Nov 14

GERI HALLIWELL – “Mi Chico Latino”

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#833, 28th August 1999

gerichico When Geri Halliwell quit the Spice Girls in 1998, pop fans were more than usually curious as to what her next move might be. She had muscled her way to the front of the group, then discarded them, deliberately giving the casual observer the impression that she had been their most important member all along. The obvious comparison point was Robbie Williams, a mercurial presence in a colossally popular band, who – hindsight and Robbie himself sagely agreed – had found his true talents as an entertainer stifled while part of them. On paper, Geri Halliwell could have been the biggest female star Britain had ever produced.

And on paper, in fact, she was – until a couple of weeks ago, when Cheryl overtook her as the British woman with the most solo Number Ones. But Geri’s four come in a burst at a point when the chart was notoriously easily gamed. She has never stopped being famous, but public interest in actually hearing music by her waned very rapidly. And the public are, in this case, no fools. Geri Halliwell’s solo career died away because Geri Halliwell’s solo records are, on the whole, quite bad. It’s the way they’re bad that’s more interesting.

To get a handle on Geri’s solo work, it’s worth going back to her most notorious interview – the “Thatcher was a Spice Girl” one – and consider the idea of Geri Halliwell as a Thatcherite. Not in the sense of being a Tory – like Rupert Murdoch, she was one of Tony Blair’s PR captures and endorsed Labour in 2001 – but in relation to that quintessential Thatcherite figure: the entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurialism and pop already have close links. There’s a line of argument which – partly for ironic effect – points out how post-punk and indie’s small labels and DIY principles were in closer alignment than they might have liked to the Thatcherite ideal of the small enterprise. The comparison seems even stronger when you look at Richard Branson, label boss turned business darling. Branson was the essence of entrepreneurialism, and the entrepreneur was the hero figure of the Thatcher years – buccaneering, driven, energetic, creative – the motor, so we were told, of Britain’s post-industrial economy.

This entrepreneur of heroic legend was, in theory, driven by their brilliant ideas and inventive mind – like the small label boss or indie musician, they chased their individual dream. But this idea of the business visionary was a fantasy. If Thatcherism saw virtue in entrepreneurialism it was nothing to do with its dreams and great ideas – if something made money, it didn’t matter if it was a great idea or not. In fact, if something didn’t make money, that proved it wasn’t a great idea.

When Thatcherites praised entrepreneurialism as an innate good, it was because it showcased hard work and drive. It was energy and competitiveness themselves that mattered, not what that energy was put towards. Their true hero figure isn’t the person who doggedly pursues a vision, it’s the serial entrepreneur – the Alan Sugar types who constantly cash in old visions and glom onto new ones, and do everything with a maximum of determination and a minimum of sleep. Look behind the big handshakes and smiles and you often found a mess of unpaid bills, ripped-off staff and cut corners everywhere.

And it seems to me this is a way to get a handle both on why Geri Halliwell succeeded so much and why she failed so quickly. She is an entrepreneurial star, with enormous energy, working extremely hard, impatiently picking up and discarding ideas at a one-per-single rate. But she seems completely uninterested in taking those ideas and building anything with them: everything sounds first-draft and slapdash. “Mi Chico Latino” is Geri Halliwell doing a Latin pop song, and it sounds like she imagines that’s enough. In the Spice Girls, the workrate and drive were a huge advantage, and any disadvantages could be covered up by the group. Solo, they are more exposed.

The exception to this is, of course, the song we don’t get to properly discuss: the ravenous “Look At Me”, Geri’s debut and her one really bold move – release a lightning-rod single for every bit of criticism and bitchiness she knows she’s going to get anyway. As an entertaining bit of pop music it’s not her best single – this one is, probably – but as a statement of defiant intent it’s exactly as brazen as it needs to be.

Even more grievous then, that after such a snarling arrival her other hits are so bland. Halliwell has Spanish roots, and the bit of “Mi Chico Latino” where I had the most fun is her playfully urgent spoken-word interlude, the kind of corn a record that’s trying to be a simulated holiday smash really needs. But the rest feels unimaginative – easy options, like the castanets and the lost love theme, ruthlessly taken – or just a bit sloppy. Dropping a bit of Italian – “my dolce vita” – into the chorus, for instance, when everything else is Spanish.

That’s not to say “Mi Chico Latino” is terrible – it hangs together, Geri grabs onto it with gusto, and even shoddy Latin pop has a novel appeal here. It is, you might say, the Minimum Viable Product of a Latin-flavoured pop single. But here’s the difference between Geri and Robbie, her regular point of comparison. Both are restless characters. Robbie is constantly in flight, itchy with every settled role he finds himself placed into – which makes, now and then, for intriguingly wonky records. Geri, on the other hand, comes over as hungry for stardom, but impatient with the detail. Like many an entrepreneur, she’s better at the pitch than the product.



