The year was 1996 and my life was happily rolling along as a kid’s does. Then along came a big bus that not only changed my life (till I grew up a bit) but significantly changed the face of pop music. Of course that bus was the one that carried The Spice Girls, and introduced Posh, Scary, Ginger, Sporty and Baby.
It was Ms Bunton that attracted me. She was probably my first pop star crush and yes, I did actually like the Spice Girls’ music. However things have changed – I’ve grown up (I still have my Spice Girls cassettes somewhere though) and so have the girls. Baby, sorry Emma, waited a while before releasing her first solo album A Girl Like Me just about two years ago and now it’s time for Free Me.
Is Emma Bunton trapped by something or someone as the title would suggest? Unfortunately I can’t answer that one but I’d hazard a guess at yes. From the opener and title-track Free Me there is a clear sense of broken-heartedness in Emma and a confusing paradox of a will to be freed counterbalanced with lines like “let me love you”.
This isn’t restricted to just one or two songs but is a continuing theme, in the likes of Amazing, You Are and No Sign of Life, particularly in the opening line: “I wake up crying and I think of you.”
Breathing reveals a bit of a kinky side to Emma although it’s very well disguised in the overly dramatic music backdrop (which incidentally is just about the same in every song). The chorus shows a side to her that I’m not sure we’ve seen before: “Constant feeling of pleasure. Why does it feel so good?”
Away from the somewhat cathartic songs there is a little bit of variation. Maybe and Crickets Sing For Anamaria (possibly the best song title in the world!) are what we can expect if the Cheeky Girls release something in five or 10 years. No, really.
Who The Hell Are You is a pretty decent track, comparable to an Enya song played at double speed. There’s even a little hint of Emma’s versatility with Lay Your Love On Me, which would be well placed as background music for Sex And The City. It’s a strong runner for Free Me’s standout track and there’s even a little bit of Britney about it. Unfortunately, Britney isn’t exactly hot at the moment.
“Uplifting, vibrant and almost sickeningly pretty, I’ll Be There is just the right track to exorcise the demons of January,” is what I wrote of Emma’s current single. The album is much in the same vein. On one track that’s good but across 12 songs I’m not so sure.
Free Me isn’t spectacular, and it isn’t too far detached from the mellower Spice Girls songs. It seems I’ve grown up a lot more in eight years than Emma’s music has.