Tim: Their only single release this year that we’ve not covered, basically because the song’s not that great. The video, on the other hand, which I’ve just discovered, is, well.
Tim: I mean I say the song’s not that great, it’s certainly not bad – like so much of their 2017 comeback, it’s a surprisingly high standard for what it is, which here is a fourth single from the album; even if most of it’s not hugely exciting, it’s immediately raised 20 points when that key change appeared out of nowhere.
Tom: It’s definitely An Album Track, and that key-change wasn’t so much ‘deserved’ as ‘needed’.
Tim: But the video, blimey.
Tom: It’s like some sort of goth pantomime.
Tim: I don’t know what futurologists they’ve been speaking to, but that’s hardly a dance floor I’m looking forward to getting on. Simultaneously overcrowded and spacious, pouring with rain and set on fire, weird makeup and normal dress, it paints quite an unusual picture. And with that and the key change, I’d say it’s well worth a feature.
You think “How on Earth can a song called Neon Blue be a ballad?“
Tim: You press play, you think “How on Earth can a song called Neon Blue be a ballad?”
Tim: Well it turns out it can’t. They did perhaps leave it a little too late to develop – thirty seconds in I was wanting a 7th Heaven remix, and I was within a few seconds of giving up when that build came along.
But then, oh, there’s even a sort of dance routine.
Tom: And full marks for what appeared to be a genuine bit of laughter during the middle eight. It’s been a long time since a music video made me smile like that.
Tim: Yes, I want it a bit bassier, a bit more banging (so, actually, maybe I do still want a 7th Heaven remix).
Tom: Agreed: it’s almost like someone’s put a high-pass filter on it or something. It needs just a bit of bass drum in there or something… ah, there we go. Although it still seems a bit weedy somehow, but maybe that’s just my headphones.
Tim: Ah, yes, that is what I wanted. But even without, “come on, come on, and dance with me” is a message I can 100 BILLION per cent get behind. I’m so happy that they’re not only back but also making an actual proper effort with it. So so happy.
Tim: Here’s the second one that Steps have done from their reunion album (still fantastic, every track on it). When I first heard it, I thought “I forgot how much they sounded like ABBA”. Then I realised it was a cover of a Benny Andersson song, and it made sense.
Tom: I mean, that massive YouTube “ABBA” logo kind of gives you a tip-off there, but yes.
Tim: And it’s a good track to cover, it really is – I heard it on the radio yesterday and was absolutely delighted.
Tom: It is. The men don’t have much to do on this track, though, do they? Or is that true for a lot of Steps songs, and I’ve just forgotten it? Anyway, yes, you’re right. It’s a good track.
Tim: However, I do have one criticism: it sounds like it should be faster. The chorus has all the energy of a proper banger, but not quite the speed. So here’s some advice: click that settings cog, and turn the speed up to 1.25x. And oh, it’s so much better, it’s like it’s now the song it was destined to be.
Tom: Bloody hell. You’re right. You’d need to do something good to that percussion to make it work, but yes, that’s an improvement.
Tim: For my money, those few extra bpm take it from good to very very good. And if you want something really really good, well, try this version.
Tim: I’ll be honest, I can think of very few songs that wouldn’t be improved by a 7th Heaven remix.
Tim: Item ONE: Steps were originally conceived just to be a one-hit wonder act, because the writers of 5, 6, 7, 8 wanted to get it released. Item TWO: that plan changed somewhat. Item THREE: twenty years later, here’s THIS because they’re BACK.
Tim: GOD, that’s good.
Tom: You’re not wrong. Comeback hits aren’t meant to be this good, surely?
Tim: That’s “listen to it several times to appreciate all of it” good. Right from the start, the string line there is signifying that while you don’t know what it is, something damn good is coming along soon. And, in due course, it sure as hell does: that chorus could be a lead single from Alcazar at their very, very highest, and boy is that a compliment I can’t imagine paying to many other acts. Throw in that delightful key change, and you’ve got a perfectly-packaged piece of disco.
Tom: It is, as well, that percussion could have come straight out of a Donna Summer track. In fact, this is a combination of decades of pop music. There’s even occasional 80s white-noise-sweeps in there. It’s not quite orchestral, but those strings make it feel… well, more grown-up, perhaps?
Tim: Here is what I love most about it: this is Steps. Actual, full-on, Steps. No compromises, no modern synth beats trying to be current, but just plain, unapologetic “this is what we do, and we love it”. Six weeks until the album and I CAN’T WAIT.
Tim: 15th October 2001. Just over eleven years ago. With the release of their first greatest hits collection, that was the last date the world heard any original material from the band originally formed just to be a one-hit wonder with 5, 6, 7, 8. Until now, that is.
Tom: I am EXCITED.
Tim: Slightly confusing start (“have they gone a bit dubsteppy?”), but then a wonderfully reassuring first verse and chorus.
Tom: See, I was expecting a big Dance Track, not a ballad. Once I readjusted my expectations, I was fine, but that’s a bit of a let-down.
Tim: The strings under the verses sound oddly dramatic – almost something that could come out of a big TV drama, and I love that.
Tom: I was thinking more “end of the first half of a panto”, but I know what you mean.
Tim: The chorus is massive, and if you’re singing along you can’t really do it justice unless you open your mouth a good few inches more than is comfortable. The middle eight, well, seems to be there only to give Lee and H something to do, but never mind because they seem to do a decent job of it. The fade-out ending is as lazy as ever, and gets in the way of a damn good closing section. So despite the very end, I like this song a lot and it’s lovely.
Tom: It is, but damn it, they’re called Steps. They’re meant to do cheesy pop-dance numbers, surely?
The chances of a new proper album with original stuff are sadly minimal at best, but as a one-off single as the result of a Sky Living TV series, I think this is great.
Tom: Ha. I thought there had to be some kind of ulterior motive. I just assumed it was a new Greatest Hits album.
Tim: Nope. The first series led to a tour that sold out in minutes, and the second gave us this and an EP of cover tracks. I don’t know – maybe there will be a third series with a proper album, but until then I’ll cope with this.