Following their initial break-up in 2001 it looked unlikely we’d ever see Steps together again. A short-lived reunion from 2011 to 2012 saw the release of a Platinum-selling greatest hits, a sold-out arena tour and the poorly-received winter-themed album ‘Light Up The World’. Despite the initial momentum, it once again looked like Steps fans weren’t going to get anything else from the group. Fast forward five years and the band returned with ‘Tears on the Dancefloor’ and since then they’ve been regulars on the live circuit and last year released the critically acclaimed album ‘What The Future Holds’.
Their return to prominence has been jaw-dropping to witness, especially given the group was written off by their critics when they released debut single ‘5,6,7,8’ back in 1997. Less than a year after the release of ‘What The Future Holds’, Steps are releasing new album ‘What The Future Holds Pt. 2’. At first I was a little bit worried that this may end up being a Justin Timberlake scenario where a two-part album starts off strong but the second part ends up disappointing fans and feeling like a rush job. Thankfully, that isn’t the case here and Steps serve up exactly what their fans want mixing their classic sound with the more forward-thinking pop that appeared on ‘What The Future Holds’.
The bridge between the two albums is the new version of ‘Heartbreak In This City’ with Michelle Visage, which has proven to be popular with the group’s large fanbase. Adding Visage to the mix works seamlessly and it was a genius move for Steps, ensuring they appeal to their core demographic while turning the heads of those who may not have been on the journey since they returned. Current single ‘Take Me For A Ride’, written by Mark Topham and Karl Twigg (the writers behind many of Steps’ songs from their first three records) steps into new territory both lyrically and sonically for the group, tackling the very serious subject of gaslighting. The 80s production combined with the strong chorus makes the song one of the finest Steps have released to date.
The rest of the new tracks on ‘What The Future Holds Pt 2’ live up to the high bar the group set on the first part of the album. There’s enough classic Steps on here to satisfy the long-term fans while a handful of songs allow the group to push their sound further, modernising it a little along the way. If classic Steps is what you’re after then look no further than the pumping ‘Wasted Tears’ or the ABBA-esque ‘Living in a Lie’, a song that could very easily be part two of the excellent ‘Something In Your Eyes’ from ‘What The Future Holds’. On the more progressive front, ‘A Hundred Years of Winter’, written by Savage Garden’s Darren Hayes is an effortlessly cool electro-pop song that features a standout vocal from H, while ‘A Million Years’ allows Lisa to shine over sparse beats that transform into a shimmering near tropical house beat.
Elsewhere on the album the sultry disco of ‘Trouble & Love’ is a groove for a late-night dance after a few drinks, ‘Victorious’ builds to a euphoric beat-driven chorus, and ‘High’ sits in that mid-tempo sweet spot the band visits every and now again to showcase their vocals and tight harmonies. Another favourite on the record is the high-energy dance of ‘Kiss of Life’, which I feel could be a great tour opener for the group.
The final new track on the record is a cover of Five Star’s classic ‘The Slightest Touch’. Like ‘Tragedy’ before it, this is a song that feels like it was made for Steps. Honestly, I can’t believe they haven’t covered it before now. It’s a match made in heaven and strong finisher for the record. Depending on which version of the album you get, there are also four acoustic versions of the singles from ‘What The Future Holds’ and of course, ‘Heartbreak In This City’ with Michelle Visage.
‘What The Future Holds Pt 2’ is sure to get Steps fans even more excited about the group’s upcoming arena tour. Now with a wealth of new material to choose from, along with their classic hits, the show is sure to be the best pop you’re likely to see this year. This album plays to the group’s strengths while keeping them relevant, and for my money they’re still making the best pop music out there. ‘What The Future Holds’ was my pick of pop album of 2020 and it’s looking very likely that ‘What The Future Holds Pt. 2’ is going to be my favourite pop album of 2021.
Track listing: 1. Take Me For A Ride 2. Heartbreak In This City (with Michelle Visage) 3. Wasted Tears 4. A Hundred Years of Winter 5. Living in a Lie 6. A Million Years 7. Trouble & Love 8. Victorious 9. Kiss of Life 10. High 11. The Slightest Touch 12. What The Future Holds (Acoustic) 13. Something In Your Eyes (acoustic) 14. To The Beat Of My Heart (acoustic) 15. Heartbreak In This City (with Michelle Visage) (acoustic) Record label: BMG Release date: 10th September 2021 Buy ‘What The Future Holds Pt. 2’ now