Today’s POP RESCUE is the debut 2000 album Hot by former-Spice Girl, Melanie B, but will you Wannabe listening to this, or is just a bit tepid? Let’s find out…
Melanie Brown, Melanie G, or Scary Spice – whichever you recognise her by, has had a bouncy career since the initial demise of the Spice Girls. When the group first broke, she soon released her debut single, which eventually gave way to this 11 track album. I’m not expecting this to be an easy listen… so let’s get stuck in.
The album opens with a laugh and Mel B talking about getting ‘all soft and smoochie‘ as 4th single Feels So Good bursts in, which is a really catchy, smooth bassy song. There’s some wonderful beats and backing vocals here too, and this sits perfectly against Mel’s deeper purring vocals. This slick track was released after the album, and gave her a #5 UK hit single, and quite rightly so.
This is followed by third single Tell Me, which is much lighter, and basic, and far more of a nod to the garage and RnB scene at the time – where the likes of Destiny’s Child, Fierce and Mis-Teeq would feel perhaps a little more at home in. About half-way through we’re reminded of her scary Spice past as she shouts ‘I see your plan, you’re not my man so get from under my roof‘. In comparison to Feels So Good, this song feels almost unfinished. Despite this, it gave her a #4 UK hit.
Hell No is up next and this is a slow number. Mel gets plenty of space to show off her softer ballad vocals over what sounds like an owl who was seemingly sitting outside the recording studio window that day. The bassline tugs the tinkling piano and acoustic guitar along, whilst synth strings and the backing vocals help to keep this song warm and mellow. This is quite a nice song really, although the owl annoys me a bit.
Final single Lullaby follows this and begins with acoustic guitar and light percussion. Mel is soon in with her rich purring vocals, and the chorus has a really nice warm sound, although the lyrics are a bit cheesy. This feels very much like it’s a mother-to-child song, and sadly those tend to stumble somewhat. Still, this song managed to give Mel a #13 UK single.
Apparently next track Hotter was going to be the 6th and final single, but was shelved due to the ‘poor’ sales of Lullaby. This song is laden with bass, funky guitar, RnB beats, and feels like it belongs on a Destiny’s Child album. I’m not sure whether this would have fared well as a single. Again the backing vocals really help the song along, but Mel feels like her lead vocals are restrained.
A gentle musical box seems to lull in next track Step Inside, before some phat bass and vocals come in – almost a little hypnotic. Given the lyrics, this is probably the effect that she was after: ‘Think you’ll find your destiny, a shallow grave is all you’ll see‘, and ‘Better watch out when you close your eyes, cos I can see your lies, little lady try and sleep tonight, the Devil’s got your eyes‘. This song is slick, perhaps sultry at times, and Mel’s vocals are perfect here, and at times it reminds me of a missing All Saints track.
ABC 123 is up next, and this returns to the Destiny’s Child-esque style (think Say My Name). This could probably have worked as a single. Some bloke (who is usually programming the drums) called Screwface speed raps in the middle, giving Mel a breather.
This is followed by I Believe which has a kind of Eastern feeling to it. Mel’s vocals are soft and rich here, and there’s samples going on here – complete with record scratches and a sample of someone singing but there’s not hint as to who it is – but it did make me think of The Smurfs. It’s not of course, and it works perfectly. This track is really good – utterly mellow, and a wonderful song. I think I could listen to this on loop for about 3 days.
Next up is the lead single and #1 UK hit single, I Want You Back with the unmistakeable support by Missy Elliot. I remember this being released, and I remember buying the CD single. It’s a really catchy song, despite it being very different from her Spice Girls songs up to that point, and different to most of the music that I owned up to that point as well. The bass, beats, and vocal rhythm is addictive once it gets going. Brilliant.
Pack Your Shit is up next, and despite the title and the wealth of F-words, this song is almost a ballad, laden with soft, gentle vocals and strings. Mel is joined by Eric Williams (seemingly formerly of Blackstreet) on vocals, making this a really nice mellow angry ballad (does that make sense?). At times this doesn’t sound like Mel’s vocals, and knowing her Spice past (and future), it feels odd to hear her language here.
The lights go down, as does Mel B’s vocals, as the slinky, seductive purrs of Feel Me Now emerge. There’s plenty of dirty talk here, with Mel giving advice that might make Madonna or Janet Jackson blush. Again, we’ve got heavy beats and great backing vocals. This song is definitely giving the album it’s title. ‘I think we should do this more often, don’t you?’ she purrs as the album ends. HOT.
Over all, I was pleasantly surprised and also not surprised. I already knew the lead single, and recognised Feels So Good. I did expect the album to be heavily RnB toned, but it’s the other tracks that made it a pleasant surprise – the richness of songs like Step Inside, and I Believe. Both of these are gems, and are worth seeking out.
Mel B may always be Scary Spice no matter how hard she tries to evolve, but at least give this album a spin to hear her on her own and in her element. Sadly it received little attention, shunted in favour of the impending Spice Girls album.
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE RATING: 3 / 5
- 2000 UK CHART POSITION: #28
- POP RESCUE COST: £1.00 from a Poundland store.