The AC/DC of dance-pop welcomes newcomers and delights dedicated fans
Harrison Smith
14:09 21st November 2020

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Steps are a tenacious force. Internal disputes and break-ups have not hindered their ability to regularly bounce back; armed always with their signature and upbeat anthemic sound. As is with much of their back catalogue, each track on Steps’ new album What the Future Holds follows a familiar structure, never straying far away from the trademark stadium-sized choruses and hard hitting four-to-the- floor drum beats. In a bizarre but "it sort-of-makes sense" way - Steps could be remarkably considered the AC/DC of dance-pop. 

Album opener and title track ‘What the Future Holds’ brings Steps' nineties groove bang up to date with an infectious chorus riffing on the idea of hope and boasting a maturity in sound which has been adopted since their reformation back in 2017. Stepping, (pardon the pun) into the album, it’s quickly realised that it’s business as usual for the group. ‘Something In Your Eyes’ greets the listener with a memorable and noticeably ABBA-influenced melody; a characteristic of their work since their 1999 reworking of the Bee Gee’s ‘Tragedy’

The sentimental ‘Father’s Eyes’ and the strikingly beautiful ‘Hold My Heart’ present snapshots of mindful reflection in lyricism for the band. While such tracks are certainly departures from the high-energy and dance-lead sound Steps have become known for, one can’t help but long for the group to dig just a fraction deeper compositionally. 

Nevertheless, twenty plus years into such a winning formula and it would be practically foolish to attempt anything outlandish at this stage. There are times on the thumpingly fun chorus of ‘Heartbreak In The City’ where the metaphorical curtain is pulled back to reveal something new and fresh, a definite embrace of modern pop sensibilities, and we are reminded that whilst the group may have a staple sound, they are more than willing to adapt to current trends, and more so, to take advantage sonically and technologically of what is available to further their creative and artistic horizons. 

Recognisable but lively ground is trodden throughout much of What The Future Holds. The familiar buoyant sounding techno influences on ‘One Touch’ and ‘To The Beat of My Heart’ - the latter a lyrical navigation of heated dancefloors and one night romances - audible also in the smooth minor-groove of ‘Come and Dance With Me’, are testaments to how ‘keeping it simple’ may sometimes be the smartest move. 

You’d be forgiven for noticing the many notable similarities What The Future Holds has to previous Steps albums. It appears that whilst such coincidences may be prominent, the successful concoction of floor-filling accessible pop has been given a dose of modern revitalisation. While it may be the same Steps responsible for country-pop mash up ‘5,6,7,8’ it’s clear that the next chapter in their impressive career will be one of rejuvenation; one that warmly welcomes newcomers and delights dedicated fans for years to come.

What The Future Holds arrives 27 November via BMG.

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Photo: Press