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Dec 14

GERI HALLIWELL – “Lift Me Up”

Popular24 comments • 2,359 views

#840, 13th November 1999

gerilift Geri Halliwell may have broken away from her former band, but she knew a good release schedule when she saw one: the singles from Schizophonic form a rough parallel to the singles from Spice. The in-your-face pop manifesto; the upbeat follow-up; a smoocher as the nights draw in, and then a bit of disco. But just because she could retrace her steps didn’t mean she should – that master plan held one obvious flaw. When the Spice Girls did their big ballads, Geri was kept firmly away from the vocal limelight. On “Lift Me Up”, she gets a slowie all to herself. It doesn’t go well.

I’m not a technical expert on pop vocals, but it seems to me Geri Halliwell has two problems as a singer: she can’t hit the notes, and she can’t get the rhythm right. Beyond that, she’s fine. Give her a wicked cackle, an ad-lib or a half-spoken interlude and you have a song that plays to her strengths. “Lift Me Up” does not: it strands her in a boggy tract of mid-paced sentiment, which she tackles with the hearty conviction of a dog-walker on a wet morning. “It’s a WON-DER, baby it’s YOU and I” – her voice hits the stresses like wellies hit a puddle. Even without the bum notes, this is desperate stuff. Thirty seconds in to “Lift Me Up” and I’m wincing – if it steps back a little from the precipice, it’s only because the production smothers Halliwell’s performance, not because she improves.

It’s surprisingly rare for a number one to be completely ruined by its vocals, but “Lift Me Up” manages it. Still, not only is it here, it won a ‘chart battle’ against an Emma Bunton dance collaboration: Geri’s determination was obviously as strong as ever, and the attraction of her as an idea of a pop star hadn’t yet faded. Imagined with a different singer, “Lift Me Up” is wet lettuce, more placid and soothing than uplifting, but there are far worse ballads – and a few worse records – to land at number one. This is a shoddy record, though, and there’s no greater indictment than “Lift Me Up” of the buggins’ turn system of one-week wonders and fanbase fluffing that determined what got to the top as the 90s sputtered out.

2

Comments

  1. 1
    punctum on 15 Dec 2014 #

    he single cover depicts Geri grinning to camera at the wheel of a spacious car driving down a sunny, picturesque and wide open road; no doubt lines like “Watch the first light, kiss the New World” were intended to signify her escape from burdens and total, unfettered freedom. But while the song’s affable canter might have suited the lead singer of S**nt *t**nn* to the skies, the sudden businesslike tone Halliwell adopts when she comes to the “But when my sky clouds over” bridge suggest Powerpoint presentations and demographic conferences.

    There was a rather unseemly and nasty chart battle between “Lift Me Up” and the dance act Tin Tin Out, whose reworking of Edie Brickell’s “What I Am” featured a lead vocal by Emma Bunton – her first solo outing. After much aggressive runaround promotional work, Geri gritted her teeth and won the tussle, even if only by a few thousand copies, but it left a querulous taste in the mouths of observers. Furthermore the record is defeated by Halliwell’s technically abysmal vocal performance – certainly not charmingly amateur in a Beat Happening/Galaxie 500 sense – so off key the producer probably had to ring a locksmith. Finally, for all its talk of personal liberation, “Lift Me Up” gives the impression of Geri bossing around her tired and bored dance troupe. Business first, as always.

  2. 2
    Matt DC on 15 Dec 2014 #

    My main memory of this is that, in the video, every time she sings “lift me up”, a load of dudes literally lift her up.

  3. 3
    punctum on 15 Dec 2014 #

    She’s mostly alone in the video, apart from a couple of robots who do no lifting.

  4. 4
    chelovek na lune on 15 Dec 2014 #

    The video is dreadful.

    On radio though…. well, this song does exactly what it claims to do (admittedly in brash, unsubtle, bright colours or, perhaps, and perhaps, worse still, in a fashion that is not distantly related to that of a corporate motivational slogan-poster promoting teamwork or some such virtue with trite analogies) which is: it brings cheer.

