What the future holds? I mean, your guess is as good as mine…and Lisa Scott-Lee‘s.
We all love to talk a good game about who will Save Pop™ (not that it ever needs saving), but when it comes to stepping in (eh heh), grabbing hold of our hands and hearts, and distracting us from the daily horrors of the world with the sheer power of pop, there are few groups better suited for the job than the “Tragedy” troupe themselves.
Three years after their formidable, wildly successful, unlikely return-to-form (and then some!) with 2017’s dazzling comeback record, Tears on the Dance Floor, STEPS have made a return once more this week with the announcement of their forthcoming studio album What the Future Holds, out on November 27, as well as the title track itself – an all-out dance-pop banger, and a fitting anthem for These Unprecedented Times™.
If “Scared of the Dark” was STEPS’ way of reintroducing themselves, sounding fresh and defying the odds twenty years since staking their campy claim with songs like “5,6,7,8,” “Last Thing on My Mind,” and “One for Sorrow,” “What the Future Holds” is their way of not only keeping the comeback momentum going strong, but taking a step (!) up to the next level.
Three years later, the world is now in much darker territory – with very good reason to be scared, no less. And every thunderous second of “What the Future Holds” pulsates with an energy as tense with anxiety as the current climate.
“One more teardrop, the surface tension breaks / And if the surface tension breaks, then I will pour my pain and more,” Claire croons across the Jewels and Stone production.
The group trade off their pleas across the verses before taking off to new heights – one foot in the past, one foot in the future! – into an explosive, urgent, all-hands-on-deck wall of sound. No surprise there: true to almost every Sia-penned production, the chorus is an absolute belter.
“She wrote the track for herself but realized it wasn’t really for her and gave it to us. It’s not like it was in the bottom of a drawer somewhere. It was her who said, ‘We should give this to Steps because it would really suit them,'” Claire said of Sia’s involvement to The Sun.
“I’m drowning in my history / Prisoner of past defeats / Tell me what the future holds / Tell me baby!” they cry out, serving high drama perfect for scream-singing aloud at full volume at the What The Future Holds Tour – which, if our future holds favorable news for once, will kick off late next year with the Kitchen Disco queen herself, Sophie Ellis-Bextor. (The end of each line in that chorus – “oh, OOOOH, oh…” – especially brings on the chills.)
As always, Claire provides the most soul-piercing diva wails, supported by the signature flares of Faye and Lisa, while H and Lee provide their own punches to the production. Truly, everyone sounds great, and committed to the bit with a stone-faced seriousness that meets the moment – even if by accident.
“It was really hard because it was literally the day after lockdown that we were going to start the whole campaign. We had a call from the record company in America saying, ‘We need to make a choice, either it goes ahead or it doesn’t.’ It was so hard because we’d worked so hard to get this whole project together, make it sound perfect. We were really ready and suddenly it was like, ‘Don’t say anything!’” Faye revealed.
As far as unintentional quarantine anthems go, “What the Future Holds” is up there among the best of the year, including its socially distant, hopeful Disco spiritual cousin, Kylie‘s “Say Something.”
“I will try to live tonight like it’s the last day of my life / ‘Cause I love you baby, please save me from my mind…”
By being released right now, the song effectively captures the mental torment of this present moment: of being relentlessly being reminded of previous versions of our lives, while still facing the uncertainty of what’s just around the corner. It’s all enough to have anyone yelling out “TELL ME WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS!” at the top of their lungs. (Oh-OOOOH-oh!)
It’s frankly inspiring to see a group like STEPS, having outlasted almost all of their contemporaries, now preparing to make yet another move onto the (temporarily closed) dance floor, all while sounding more sleek, sophisticated, and vocally on top of their game than ever.
And while it’s safe to say some of us are surely just as terrified of things to come (especially those of us in countries that are, uh, not doing pandemic prevention well), the promise of more STEPS on the way to get us through – an album in November, with our ever-enduring Lisa standing confidently front and center, and the promise of a huge tour still to come – makes the future feel as bright as the glow of that backlit sign.
This song is featured on the MuuTunes Spotify playlist.
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