Perhaps it is just my own nostalgia getting the best of me, but over the past year (or three) I have grown rather interested in post-breakup careers of former Spice Girls members, also known as the period of ‘Solo Spice.’ The Spice phenomenon was global, but in the UK all five members found brief solo success between a period of about two years.
It is interesting to me how similar the demise of the group and post-breakup careers of One Direction closely mirror that of the Spice Girls. Here is the timeline of both groups:
- Five-member British pop group is a total phenomenon, a manager named Simon is involved.
- One member quits out of nowhere.
- The four remaining members continue on for a while to much success. They have hit singles and albums that sell well enough, and they go on world tours. Meanwhile, the member who left immediately goes solo to huge success, seeming like the breakout star.
- The band breaks up.
- All five members go solo and score at least one moderate in the UK.
- Their successful solo careers last 2 albums at best, 1 hit single at worst.
Anyway, back to Solo Spice. After listening to all of each member’s solo work, I have to say my most listened to is Victoria Beckham, a.k.a. Posh Spice. Her catalog is easily the most straight-forward and lacks the most individuality, but it’s loaded with late 90s/early 00s pop gems that would feel right at home on a J.Lo B-sides collection. Besides her one outlier UK-garage track “Out of Your Mind” featuring the Truesteppers and Dan Bowers of “The Big Reunion Series 2” fame, most of her music is either the faceless R&B-pop Jennifer Lopez was making on her first two albums, or later on, it becomes a faceless disco-dance pop sound that literally everyone was doing by 2005. Holly Valance, Kylie Minogue, Dannii Minogue, Lisa Scott Lee, Rachel Stevens, maybe even one or two of the former Atomic Kittens all had a version of “Let Your Head Go” by that point. Is the fact that her music was so generic a bad thing? Well, yes and no. She never scored a number one hit, though that was mostly due to timing since she managed to get herself into two chart battles with Sophie Ellis Bextor and Kylie Minogue, (I mean she went head-to-head with “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” It’s just not realistic no matter which soccer player you’re in bed with). That said, while I personally find her music to have the least personality, I find that it has the most replay value, which is a shame because she has a fantastic personality and amazing sense of humor.
Key tracks: Let Your Head Go, I Wish, Out of Your Mind, Not Such an Innocent Girl.
Next, we have Geri Halliwell, a.k.a. Ginger Spice. Geri is the catalyst for all of the girls going solo. She shockingly quit the group because they wouldn’t let her do a charity event or something. The reasoning makes no sense at all much like Geri’s “singing” career. I say “singing” lightly, as she can’t even seem to stay on key when tuned by an engineer on a single edit. Her number one hit “Lift Me Up” might be one of the worst things I’ve ever heard, (yes “things” not “songs” as it’s not music). So what did Geri do right? Well, she had the star power of all 5 members combined. She knew how to manipulate the media to her advantage. She had sex with Chris Evans (no not the hunky, ripped, #woke Chris Evans from Marvel Avengers, the frumpy one from TGI Friday), she maybe(?) had sex with Robbie Williams for tracks, and she sacrificed her former bandmate Emma Bunton to the Devil for a number one hit single. Her body was also in the press daily at the time. She was either too fat, too skinny, or just right, but it always made the news. I have to admit she is kind of a media manipulating inspiration of sorts. Also, while a truly awful vocalist, it is very clear when listening to her solo work that she was the ‘sound’ of the Spice Girls. Her campy, almost vaudeville-inspired pop delivery was all over the Spice Girls’ biggest hits and was absent from their music the moment she left. There is a reason Geri scored a then record-breaking 4 consecutive number one singles.
Key Tracks: Mi Chico Latina, Ride It, Bag It Up, Look at Me.
Next is Emma Bunton, a.k.a. Baby Spice. I will say at first I thought her discography was a total bore. Her first album is bland and vanilla, while her second and third albums were a bit too old-fashioned for my tween taste. Perhaps it is because I am old now with my first gray hair recently making its debut, but her music as a whole has grown on me quite a bit. Much like Geri, Emma has her own musical identity. Yes, it’s a vanilla identity, but she has her own sound and seemed to be focused on mature, lush productions instead of creating chart baiting hooks or pandering to the gays. Her first album is a breezy adult contemporary-pop listen, while her second album is a gorgeous and lush experience, full of romantic Bossa nova rhythms, dramatic Bond theme inspired tunes, and subtly edgy compositions based on the swinging 60s aesthetic. Possibly my favorite of the Solo Spice discographies if I’m being perfectly honest.
Key tracks: sexy Bond-esque Free Me, the haunting Life in Mono, the Fosse-inspired Maybe, the pre-Joanne era country-pop of What Took You So Long?
Mel C, or Sporty Spice, is next. Sporty has the meatiest discography and took me the longest to go through. She also has the widest variety of music out of the girls: rock, R&B, trance, electropop, and even musical theatre. She also has the best voice of any member. While Geri was the worst singer, I actually enjoy much of Geri’s solo work. I can’t say the same for Mel C. Her debut album is basically the only album she had that I enjoyed. By album six I was pretty glossed over.
Key tracks: I Turn To You (Hex Hector Remix), Never Be the Same Again (Feat. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes)
Lastly we have Mel B, a.k.a. Scary Spice. Mel B never met her potential as a solo artist. She had a messy personal life similar to Geri’s, but unlike Geri’s, Mel B never felt in control of her mess. Mel B was a genuine disaster, and it shows in her solo career. It’s directionless, going from hip-hop, to generic pop, to really bland adult contemporary music. She just didn’t have any control of the steering wheel while navigating her career. That said, she definitely has the undisputed worst music video any of the girls made, and possibly even one of the all-time worst music videos ever, period. An achievement is an achievement.
Key tracks: Feels So Good, I Want You Back, For Once in My Life