It's been over 15 years in the making, but the impossible has happened – Steps are back with a nonstop pop album of all-new tracks.
While the band's previous reunion five years ago for festive album Light Up The World was well received, it still felt there was much more of the Steps story to tell. With that in mind, the band reform for their 20th anniversary with Tears on the Dancefloor, their first collection of all-new tracks since the band split on Boxing Day 2001, and a supporting tour starting later in the year.
And, yes, we've heard the full thing. You may have some questions. Here are a few highlights.
Story of a Heart
Steps were often compared to ABBA in their heyday, thanks to their knack for mixing melancholy pop with thumping dance beats – and that's not as easy as you might think. It's only right, then, that Steps should finally get their hands on an ABBA song – well, kind of, and not including their cover of Dancing Queen, of course. Or their participation in the Top 5 hit Thank ABBA For The Music.
Story of a Heart was penned by ABBA's Bjorn and Benny and originally recorded by Benny's band in 2009. It's an emotional midtempo that's been heavily beefed up and Steps-ified from the original (see below) and, like many ABBA songs, the lyrics drip with pathos. There are references to the back of a bus and some oars, for a start. Oars, in a pop song. It just wouldn't happen anywhere else. In fact, the "oars" moment in the second verse is probably Faye's best bit on the album – if you half close your eyes she could be Agnetha or Frida. It's a total scene-stealer and fans will be beside themselves to hear it.
The original version of Story of a Heart – Steps have put a bit more of a donk on it
No More Tears on the Dancefloor
The title track was written by Savage Garden's Darren Hayes and released as a single by the frankly amazing German pop star Thomas Anders, who is known as "the gentleman of music" and was lead singer of Euro pop duo Modern Talking. This is one of the most dramatic dance tracks on the album, along with Scared of the Dark, and is one for fans of the guys, as H and Lee feature heavily. There is a demo of Darren Hayes' original floating around somewhere, and Thomas's version is great, but Steps' rendition feels definitive – this song was made for them. Plus, it has a totally new bridge to showcase the ladies' voices. Possibly the closest song to their classic material, it's very Deeper Shade of Blue, mixed with Stomp, which was their last number 1, FYI.
Firefly is an uplifting, high-energy number which all five power through with ease and enthusiasm. It also contains what may well be Lisa Scott-Lee's big moment – although she has a few. 👑
Some of the best breakup songs are bangers, not ballads. This bittersweet, trancey track is a Dancing On My own style wistful floorfiller. Your hands are in the air, for sure – but they’re holding a hanky in case you need to have a little cry.
There are no ballads
All previous Steps albums had one huge ballad moment, yet there are none here. It's wall-to-wall nonstop. There are a couple of midtempos you can imagine could well make for a good slowish dance, especially Story of a Heart, which would bring a tear to even a stone statue's eye.
Who's singing the most?
As with all Steps albums, the ladies are more prominent, but there's much more Lee on this one than previous outings – he's a presence throughout, which is always good. Unusually for a Steps album, there's no song that features only H and Claire on lead – most songs see everyone having a go. Claire has a LOT of big moments – she is Claire, after all – but perhaps her biggest is on I Will Love Again.
Featuring 10 tracks, Tears on the Dancefloor is a pop supernova, packed with classic influences and new twists on the Steps sound that was everything you loved about them back in the day. The band are staying close to their pop roots but have evolved, with a bit of one foot in the past (a toe, maybe) but a keen ear for what's happening in pop now.
Space Between Us, which is one of the most H-heavy songs on the album, has a very '90s feel. It's a kind of a mix of Believe-era Cher and a Britney midtempo from her imperial phase. High praise indeed.
Glitter and Gold is a huge banger and sounds not unlike Infernal's massive hit from 2005, From Paris To Berlin.
Scared of the Dark you'll all have heard, of course, and it was the perfect choice for comeback single, with its flavours of Madonna's Hung Up, classic disco, and – is it just us – the music from gameshow Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Interestingly, Scared of the Dark was written by Fiona Bevan, who cowrote Little Things for One Direction, with Ed Sheeran.
Neon Blue's intro recalls Coldplay and there are hints of the Avicii and Leona Lewis collaboration Collide from a few years ago.
Who will love this album?
It's definitely an album made with devoted fans in mind – and there are plenty of those – but Tears on the Dancefloor has something for anyone who loves dance pop. It's not like trying to get into a Netflix boxset when you've missed the first two series; it's both a good place to start with Steps for new potential fans and the perfect continuation of their legacy.
It's contemporary, yet respectful to the band's past, and sounds exactly like a Steps album should in 2017. Your disco is calling…
Remember Steps' heyday with our look at Noughties pop in our gallery: