While you may already be more than familiar with her, she is about to release a debut solo album, which is guaranteed to take everyone by surprise. Anticipation will be rife, and she will confound all expectation. Think re-birth, think total reinvention. And prepare yourselves for a shock.
For the past five years, Melanie C has been Sporty Spice. She was one of five girls who, together, would go on to become some of the most famous women on earth. During their reign, Spice Girls have sold over 40 million records and have had their lives microscopically detailed by the tabloids in a fashion that suggests they must be royal. Wherever they’ve travelled in the world, they’ve been fanatically received: Nelson Mandela still remembers the kiss, Prince Charles the pinch. While other band members were perhaps louder and more glamorous, Melanie C was the more mysterious. She was the quietest of the quintet, then the quietest of the quartet. Then, she capped one of her teeth in gold, and had tattoos applied to her upper arms, her lower back. She got very fit. General consensus suggested that she was the best singer of the bunch, and the most down to earth. She was likeable, but never quite shone to her full potential.
Until, that is, now.
When the Spice Girls finally booked themselves some time off recently, Melanie C took advantage of the situation and immediately decamped to Los Angeles to begin recording the solo album that had lived in her mind and her dreams these past five years.
“Spice Girls haven’t had more than seven to ten days off in the last three years,” she explains. “So we certainly earned the right to lie back and relax. But to be honest, it was simply too good an opportunity for me to go off and do my own stuff. I’d been writing for myself for sometime, so when the chance came along, I had to jump at it.”
So she booked herself into a downtown studio, and surrounded herself with some very good company. In three months, she worked with Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers producer Rick Rubin, Madonna collaborators Marius De Vries and Rick Nowels (with whom she co-wrote several songs) William Orbit (Madonna, Blur) two members of Beck’s band, Bryan Adams and Rhett Lawrence (writer & producer of hits for Mariah Carey and Monica, amongst others) with whom she wrote co-wrote the gorgeous “Never Be The Same Again”, and which features Lisa Left Eye (TLC).
The calibre of talent working with me was incredible,” she beams. “It’s very odd being in the studio with these kind of people. What was even stranger was that they had such respect for me and for what I was trying to do – they gave me enormous confidence in myself. It was just the best time of my entire life.”
The result is Northern Star, an album that doesn’t merely exceed Melanie’s own expectations, but also those of everyone else who hears it, Spice fanatic or not. It is exceptionally good. For starters, it sounds very little like one would expect from someone with her background. The first single, Goin’ Down, crunches with spectacular malevolence and is the aural equivalent of an armoured truck. Closer is a sumptuously hypnotic ballad that is as deep and lush and fresh as an aromatherapy bath. Suddenly Monday is what an acoustic Noel Gallagher would sound like were his trousers a little tighter, and the title track is absolutely bewitching.
Her influences? “Well, I’ve always been into indie and rock,” she explains. “That’s always the direction I wanted to go in.” She’s a huge fan of Madonna, Hole and Garbage. She loves The Cardigans’ crystalline pop, and admires Oasis and the Chili Peppers. While in Los Angeles, she caught Blur in concert and came away in awe. No Steps, then.
“This album is really going to surprise people,” she predicts. “When I look back at the two previous albums I have been involved in, then what I’m doing now is completely different. But that’s only natural. When Spice Girls started we were still all really young. In five years you change a hell of a lot, and that’s what Northern Star represents. It represents change. And I’m not the only one. Look at the rest of us. One has left, two are married and have babies. We’re turning into Spice Women now, branching out.”
“I’m so thankful to the Spice Girls for enabling me to be in this position because now I can go off and do what I’ve always dreamed about. And the best part of it is that I know I’ve got their full support. The girls know that this is what I’ve always wanted to do, and they’re completely happy for me. We always encourage one another in whatever we want to do.” As Melanie is now busy with a flourishing solo career, let us therefore address the obvious question: It’s all over for the Spice Girls, isn’t it?
“People expect us to spilt up at least once a day,” she grins, “but as usual it’s not true. Why would we split up? We’re having the time of our lives.”
And, indeed, the four Spice Girls reconvened in the studio in early August to begin recording their third album, and come winter, they will undertake yet more live shows. Melanie, meanwhile, is planning to go out on the road this autumn under the banner of From Liverpool To Leicester Square, which will actually take her far further afield than that, including America, Australia, Japan and Europe, Melanie juggling both projects as only a workaholic Spice Girl can.
“It will be hectic, but I like hectic,” she explains. “I still have huge fun being in the Spice Girls, we have such a laugh. And they really are my best friends. But I’ve also got something else to prove, which is why I’m so determined to see my solo stuff work.”
And it will.
This being a biog – where gushing over the subject is something of a requisite – we could explain at length here why, exactly, Melanie C is about to take the music world by storm, but for once we really needn’t bother. All the evidence is here, contained within an album that can fight all its own battles and answer every last critic.
So sit back, press play, and prepare to be very pleasantly surprised.