What I find interesting about the path that Steps have taken over the years, is that they have always remained true to themselves as a group.
Fun and engaging pop music is their M.O. and they are unabashedly proud of that.
The trend continues with their sixth studio album, ‘What The Future Holds’.
If you asked me in 2000 what a Steps album would sound like in 2020, I’m pretty sure like many fans, I would have described it as future disco pop; something a bit camp but modern and futuristic with a chance to dance along.
This is exactly what this album sounds like. With songs that bounce from mid-tempo to ballads to up-tempo bangers, it’s a good mix of inclusions.
Lead single, title track and album opener ‘What The Future Holds’ (written by our favourite Aussie songwriter Sia) sets the tone for the body of work that follows, feeling fresh and encapsulating the 2020 Steps sound.
Featuring a fair distribution of vocals across the group (I love how confident Lee sounds on his verse) there is so much right with it.
From there we are treated to an obscure but ridiculously camp cover of ‘Something In Your Eyes’ (a Melodifestivan entry by Jenny Silver from 2011) and a lush mid-tempo ballad called ‘Clouds’, which is a beautiful palette cleanser.
The writing credits are incredibly stacked on this record, with contributions from Xenomania (Girls Aloud, Sugababes), Tania Doko (Bachelor Girl), Robin Stjenberg, Ina Wroldsen (The Saturdays) and even Mollie King from The Saturdays herself. It’s a ridiculous call sheet of brilliant pop writers, all of whom have contributed to the catchiness of the album. That said, I’d have loved to see the group contributing across a few songs too to make that connection that little bit more personal.
Likely to be relegated to just an album track is my favourite song here, ‘To The One’. There’s something about it, from composition, to lyrics to the group’s delivery that just makes it special. Songwriter Hannah Robinson (Rachel Stevens, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Kylie Minogue) has done an excellent job on crafting this song and Steps nail its delivery.
It’s important to also call out the quality of the ballads included, with songs like ‘Father’s Eyes’ and ‘Hold My Heart’ feeling like traditional yet modern Steps ballads. The album gives everyone what they want without things feeling too kitschy or forced.
There’s the odd questionable moment too (I’m looking at you cheap sounding MIDI strings on ‘One Touch’) but not enough to distract for long.
‘What The Future Holds’ is the tonic we need for 2020 – full of life, joy and fun. Getting a proper physical release in Australia is a bit exciting too and shows their commitment to our pop music scene.
Let’s hope that what the future holds is for Steps to make a return visit to Australia when international travel is possible again. For now, don those futuristic sunglasses and enjoy ‘What The Future Holds’ for the summer ahead.
VERDICT : 4/5.
MUST LISTEN : Something In Your Eyes, Clouds, To The One, What The Future Holds.