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  1. 26
    JLucas on 25 Nov 2014 #

    Ironically, Schizophonic is easily Geri’s most focused album. She wisely took the Spice Girls principle songwriters with her and turned in an album of likeable pop music not a million miles away from what Kylie was doing on her comeback album ‘Light Years’ the following year.

  2. 27
    weej on 25 Nov 2014 #

    The comparison with Robbie Williams is indeed apt – both sprang from their groups more as stars than as singers, both pedalled material they ultimately knew was hokey, but the difference was that Robbie actually seemed to care. Geri’s output never seemed to reach beyond tailoring songs to disparate imagined target audiences, a game which can play well for a while, but history doesn’t tend to look back on it with a friendly eye. A couple of years and it’s destined for the next National Express to Rhyl, or whatever the 21st century equivalent is. It’s a shame we’re talking about this fairly pleasant 5/10 pastiche instead of ‘Look At Me’, which has to be one of the best ever examples of getting-it-but-not-getting-it, especially the “I can even do reality” punchline – what if your “reality” is that you ultimately have nothing to say?

  3. 28
    Steve Williams on 25 Nov 2014 #

    #9 Well, I know it sounds a bit odd to be criticising Geri for having a big ego and then compare her unfavourably to the man who did Let Me Entertain You, but I would suggest that Robbie succeeded because the songs are better, and people bought Angels, No Regrets, Feel and so on because they were good pop songs, not because they were Robbie Williams songs. You didn’t have to be a big Robbie fan to find at least some of his songs appealing (“this is a nice song – and it happens to be by Robbie Williams”), musically they were doing quite interesting things, whereas with loads of Geri’s stuff it was of interest to Geri fans and nobody else. I’m not saying that Mel C’s stuff is wall to wall hits but she was prepared to try new things, some of which caught on to a wider public than Geri’s stuff.

    I would imagine that what would have worked for Geri better would be something like what Dannii Minogue did, some dance-orientated songs where she wouldn’t have to carry the whole thing. She could still have shown off in the video and on telly, which clearly she liked doing, but it might have had some appeal if you didn’t like her personally.

    That said, she did really want to do Some Girls, didn’t she, but Rachel Stevens ended up doing it? That kind of thing she should have been doing from the start.

  4. 29
    anto on 25 Nov 2014 #

    Rather a generous score for such a wicker duck of a single. Geri’s Watford monotone sounding about as transported by love in exotic lands as it would in responding to a two-for-one deal on Angel Delight. This number 1 business was becoming way too easy.

  5. 30
    thefatgit on 25 Nov 2014 #

    “Mi Chico Latino” taps into the Iberian vibe well enough, much like “La Isla Bonita” before it. I like the spoken word bit. I’m not feeling antagonistic towards this in the same way Wichita Lineman is, but I totally get where he’s coming from.

    For Popular purposes, I’m even carrying over some post-Spice goodwill, and willing Geri to be more than simply Ginger Spice, without her former buddies. Of course, it was LAM’s startling video that killed off Ginger in a flurry of “National Anthem” horns, and a clumsily placed cackle. She was always Geri after all. But I couldn’t buy into the triple-persona she was replacing Ginger with.

    Thankfully, Geri seems more honest here. Unfortunately, her shortcomings dominate MCL in such a way that even an unashamed honesty can’t detract from. I’m not entirely against a flat vocal. Pop can unify all voices, if the song is right. No one could argue that a flat voice does not belong in pop after The Shangri-Las or Bananarama. However, as a solo artist Geri is frightfully exposed and charisma can only carry Geri along as long as one is willing believe in her. I fear that belief and goodwill will be in short supply when we meet her again. (5)

  6. 31
    Alan on 25 Nov 2014 #

    Of course she was 45 at this point. (What was it with the Geri’s age running gag from the time? Did we do this already in a Spice Girls track?)

    I think Geri’s finest 2 minutes may have been as Jason Statham’s mum in Crank 2. (In flashback you understand)

  7. 32
    23 Daves on 26 Nov 2014 #

    The least objectionable of all the Geri Halliwell solo singles to my ears. It’s subtle and slight enough to not overly aggravate me, though there’s a slightly underdone, elevator muzak feel to the arrangements. 5 seems a little generous, but perhaps not overly so.

    Within The Spice Girls Geri’s voice could be used sparingly and act as a counterpoint to any sweetness, but when she’s out front by herself I find it aggravating on all the singles apart from this one (where she tones down the barking, hectoring and honking a bit). So often on the solo records it felt like being given a pep talk by a sales manager or fitness instructor – it’s her heavy-handed delivery where loads of words are spat out in an almost demanding ‘motivational’ way. It could be appealing to some people, I suppose, but she’s someone whose voice I find very difficult to get past.