    Not deep, lasting, satisfying, fulfilling, happiness, perhaps: but it does lift me up. To damn with faint praise perhaps, but I think this is Geri’s most satisfactory solo moment, by quite some way. Indeed, the only one of her singles I would really choose to listen to, at all. She sings she’ll be your angel for life – and just for once, it is possible to overlook the technical shortcomings of her voice, and even the blatantly emotionally manipulative tone of the song (Mike Leigh has got countless critical acclaim for numerous films featuring characters and plots immeasurably more unsubtle and emotionally manipulative than this…) – and think yes, here, she is an angel for life. Bringing joy. Lifting one up. What more could one ask for in this context?

    Rather lovely, actually. 7.

  5. 5
    Tom on 15 Dec 2014 #

    I think the lifting up – which I vividly remember too – happened in the TOTP performances.

  6. 6
    James BC on 15 Dec 2014 #

    There was a great moment on the Harry Hill show, at the end of one of Harry’s chats with his big brother Alan (Al Murray in a wig).

    HARRY: Oh, and Alan…
    [CUT TO ALAN]
    ALAN: Yes, Harry?
    [CUT BACK TO HARRY IN BLOND WIG BEING LIFTED UP BY A BUNCH OF DUDES]
    HARRY: Lift me u-uuup!

    Amazing how little he had to change his act to take it from late-nite C4 to teatime ITV1. I wonder if he will ever release a single.

  7. 7
    MikeMCSG on 15 Dec 2014 #

    “What I Am” is a good candidate for worst ever cover so I suppose I was on Geri’s side in an Assad over ISIS sense.

  8. 8
    JLucas on 15 Dec 2014 #

    One of the more interesting aspects of the Spice Girls as solo artists is the way each (former) member attempted to navigate the distinct persona they’d developed within the group. In Geri’s case, what she brought to the Spice Girls was the Spice. She was the most obvious star of the group – and if her own recollections are to be believed, a significant creative driving force behind their best songs. But listening back to those records, it’s striking just how little she’s on them as a vocalist.

    Consequently, her best solo moments are the ones that put that personality front and centre. Lift Me Up doesn’t do this. It’s a nice piece of drivetime pop that would actually have been far better suited to Emma Bunton – who built her solo career on this kind of thing. Because Geri’s strengths were so specific (and, let’s face it, limited), when faced with a song that doesn’t play to them she can’t really bring anything to it. A ballad requires a measure of subtlety, which was never her forte.

    For all that, I do really like the song. And while I can’t make many objective arguments in favour of Geri’s performance, I do admire her trademark enthusiasm. She’s never been guilty of going into anything half-heartedly. She’s not up to the task demanded of her here, but she throws herself into it regardless. Listen to how she bellows out that key change. It’s painful, hilarious, but 100% her. That force of will was translated into her campaign to ensure the song got to #1 – this was the single she was promoting when she had the short-lived, tabloid-friendly fling with Chris Evans which for many people seemed to typify the depths to which her crass desperation would plumb. At this stage of her career Geri is winning all the important battles, but she’s also planting the seeds for her own destruction.

    Speaking of destruction, caught in the crossfire of Geri’s relentless drive for success was former bandmate Emma Bunton, kicking off her solo career – as all the girls did bar Geri – with a collaboration that would hint at and help legitimise the ultimate direction of her post-Spice musical ventures . Best known for giving The Corrs folksy early hits the radio-friendly sheen they needed to dominate the airwaves (and the album charts) at the tail-end of the 90s, Tin Tin Out were the perfect collaborators to help Bunton to transcend the ‘Baby Spice’ tag without shedding the good-natured sweetness that represented her USP within the group. Their version of Edie Brickell’s ‘What I Am’ smooths the edges a little too much, but she acquits herself well and it’s a good song. At the end of the day though, Geri just wanted it more.

    7

  9. 9
    Jack Feerick on 15 Dec 2014 #

    How can you tell when there’s a singer at your door?
    They can’t find the key and they never know when to come in.

    Thanks, everybody! Be sure to tip your waitresses; the next show is at 10:00.

  10. 10
    mapman132 on 15 Dec 2014 #

    Yet another UK#1 with no impact in the US…and my third straight 5/10.

    Also another video which I couldn’t access in America via Youtube or the other mainstream sites. Had to find an off-brand video site to see Geri chauffeuring the aliens around the desert. Seems to be a pattern in late 90’s videos from the UK and Ireland: Want to see a boy band or male singer in the US: No problem! Girl band or female singer: No export for you! Hmmm…

    Also viewed the video for “What I Am” (not on Youtube of course). That one I liked, but maybe I was thinking too much of the original version. Actually without listening to the original and remake back to back I’m not sure I can tell the difference. Must be my tin ear again…

  11. 11
    lonepilgrim on 15 Dec 2014 #

    this sounds like a slowed down Simply Red track in places with hints of the Lighthouse Family thrown in for good measure – Geri’s voice sounds subtly (and in places not so subtly) autotuned but that does little to enliven her Home Counties’ drone. The video is a crime against humanity

  12. 12
    Tom on 15 Dec 2014 #

    Lighthouse Fam a very good call IMO.

  13. 13
    23 Daves on 15 Dec 2014 #

    I always heard a tiny tint of the Bee Gees in this one as well, although now the point has been made the Lighthouse Family impersonation is pretty clear.

    Oddly, her voice doesn’t grate on my nerves on this track quite so much as it will do on future bunnyable Geri smashes, even though I’m fully aware that there are several women in my office who could have delivered the goods better on “Lift Me Up” (there’s one of those new-fangled ‘workplace choirs’ after hours where I’m based, which is how come I can fairly guess this is the case). Overall, though, I find the track wisps past without irritating me or leaving much of an impression at all.

    Her vocal weaknesses probably felt a bit more forgivable in the nineties, which was a point in music history where such things seemed relatively common and overlooked, though admittedly less apparent in pop. Actually, it’s genuinely odd to hear a pop track sounding like this so shortly before the trend for Autotuning the hell out of everything became common practice – at the time I barely batted an eyelid. I have to wonder if this is one of the last big pop hits to have such an obviously flat, thin vocal.

    It’s also perhaps not entirely relevant to the song in question, but Geri’s image at this point (see sleeve and video) seemed a tiny bit lost. Her look circa the Spice Girls was powerful if nothing else, and her response to the departure from the band seemed to be to adopt a slightly low-key, High Street look. Given her keen intelligence for understanding pop imagery, I always found that slightly odd – what should had been a brief statement of simple independence circa “Look At Me” became this long, drawn-out phase. Not even grungy, just faintly C&A catalogue model.

  14. 14
    thefatgit on 15 Dec 2014 #

    Few who have the will to forget, will remember the disastrous Bird’s Angel Delight-sponsored Geri Halliwell tour of the southern Mid-West. In an attempt to wrest a chunk of market-share from Nestle in the famous powdered dessert wars of the late ’90s, Geri was roped in to a heavily saturated advertising campaign, which included a series of live-recorded Angel Delight demos in shopping malls across Arizona and New Mexico.

    It was that fateful afternoon in Albuquerque, when Geri was abducted by an alien-worshipping cult, based in North Bernalillo County, where she was forced to listen to Thompson Twins’ “You Lift Me Up” and Lighthouse Family’s “Lifted” on a constant loop, while chained to a radiator. When news filtered back home, candlelit vigils were held up and down the country with sales of the butterscotch dessert going through the roof, after Bird’s issued the “FREE GERI” edition. The Advertising Standards Authority forced Bird’s to withdraw the packets (an example of an original, unopened FREE GERI Butterscotch Angel Delight packet recently sold at Bonhams for an eye-watering £15,000), much to the chagrin of Geri fans everywhere. It was suspected the whole episode was an elaborate publicity stunt, but when the FBI busted into the cult’s fortified ranch, Waco-style, after a tip-off from Robert Downey jr, of all people, who had escaped the clutches of the cult, less than 3 days earlier.

