in the form of the remake of The Bee Bee's "Tragedy," which is no doubt their signature single. It became their first #1, topping the UK singles chart in its eighth week and spending 30 weeks in the chart. It was released as a Double-A-Side (remember those?) to the more downbeat pop of "Heartbeat," which was arguably the better single. This was the peak of their popularity.
2000 - 2001
Between 2000 and 2001, the group saw more distinct elements of maturity in their sound. The more polished dance-pop of "Deeper Shade of Blue" (One of their few singles I would willingly admit to liking) is a great example. The underpinning guitar strings beneath the frothy dance-production works very well. The single scored the group an eighth top 10 single, however also highlighted a decline in popularity, having the shortest stay in the UK top 75 of any of their singles, spending only 9 weeks.
Following singles "Summer of Love" and "Stomp" (their second #1 single) also continued the trend of more polished pop--the melodic balladry of "When I Said Goodbye" was a also nice switch up in a sound, which was furthered with "It's the Way You Make Me Feel," their best single, which managed to match the uptempo pop of their earlier singles--but also sounds like a ballad.
Later 2001 - Split
Although not as bad, "5, 6, 7, 8," their more uninteresting singles came towards the end of their time. Double-A-Side "Here and Now," and "You'll Be Sorry" attempted to venture into more modern pop territories, but were ultimately a bore. Still, collectively scored the group their 12th top 10 single. However, it wasn't all bad. Their remake of Diana Ross' "Chain Reaction" was a fantastic slice of pop and became their biggest selling single in 2 years, peaking at #2 scoring their 14th top 10.
Their last couplet of singles before their split was the downbeat whimsical pop of "Words Are Not Enough" but that's not included in the new collection so I guess it's irrelevant and the lovely remake of Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson's "I Know Him So Well."