  8. 33
    katstevens on 26 Nov 2014 #

    #31 YES the peak of both Geri and Jason’s careers, right there.

  9. 34
    Paulito on 26 Nov 2014 #

    #8 – People thought it was Geri singing on “Another Point of View”? Really? I would have thought that the vocalist on that (top-notch) tune was very obviously superior to Geri, not that that would be hard.

  10. 35
    Cumbrian on 26 Nov 2014 #

    As with 23 Daves, I too struggle to get past Geri’s voice. That said, I also take the point made further upthread that flat voices can work in pop contexts – it’s just that I don’t think Geri’s voice does. The thought of her tackling “Some Girls” fills me with a sort of dread – Rachel Stevens voice seems to fit that song perfectly and I can’t imagine any scenario in which Geri does a better job – but maybe Geri never really hit on a piece that made a virtue of her limitations in the same that some of the bands thefatgit mentions at 30 (or indeed, arguably, that Rachel Stevens managed to bag).

    This isn’t as bad as I remembered but neither is it particularly good. Everyone else has skewered the stuff I don’t especially like, so not worth rehashing in that case. “Look At Me” probably would have been more interesting to get to the top but I don’t think it’s better than this. Is “Bag It Up” bunnied? Noel Gallagher was going to call Oasis’ last album “Bag It Up” until his girlfriend said “Like the Geri Halliwell song” – I wish I’d been a fly on the wall to see his expression.

  11. 36
    23 Daves on 26 Nov 2014 #

    #35 – It’s not just the flatness of her voice – I can often deal with that – it’s the charmlessness of it. There are more examples of hers to come, but there’s frequently a lack of warmth and humanity to her delivery. There’s nothing vulnerable, welcoming, furious, or even ecstatic sounding about what she does. It’s just DEMANDING. “Here Is A SONG I Am SINGING And You Will LISTEN To It And We Will WORK IT ALL OUT BAH-BEH!” Every word often sounds as if it should at least begin with a capital letter.

  12. 37
    Tom on 26 Nov 2014 #

    Yes there’s reasons I didn’t mention the limitations of GH’s voice in this particular entry. :)

  13. 38
    wichitalineman on 26 Nov 2014 #

    Re 36. Capital letter singing – good call.

  14. 39
    Mark M on 27 Nov 2014 #

    That cover design is pure clothes catalogue.

  15. 40
    ciaran on 14 Dec 2014 #

    The video is like that of the lynx Legend 2010 ad only in reverse!

    Something of a ‘Sun Always Shines on TV’ moment in that it’s the Number 1 of Geri’s that most would guess was another more famous hit (Look At Me).

    Robbie comparisons have been made but at least RW was fairly convincing in his stuff and though a lot of his music is taken over fully by him he’s also aware of the need for a step back (eg No Regrets and upcoming Bunny). Geri on the other hand can’t go 2 seconds without jabbering away about something and it ain’t endearing.The other thing in Robbies favour is that for a fan his videos have a tongue in cheek appeal and add to the material a bit.Something that cant be said about Geri. Note the union jack making its way in early.

    Geri also made a massive error in doing stuff on her own. Though results were mixed at least the others except Emma more or less made an effort to do collaborations.

    MCL is just incredibly shoddy and was forgotten about after a couple of weeks.Climbing aboard the Macarena, Ricky Martin, Club 18-30 vibe of the late 90s. Very much a relic of its day and like the female equivalent of Flava.A fanbase record if ever there was one.


  16. 41
    MattE on 10 Dec 2016 #

    It has been said that music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything. Where words fail, music speaks…and it can heal pain. Therefore it is no wonder that those who make music are often adored. Many people will also have a favourite singer that they are particularly drawn to. For me, it’s Geri and it’s simple why. She seems honest and sincere and real. Often described as a nutter, she is instantly relatable as we all have our crazy moments! She also writes and crafts her own music, meaning that the feelings and emotions in her songs are indeed hers! This adds to a sincere element to her art. Many pop stars are puppets, handed songs that companies feel will sell, in that sense they are merely selling a product. Geri on the other hand has always sung and released her own material, her own art, her own feelings. As a stage preformed she has an undeniable charm and flare. Although not technically speaking a great dancer, she is still fun, energetic, entertaining, infectious and most of all herself! Many pop acts have similarly structured dance routines – it comes across as stale, over-done and generic. Geri is anything but, in a world of clones, she is quirky and unique. As a vocalist, again she is not the strongest singer but indeed has a beautifully pleasant sounding voice. Just listen to those gorgeous vocals ease over the opening of her #1 hit “Lift Me Up” or soar over “Calling”. It is these reasons, why Geri is my favourite and always will be!

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