Steps staged a remarkable comeback in 2017 when they released their fifth studio album Tears on the Dancefloor. Released independently the album charted at number 2 in the UK and was certified Gold. The group toured in support of the record, selling thousands of tickets across the country and reaffirming their position as one of the nation’s best-loved pop acts. Currently on hiatus and with a new album due to be recorded later in the year, Steps have been pursuing their own solo endeavours. Claire Richards has been channelling her energy into making solo music and her debut solo album My Wildest Dreams finally arrives this week.
Originally planned for a November 2018 release, My Wildest Dreams was pushed back to February presumably to avoid the crowded pre-Christmas market. Richards has been teasing fans with the release of a handful of tracks ahead of the album’s release including first single On My Own. That song showed a lot of promise positioning Richards as a proper pop artist with her powerful voice at the centre of the arrangement. Musically the song is different enough from Steps to give Richards her own sound but it’s not so far removed from the group that it will alienate fans. With a stomping beat and a rousing chorus, On My Own is Richards making a statement and the song is powerful pop gem that is hugely infectious and memorable.
Ballad End Before We Start was the second single from the album and it showcases Richards’ gorgeous vocals. She moves from her deep vibrato to a lighter falsetto tone, and she sounds effortlessly classy. The luscious instrumentation is perfect for Richards’ vocals and it’s the kind of ballad you’ve long-hoped she’d record. Across the rest of the album, Richards explores a proper pop landscape opting to (wisely) ignore the soundalike trend that is dominating the charts right now. The beat-driven and sentimental 7 Billion is as stirring as it is memorable, Liar is a classic piano ballad with a beautiful emotive vocal from Richards, and Deep Waters is a big, bold pop anthem.
Shame On You, the album’s current single, is one of the strongest moments on the album. It’s also a reminder of what good pop music sounds like and the current crop of chart ‘stars’ should take note. The song is a gift to Richards’ fans and honestly the pop world is in desperate need of more music like this. Elsewhere on the album These Wings, Richards’ favourite track, really showcases those massive vocals while title track My Wildest Dreams is so damn catchy, you’ll be singing it after one listen. Don’t Leave Me in This Love Alone is a dramatic slice of gut-wrenching pop and If I Didn’t Have You features one of Richards’ best vocals on the record.
Honestly Richards doesn’t put a foot wrong on My Wildest Dreams. This is exactly the kind of album she should have made and it’s an album that the current pop world simply doesn’t deserve. Richards is a proper pop star – she has strong material, an incredible voice and the kind of personality that makes you want to share a bottle of wine with her over a good natter. My Wildest Dreams is one of the best pop albums I’ve heard in a very, very long time and it’s a timely reminder of what proper pop music actually sounds like.
Track list: 1. On My Own 2. End Before We Start 3. 7 Billion 4. These Wings 5. Deep Waters 6. Liar 7. Brave 8. Shame On You 9. Ruins 10. My Wildest Dreams 11. For Now 12. Don’t Leave Me in This Love Alone 13. Forever Ends With You 14. If I Didn’t Have You 15. My Heart is Heading Home (This Christmas) Released by: Sony Music Release date: 1st February 2019 Buy My Wildest Dreams