We have Smash Hits to thank for Ginger, Posh, Baby, Scary and Sporty. Though the magazine did not piece the Spice Girls together, in re-branding Geri, Victoria, Emma, Mel B and Mel C, they created an extra layer to the mid-90s girl band phenomenon. While with previous girl bands, there had been the pin-up favourite, or lead vocalist, the Spice Girls – with their cartoonish alter egos – struck a chord. The question asked wasn’t ‘do you like Geri or Emma?’, it was ‘are you more Ginger or Baby?’. As we all know, the Spice Girls phenomenon went global, and the Spice Girls rank alongside Nirvana and Oasis as the 90s unforgettables. But, unlike any of their contemporaries, the Spices have managed to forge successful post-Spice careers. While Posh has become a fashionista, Baby is now a radio presenter, but the standout soloist is undeniably the artist formerly known as Sporty, Melanie C.
Perhaps the least prominent of the Spice Girls, Sporty was the band member who kept her head down. While her more colourful colleagues bathed in the spotlight, she ensured that her distinct vocal served as the signature of the Spice sound. The move was a clever one, for while Geri, Mel B and Emma basked in the glory of initial solo success shadowing their Spice Girls caricatures (sorry Victoria, we can’t justify your inclusion in the list, after all Dane Bowers co-vocalled your debut single – even if we do do love ‘A Mind Of Its Own’), Melanie C cleverly used the solo route to reinvent herself.
Though her début album, Northern Star, didn’t hit shelves until mid 1999, Melanie appeared as a guest on Bryan Adams’ phenomenal hit ‘When You’re Gone’, which intimated that she was opting for a more credible rock-pop route. As the grunge-ridden rock of ‘Ga Ga’, which featured on the Big Daddy soundtrack was unleashed, it was clear that Melanie C was not intending to reveal a sugary soft side. Lead single ‘Goin’ Down’ proved the point, but initial sales of her début album were slow. That was until the smoldering, R&B-leaning rhythms of ‘Never Be The Same Again’ – featuring the late Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes – scored Melanie her first number one single.
Where the others shone bright and burnt out, Northern Star’s slow burn success hinted that Melanie C could be the Spice to beat. However, trouble hit hard when the artist, having successfully shifted four million units of her début, succumbed to internal demons and crashed with depression and an eating disorder. It would take another four years for Melanie C to return with new solo material, in the shape of 2003′s The Reason, but as she would later admit, the record was simply a shadow of her astounding début. Though the record would receive a gold certificate, Melanie parted ways with Virgin and went back to the drawing board.
Rather than return to the pressured world of the signed artist, Melanie C made a wise decision. In 2004 she established her own label, Red Girl Records, and held the reigns of her own future firmly in her own hands. Less than a year later, Melanie C was back with her third studio album, Beautiful Intentions. Though the record did not boast the promotional prowess of her earlier releases, Melanie C’s collection struck a chord.
Headed up by the Adam Argyle penned ‘Next Best Superstar’, Melanie C was willing to wear her heart on her sleeve. Though the single would be the first that Melanie C had not penned herself, it would reinstate her in the UK charts as well as make its mark globally. Taking its lead from her earlier, rockier sound, ‘Next Best Superstar’ was determined, full of bite and displayed sheer vocal prowess. Its intentions resound throughout Beautiful Intentions, which is without hesitation the strongest solo Spice release to date.
While the heartfelt rejection of ‘Better Alone’ and orchestral innocence of ‘Here & Now’ are effortless album highlights, Melanie C paints a perfect picture and never puts a foot out of place. From the grit of title track ‘Beautiful Intentions’, to the sex drive of ‘Last Night On Earth’, and the euphoric wistfulness of ‘You’ll Get Yours’, Melanie C encompasses many of the greats – Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Tori Amos – but creates an album that could only be delivered by Melanie C herself.