    After some intensive debriefing and and a lengthy civil suit, which nearly bankrupted Bird’s, Geri was able to relaunch her pop career, but somehow was never quite the same afterwards. Geri was somewhat reluctant to share her experience with the press, except for one in-depth National Enquirer interview, which she subsequently denied any involvement with.

    Bird’s eventually recovered their share of the UK market, but never made any attempt to sell Angel Delight or Custard Powder in America again. Geri is still a “much loved” 90’s pop legend, but her solo career is largely viewed as an embarrassment that’s glossed over. The incident would have been largely forgotten, had it not been the subject of a collaboration between Five Finger Death Punch and Rob Halford of Judas Priest in 2013, whose lyrics to their imaginatively titled “Lift Me Up” hint at Geri’s defiance in the face of her captors. (1)

  15. 15
    AMZ1981 on 16 Dec 2014 #

    #1 It wasn’t just a case of a few thousand copies as Geri actually won by a fairly hefty 139,000 to Emma Bunton’s 106,000. To put this into perspective and all other things being equal Lift Me Up would have topped the charts in any week between Christina Aguilera’s first and the bunny after next while Emma Bunton would only have got to number one had she gone head to head with Flying Without Wings. Ironically rumour had it that Geri actually wanted to shift her release date to avoid the clash.

    Knowing that this entry was on its way I was collecting my thoughts earlier today and it occurred to me that Spice Girls fans must have been feeling pretty shoddily treated at this point. We are only two years distant from the Spice Girls imperial phase so there must have been a fair few kids desperately waiting for their heroines to get back together (minus Geri who had at least been honest) and make some more great pop songs for the school disco, girl power and all that. Instead Emma and the two Mels (not so much Victoria at this point) were spending their time courting an adult audience.

    Now obviously the Spice Girls had the right to move on but it’s worth noting that Take That always seemed careful to make the move to a more adult style appear gradual and when the time came for them to split they signed off with a proper farewell single and a last flurry of activity.

    The above paragraphs are more to do with What I Am and are an attempt to explain why Lift Me Up – a far inferior record – trumped it commerically so easily. What I Am is a fine adult pop record (a cover but of a song that never fulfilled its potential in the UK) but it is not what Emma Bunton’s fans wanted. You could argue that the same is true of the solo Take Thatters but at least the fans knew where they stood. Was there going to be more Spice or not? Well there was and I’m itching to get stuck into what the Spice Girls finally dished up to the faithful but that’s a story for another time.

    1999 saw seven solo Spice singles. All, bar one that bombed, made the top four. However only two topped the chart and both were by Geri Halliwell. There might be a lesson there.

  16. 16
    wichitalineman on 16 Dec 2014 #

    Lift Me Up shows how studios hadn’t quite got the hang of autotune because, like Lone Pilgrim, I think it smells funny. The vocal STILL sounds flat and thin in spite of what aging 90s hoofers call “special compression”.

    Like all of her solo efforts to date, Lift Me Up sounds like no one’s tried hard enough while simultaneously, thanks to Geri’s overt neediness, it sounds try-hard. There’s a palpable sense of panic. The verses, and the notion of escape in the lyric, suit the fly-away production, but compared to other Radio 2-ish ballads from the time (Lighthouse Family or, of course, Blame It On The Weatherman) it feels, at best, incomplete.

    And it’s the second Popular entry in a row where the key is noticeably too low for the singer(s). How peculiar.

  17. 17
    swanstep on 16 Dec 2014 #

    Yikes, probably because of pitch problems and general lack of feel, this vocal has had to be pieced together from multiple takes maybe word-by-word, e.g., there’s an obvious punch-in glitch at 47s, i.e., right at the point where ‘….rainbooow’ turns into ‘Going somewheeere’. (At first I thought this was an error just in the mp3 I was listening to, but I checked the vid. and, no, it’s there too.)

    That was *never* going to cut it, let alone in a world of Max Martin perfection and Christina and Pink and Destiny’s Child. I guess Geri had to give the solo-singer thing a try, but it was a hell of a long shot that now hasn’t come in. Media-personality, DJ-ing, almost anything else really would seem to be a better fit for her.

