Today’s POP RESCUE is the 2004 album Free Me by former Spice Girl, Emma Bunton.
This 12 track album opens with title track and lead single, Free Me, which opens a little bit like a jazzy version of the strings-laden Slip Into Something More Comfortable by Kenobi. Suddenly it switches to a wonderfully 60’s feeling track, that wouldn’t have gone a-miss as a Bond Theme.
Next up is the phenomenally catchy second single, Maybe, which I remember well, and its many remixes. This has a fantastic fast pace, and this is thanks to a bossa nova style and fun 60’s inspired video. There’s some wonderful instrumentation here, along with some rich and warm vocals.
Third single, I’ll Be There follows, and this is a far more mellow song, and it initially allows Emma’s softer and gentle vocals carry the tune through the verses, whilst it gives a wonderful nod to Motown during chorus. This track does sound like it would have suited S Club 7 perfectly.
Tomorrow follows this, and this returns to the gentle bossa nova style, albeit a slower one than the one we heard in Maybe. Emma makes light work of the vocals here, and she gets some wonderful vocal harmonies in too. This song is again very 60s in style, and sounds like it’s a forgotten song from Petula Clark or Cilla Black‘s back catalogue.
This is followed by Breathing which again continues that 60s bossa nova feeling, and again seems to give a musical nod to a Bond Theme that never was. However, when the beat comes in for the chorus, it feels very much contemporary. The strings wind themselves in and around the rich vocals perfectly, without overpowering.
Up next is the fourth and final single Crickets Sing For Anamaria, a translated cover of Os Grilos by Marcos Valle. This is a fun track about, yes, crickets. It’s an inspired choice of cover, and one that was her lowest charting single (reaching #15 in the UK) at that point. The song does manage to contain musical nods to its origins, as does the video.
No Sign Of Life follows this, sounding a little but like Walk On By, but laced with strings and contemporary beat. There’s plenty of space for Emma’s vocals showcase her power and range, and the song itself is a pretty strong song, but by 3m 40s, it definitely feels like it’s run out of steam.
Synths usher in Who The Hell Are You, which again has a distinct 60s Motown sound in it’s drums, and a slightly 80’s feeling to it’s synths. The chorus is quite catchy, but that Motown beat and the ‘stop living the lie’ line really helps to carry this song along perfectly.
Lay Your Love On Me is up next, and this was co-written with Cathy Dennis (who also has a production and backing vocal credit). This is quite a nice track, and definitely has more of the 60s feeling through a number of musical instruments, including a Rhodes and piano, and hand claps.
A luxuriant bossanova opens her duet with Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi on track Amazing. This gentle track gives the pair space to really showcase their warm and rich vocals together and individually. There’s an element of Something Stupid to this song, but it manages to remain perfectly original. This would have been a really nice single, and a great opportunity to showcase Luis’ vocals.
Momentarily in the first verse of penultimate song You Are, reminds me (melody-wise) of Louise‘s hit 2 Faced, but this soon gives way to more 60s bossanova. This is a nice song, but certainly belongs here on the album.
The album closes with lush strings, and brass sections and more from the London Session Orchestra of Something So Beautiful, and this in itself is almost self-knowing. This is a delicate song, and Emma feels right at home pitched against soaring strings, bellowing brass sections, and harps.
This is the perfect ending, to a wonderful listen.
There is a strong 60’s style throughout this album, and that really is one of the strengths. It could have been easy to produce yet another Spice Girl pop album, but this sound works perfectly alongside Emma’s vocal style and look. The sleeve is covered in beautiful 60’s styled poses and clothing, and perfectly shows off Emma’s beauty.
Emma has a writing credit on every one of these album tracks, aside from the cover, and this was also to her credit, with critics deeming this as the best Spice Girl solo album.
Where is Emma Bunton now?
Emma Bunton continued to release albums after this, notably 2006’s Life In Mono, which was unsurprisingly preceded by a cover of a Petula Clark hit Downtown. Despite being pretty lacklustre, the track was a #3 UK singles chart hit (perhaps aided by being a Children In Need fundraising song). The album’s release schedule was interrupted by Emma’s pregnancy, with a number of singles being shelved.
She reunited with former bandmates for a Spice Girls reunion tour in 2007, and again for the 2012 London Olympics.
Emma has also been a successful radio and television presenter, and has had several film roles including two Bollywood movies.
POP RESCUE RATING:
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 5 / 5
- 2004 UK CHART POSITION: #7, certified Gold.
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.99 from a British Heart Foundation store.