Dance music has always embraced empowerment pop anthems — think “I Will Survive,” “I’m Every Woman,” and “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough),” each a classic of rhythm and roar. In and of themselves, those relentless disco beats serve as a forceful riposte to feelings of suppression. Becca Stevens’ “Good Stuff” isn’t quite on the same grand, Studio 54 level as those earlier songs, but it’s a spiritual and musical successor to them — a retro-disco soufflé that makes you think and sway at the same time.
Hailing originally from North Carolina but currently on the Brooklyn scene, Stevens has always been musically hard to pin down. Over the last two decades, she’s worked in various idioms — jazz, indie and orchestral pop, and folk rock, the latter with frequent collaborator David Crosby. (Stevens was part of the new band he worked and sang with on last year’s Here If You Listen.)
Adhering to a career filled with left turns, “Good Stuff” is itself a quirky take on retro disco. In its staccato, lo-fi-funk verses, Stevens airs her grievances, like the double standards women deal with (“Be a lady/Don’t say too much/Don’t be too smart/Don’t get too angry”) and how she has to work “twice as hard for half as much/To get that satisfaction I can almost touch.” (The use of “almost” is especially cutting.)
But in the choruses, the song explodes into glitter-ball ecstasy — a warm bath of harmonies and four-to-the-floor rhythm that provides a welcome release to the tensions of the verses. Those choruses are the most hopeful, upbeat parts of the song – a hint of victory that will carry her, and listeners, into the next battle.