Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate unknown, is the 2000 third album by British pop group royalty, Spice Girls. Will this album make you Holler with joy, or will you want it to Stop Right Now? Read on…
The 11 track album opens with lead single Holler (a double-A side single), not dissimilar to the sound of the then successful contemporary Craig David. Intricate acoustic guitars flood in over an RnB beat. It’s a softer, slick beginning to a Spice Girls album. The over-all result is a nice warm track rather than the catchy stomping strength that we’d been familiar with from the group. Despite this more muted track, the more RnB/garage sound was in style, and it gave the double-A side single, and Spice Girl return a UK #1.
That’s followed by Tell Me Why, and this opens with a robotic voice introducing the group. It’s off to a more up-beat sound thanks to synths, before giving away to more strummed guitars. The chorus returns to the robotic 8-bit sound, and has a nice little ‘playing a GameBoy’ undercurrent to it. Still, the ladies carry on singing almost oblivious of it. Melanie B gets some really nice vocal moments alongside Melanie C who seems to be the one to pack the power.
We’re into ballad territory now, as a shuffling percussive beat leads us into Let Love Lead The Way, the other half of that lead double-A side single. Each of the Spice Girls are clearly taking a turn in this song, with Melanie C shining again. It’s a bit of a dreary paint-by-numbers slushy ballad song to be honest, and at almost 5 minutes long it could have done with being trimmed a little. However, with it being the other track on the single, it went to #1 in the singles chart.
Right Back At Ya is next, returning us to the up-beat RnB sound with more acoustic guitars again. ‘We’re comin’ right back at ya‘ the ladies sing in unison as they tell you just how much the group are going to be back, and how they’re never going to look back (the Greatest Hits and reunion was a way off yet). There’s some really nice vocal harmonies though as the song builds. It just lacks the energy – despite Melanie B rapping a career retrospective and fan thank you.
A bouncy little track comes into play next – Get Down With Me, with the uncredited sex-noise bloke interjecting every now and then over a RnB track. A funky bass, light beat, and choppy piano, sit perfectly underneath the vocals, and the hand-claps really help to keep it bright and catchy.
A load of bleeping and blipping computer gurgling signals the start of next song Wasting My Time. These sounds continue right through, as the group take turns on the vocals. The result is quite a nice little mid-tempo track with plenty of musical interest. Once again Melanie C’s voice is used perfectly here as a vocal underscore.
Weekend Love follows this, and it’s a finger-clicking ballad. Acoustic guitars are back, synth pads warm as Melanie B joins the microphone. The beat drops in time for the chorus, and whilst there’s also a pseudo-sitar in play, the song really is a M.O.R song. It feels a bit like a Billie Piper b-side. Then… Melanie B bursts in as the track takes a harder sound to drop a big loud rap in the middle… then it returns back to where it was, almost oblivious of what just happened, before an Emma Bunton slightly sinisterly ‘la-la’ lullaby ending.
Next up is Westlife in disguise as the Spice Girls in Time Goes By. A whole stool-leaning emotional plodder. Weirdly ‘Time goes by as we stand still’ whilst earlier track Right Back At Ya mentioned how they kept going forward. I’m even able to pick out Victoria Beckham‘s vocals here. It’s just a load of dreary smoosh.
Finally the album picks up with If You Wanna Have Some Fun, and right there in the mix is the sound of Patrice Rushen’s hit Forget Me Nots or is it George Michael‘s Fast Love, or Will Smith’s Men In Black (there’s no mention in the album sleeve). This is a foot-tapper, Melanie B delivers some dirty whispery vocals, and the track just feels perfectly formed. That familiar/borrowed melody really helps to hang this song together whilst also delivering it through its 5m 25s. This, as an edit, should have been a single.
Oxygen follows this, and it’s quite breathy and spacey too. The ladies take their turns on the vocals as the song very gently builds, with hi-hat, percussion, and keys join in. The bleeps and chime bars throw in an almost magical feeling to it. Sadly the song keeps going up and up with key changes – presumably getting shorter of oxygen as they go. It’s quite a saccharine song.
The album closes with the familiar ‘No no no…‘ opening of 1998 departure single Goodbye, making its first album appearance here. This song was the first single without Geri Halliwell (now Geri Horner). The track gave them a #1 hit in the UK. The strings in this track sound wonderful, and they sit perfectly beneath the vocals of both Melanie B and C. The result is a wonderful single, and a perfect end to this album.
Over all, this album is not the Spice Girls album you might have expected.
Gone is the defiant energy and the catchiness, and that’s swapped for generic RnB tracks, with producer quips, and restrained vocals. We know that the Spice Girls can perform, but this album feels a little half-arsed. To be fair, this sound was dominant in the UK at the time, and it’s unsurprising that the group had a slice of it, but the end result is them sounding like all the other smaller less-baggage acts, and whilst the group had Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (Prince, Michael Jackson) at the helm, it’s perhaps their sound that anaesthetises this album.
Sadly, Tell Me Why was scrapped as a single, and the almost only catchy song amongst them – If You Wanna Have Some Fun, didn’t make it as a single. These are two tracks that echo the group’s success, and really could have sustained it if they’d meant their return. The ballads such as Time Goes By (awful), and Let Love Lead The Way are just boring, and a waste of the groups energy and talents.
Melanie B and Melanie C are a delight when they do get to shine. The Mel B raps are packed with punches, and Mel C’s vocal sharpness and range gets a few welcome showings.
Instead, we’re left with a spice rack that lacks that little bit of oomph that made their first two albums unmissable 90’s pop, and we’re mostly left with the vanilla and bay leaves.
- POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 3 / 5
- 2000 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: #2, certified Platinum by the BPI.
- POP RESCUE COST: 99p from a Discogs.com seller.