    Anyhow, notwithstanding Tom’s on-the-mark ‘shoddy’ criticism, LMU’s basic cheerfulness (and Geri’s promising to be an ‘angel for life’ makes me laugh) is enough for me to give a:
    3

  18. 18
    swanstep on 16 Dec 2014 #

    @mapman132, #10. The youtube vid. for LMU plays fine down under.

  19. 19
    Chris on 16 Dec 2014 #

    Every time I heard Lift Me Up, it made me think of the Teletubbies – it’s that ‘cutesie’ intro, and I can’t make it much beyond that.

    And that is I can say about this track.

  20. 20
    JoeWiz on 16 Dec 2014 #

    Best remembered by me for the ‘bum prod’ in the video. Teenage Dreams, so hard to beat. This is pretty dreadful isn’t it? Quite lifeless. Surprised we haven’t mentioned the Molly Dineen documentary that was shown on Channel 4 around this time. It followed Geri directly from leaving the Spice Girls up to her performance at (I think) Prince Charles 50th birthday. She comes across at this point and remarkably lonely, and stupidly unsure of herself.

  21. 21
    anto on 16 Dec 2014 #

    I think Punctum is right, a singer with personality could have brought something to this but with Geri in charge, this is surely one of the most flagged and flaccid of all number ones – Perhaps she should have swapped songs with Emma.

    @20 – I don’t think it’s possible to forget the Molly Dineen documentary once you’ve seen it. There are moments of unintentional humour – the sound of the toilet flushing after the ‘rehearsal’ for singing Happy Birthday, Stephen Fry pulling in his stomach when he realises he’s on camera, Geri’s doomed audition for the role of a Bond villianess who talks with a foreign accent (no specific country, just foreign) and an indulgent George Michael having to correct Ms. Halliwell twice as she confuses a breed of dog with a similar sounding type of martial art, and then a type of massage.
    Part of you feels exasperated watching Geri juggling her limitations and trying to find something to do with herself – Dineen’s patient eye somehow skewers this sort of fame better than any satire, but there is a sadness to the film as well – the subject seems to crave approval and you do feel for her.

  22. 22
    AMZ1981 on 17 Dec 2014 #

    I was actually surprised this got such a low mark as I personally had it down as the least bad of Geri’s solo singles and having revisited it on Youtube a two does seem a bit mean. It was also the first time I’ve seen the video which I actually thought was quite cute. I also revisited What I Am for comparison – it’s worth remembering that Tin Tin Out were the artist with Emma Bunton the featured vocalist so like When You’re Gone a year earlier it stops short of being a full solo record.

    Lift Me Up is actually a passable song. The performance shows that Geri was making a little go a long way but it was her song and you can see groups of pre teen girls singing gleefully along to it when it came up on a compilation or on the radio. By contrast What I Am would have appealed more to the Spice fan who was growing slightly older and more introspective – and let’s face it, would we really want a group of pre teen girls singing `choke me in the shallow water`. So, and allowing for Geri’s higher profile as a solo artist, had they swapped songs I think we would have had a similar chart result.

  23. 23
    ciaran on 17 Dec 2014 #

    I was surprised by this at first as it’s on one of the very few 90s records that I had little to no recollection of but the chorus does ring a few bells.That I owned Now 44 was what reminded me of it.

    Its just sheer tedium from start to finish. Considering that we’ve had Britney and Christina in all their glory, the excellence of No Scrubs and the impending rise of Kelis and Destiny’s Child,this is just like the UK throwing in the towel to them.

    LMU is perhaps the closest the Spice Girls together or solo got to a ‘Forever Love. Something like a soap opera theme (C Grade Home and Away standard) thats managed to get to Number 1 but not through its merits.2 Become 1 feels prehistoric by 1999.Not what we want what we really really want.

    I should point out though that this ain’t Ginger’s Nadir. 3

  24. 24
    Mark M on 17 Dec 2014 #

    Re21: ‘Should have swapped songs with Emma’ – that sleeve certainly makes it seem like she’s attempting to channel her erstwhile bandmate – faux coy come-hither isn’t really Geri’s forte.

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