Today’s POP RESCUE is the 2000 re-issue of the 1999 debut solo album Northern Star by former Spice Girl, Melanie C. Will this be a shining Star, or should it this album just be Going Down? Let’s find out..
The album sleeve reads like a songwriter’s ‘Best In Show’ of 1999’s music, and clearly Virgin Records knew that they had plenty more music to make with ‘Sporty Spice’. It has become the biggest-selling Spice Girl album so far.
The album opens with the beats of track Go!, before breaking into chugging guitars and chimes before Melanie affirms her new career with the lyrics ‘I’ve gotta go, find another direction. I’ve gotta go, I wanna get your attention‘. This track is most definitely not something that you’d have found on the two first Spice Girls albums. In-demand writer and producer William Orbit has co-writer credit here with Melanie, and his trademark sound echoes throughout – think a more indie version of All Saints‘ Pure Shores.
Next up is title track and second track, Northern Star, a great track for Melanie to show off her warm vocal skills. Again, Melanie takes writer credit, this time with award-winning songwriter Rick Nowels (most famous for his his work with Belinda Carlisle and Madonna, and would go on to write for Lana Del Ray). Marius De Vries produces here, and the track is awash with a beautiful string arrangement.
Debut single Goin’ Down, is up next. This was a hard introduction to the new Sporty Spice. It’s raucous, laced with messy guitars, and shouting delivery of its sexually suggestive meets defiant lyrics. There are times in this song where I think of The Cardigans.
Fourth is the huge hit I Turn To You, a song that fared so well in it’s single and remix forms that both versions are featured here. The track is an absolute belter. Again Rick Nowels features on the co-writer credit, alongside Billy Steinberg. Whilst William Orbit doesn’t have a hand in this track, it feels very much like it was one of his tracks from his Ray Of Light work with Madonna, which was released the year before.
Gentle acoustic guitars open the next track, a slower ballad – If That Were Me – the fifth and final single from the album.
Never Be The Same Again is the next track, and third single. This is also the first of two tracks with co-writer – former TLC group member – the late Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes, who also raps on the track (she was killed in a car accident in 2002). This track has a slightly different feel to it – perhaps more RnB than anything else we’ve heard so far on this album, and Lopes’ involvement would have no doubt have influenced that.
The next track Why opens and definitely ends as if it’s some kind of mellow James Bond/Portishead theme. I remember frequent rumours of Melanie being potential Bond Theme singers during the Pierce Brosnan era. It never happened. Instead, this track evolves into a mid-tempo mellow song that could definitely not have been a single.
By contrast, a bouncy piano and bass-line opens Suddenly Monday. This track feels very familiar – as if it’s a cover, or as if it comes from a Mika album, or a Muppet movie soundtrack. This is a very happy track, complete with chirpy brass section.
Then, again as contrast is Ga Ga, and we’re back to a sound that sounds like it was released during the Goin’ Down sessions – which it probably was as it was the b-side. Chugging guitars, vintage vocal effects, and a somewhat Garbage sound, give this track a catchy rocky sound. I could imagine Shirley Manson singing this.
Acoustic guitar ushers in the tenth track Be The One, swiftly followed by Melanie’s tender vocals. It also includes some great vocal harmonies. It’s a simple track, but suits her vocals well, and is a great neighbour to the chugging of Ga Ga.
Next track, Closer, is another mid-tempo track. It has an odd melody, and one that I find difficult to follow. It seems to be attempting some kind of Spanish-influenced style, but this just feels like a filler, and at almost 6 minutes long, it’s not the greatest of listens.
What would normally be the final track of this album in 1999, Feel The Sun, is a great closing track. With soaring strings and rich vocals…..but this is a 2000 album re-issue, and there’s two bonus tracks.
Never Be The Same Again (Single Mix) slices half a minute off of the album version, and takes on a more RnB focus (sounding a bit Mis-Teeq, dare i say it), and the brilliant I Turn To You (Hex Hector Radio Mix) really closes the album on a pumping remix that I certainly remember hearing in clubs.
Aside from a couple of fillers, Virgin Music’s and Melanie C’s gamble paid off – the album was a hit, and rightly so.
POP RESCUE RATING:
- POP RESCUE 2014 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2000 UK CHART POSITION: #4
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store.