Much like The Beatles, Spice Girls represent a singularity in popular culture. There was life before Spice Girls, and life after, and their impact on modern British popular culture can never be overstated. Those of us who were lucky enough to witness their meteoric rise and catastrophic fall will forever find ourselves deeply invested in their monstrous catalogue of hits, which came from two albums released with 14 months of each other in 1996 and 1997.
By the time they reached their third album, the mostly forgettable Forever, the band had fractured, and Ginger Spice was out doing her own thing. When the rest of the band finally broke up in 2001 to focus on their respective solo careers, it was anybody’s guess as to who would go about producing the best work until their inevitable reformation.
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, it’s been Melanie C‘s solo work that’s generally been the strongest – or at least the most artistically satisfying. From her iconic collaboration with Bryan Adams on When You’re Gone, to the trance classic I Turn To You, to the staggering record sales and decades-long streak of decent albums, Mel has emerged as the clear phoenix from the Spice Girls ashes. Across her seven solo albums prior to this new one, she’s dabbled in pop rock, showtunes, electropop and R&B to varying degrees of success, though with no album managing to scale the heights of her brilliant debut Northern Star.
This new self-titled album doesn’t get there either, but it’s considerably better than it has any right to be, made up of a surprisingly satisfying mix of bright modern pop, standard club bangers and Billie Eilish-esque miserablism. Nowhere To Run, the best track on the album, is influenced by Eilish, and her downbeat melodrama. It’s a bold move for Melanie C to take, but she pulls it off.
The End Of Everything is another dark pop gem, evoking Depeche Mode in its crunchy electronic soundscape, and it’s all the better for it. Fearless, which features a guest turn from Nadia Rose, is another track that builds up from a ‘modern pop’ template into something more rewarding.
The success of the album is down to its carefully curated blend of styles, and many of the remaining tracks explore wildly different sonic terrain. Good Enough is disco-lite, all polish and shine, while Escape is a downtempo, restrained and resplendent gloomer. Blame It On Me is the album’s most Radio 1-ready club banger, and album standout In And Out Of Love is just as fresh.
At just over half an hour, and only 10 tracks long, this is just the kind of record we need in 2020. Melanie C (the album) is full of great moments that combine to make the one of the strongest albums released by Melanie C (the person) since 1996.