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Apr 15

MELANIE C – “I Turn To You”

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#870, 19th August 2000

melciturn What does a Mel C record sound like? Not an easy question. Her solo singles ask more, in terms of brand loyalty, than any other Spice – she was respected for her voice, and the assumption is you’ll want to follow it through flashy Britrock (”Goin’ Down”), acoustic soft pop (”Northern Star”), twilit R&B (”Never Be The Same Again”) and now muscular pop-trance. And that’s without bringing Bryan Adams into it. There’s something very appealing about this hopscotch approach, but almost none of the songs are strong enough to sell Melanie C as more than a dabbler.

“I Turn To You” comes close, though. At least it does in its original version, a much subtler, lusher thing, co-produced by hardcore dance legend Rob Playford, the producer who’d helped briefly make Goldie into a chart star. I hear something of the ache and restraint of “Inner City Life” in the original mix of “I Turn To You”, and I notice how well Mel C is singing it, too. Lyrics that brushed past me on the single mix – just more trancey rent-a-metaphor – seem fresher and more plainly felt on the album.

For whatever reason – too many relatively slow singles? – that original wasn’t the mix she went with. Wikipedia lists an ear-boggling twenty different remixes, edits, dubs and versions of “I Turn To You”: they wanted this track to be a hit, and were aiming squarely for the clubs. Hex Hector does a job on that front – and picked up a Grammy for it – but it squashes and boxes the song into uncomfortably peppy shape. Mel C’s best Spice contributions were backing vocal interventions that whipped up the energy of a song, but she’s not a belter, and her performance here is about exploring feelings, not declaring them. The remix job hides that, and makes the song more anonymous. The reference point at the time – thanks partly to the video – was Madonna’s “Ray Of Light”, and that gale force chorus proclamation is probably what the remixed “I Turn To You” needs. But what it actually sounds like is a much more recent hit – Sonique’s mellow, grown-up euphoria on “It Feels So Good”. Echoing one of the year’s top sellers is a sensible move, it confirms Melanie C’s admirable range, but like her other records, it doesn’t make a case for her as a star you might care about beyond the flush of post-Spice goodwill.

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Comments

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  1. 31
    JLucas on 19 Apr 2015 #

    That’s not strictly fair. The 2007 world tour was a huge success, it’s just the limp single that sank without trace.

    And y’know, the Olympics was a pretty big moment…

  2. 32
    Andrew on 19 Apr 2015 #

    Indeed, the tour was extended so much in Europe (19 dates at the O2, three in Manchester), and North America that announced dates in South America, Africa, Asia and Australia were postponed indefinitely and then cancelled.

    Apparently the reunion was agreed under a strict window of time imposed by band members who wanted to get back to their solo projects (Posh and Sporty spring to mind). This left plenty of time to complete the initial itinerary, but with the excess of demand in England, the U.S. and Canada it made a great deal of sense to milk the opportunity: profits are obviously more generous when travel and set transportation costs are lower, and eventually time ran out to get everywhere to which they’d committed.

    The scale of this demand clearly hadn’t been anticipated, and the organisation was a bit of a mess in that respect – the tour ended so promptly that the show wasn’t professionally recorded, missing an obvious opportunity for broadcast and DVD revenue (footage from the big screens was later leaked).

    Many fans in the countries who’d been scheduled a visit were pissed off at this broken promise, as by the time the cancellation was announced they didn’t have a chance to organise a trip to Europe or North America (a trip many diehards would certainly have made with proper notice).

    So yes, an enormous success, but little comfort to a Spice Girls fan in Sydney or Cape Town.

    On the obligatory new content front, ‘Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)’ had a sweet sentiment and some gorgeous vocals from Emma, but lacked a killer chorus. There’s also a rushed sense to it, with the feeling that a second verse is missing: Mel C’s bit, one of the few moments the song comes to life, sounds more like a middle-eight, and Mel B is reduced to one solo line, closing the song. This uneven distribution is probably because only Emma and Geri (who get more lines than anyone, and it’s really not a stellar performance from poor Geri) were involved in the initial creative process with longtime collaborator Biff Stannard (paparazzi shots of the two leaving his Brighton studio all hugs and grins were hugely exciting at the time for fans… until we heard the song).

    The video was bizarre too, friendship depicted by the Girls mostly in separate shots in which they moodily model the type of ‘saucy’ lingerie you might see in Victoria’s Secret.

    Mere months after the tour ended, Mel C appeared on Never Mind the Buzzcocks and was quick to distance herself from the song, though if it had reached number one instead of no.11 perhaps this wouldn’t have been the case (she also gritted her teeth when recalling that the tour had lasted “Six months. Six. Months.”, hinting at a kernel of truth the rumours of disharmony towards the end of their reunion). It was a notably low charter for a Children in Need single, as well as an enormous flop by the Spice Girls’ own standards, but there wasn’t much promotional activity to speak of.

    Anyway, ‘Headlines’ is a minor classic next to Greatest Hits album track ‘Voodoo’, a song for which the term “organised fun” might well have been coined. A limp, lifeless and unconvincing party track set to a weak disco-funk pastiche track.

    The Girls’ collaborators have suggested that there are plenty of unreleased gems in the vaults, so why these couldn’t have been repurposed instead is beyond me. Perhaps titles such as ‘C. U. Next Tuesday’ and ‘Feed Your Love’ (from the first album sessions) were still considered too adult for the group’s fanbase in 2007, a time when the youngest would still have been teens.

    A tranches of demos from Forever leaked a couple of months ago. Three pretty dire songs and the superior Eliot Kennedy original mix of ‘Right Back at Ya’, which was blanded out by Darkchild for the album.

    Curiously, in a climate where leaks, particularly where hacking is involved, are increasingly (and rightly) seen as unethical, Biff spends a lot of time Instagramming photos of DATs labelled “Victoria unreleased”, “Spice unreleased” etc., some even with song titles, which serve only to bait the fans…

  3. 33
    AMZ1981 on 19 Apr 2015 #

    We’re perhaps getting a bit ahead of ourselves as I’m itching to discuss the next Spice bunny along. Maybe `bombed` was too harsh an assessment of the comeback tour but by the time 2007 came around it was obvious what the mark for a sensational comeback was and the Spices didn’t really come close.

  4. 34
    Andrew on 19 Apr 2015 #

    Yes, and no.

    Take That’s chart comeback was absolutely spectacularly played, with great songs, a brilliant rebrand as serious artistes in a Radio 2 mould and superb marketing (I’ll stop there so as not to jump the bunny).

    But their resurgent success (touring included) was contained almost exclusively in the UK, Ireland and a handful of mainland European countries. In 1995, at least, they had toured Australia and East Asia.

    The Spice Girls, however, were always a global affair: look not only at the box office for the US-Canada dates in 2007-08 (and that dates in every continent were initially planned), but to the fact that their Olympic Closing Ceremony performance was the most tweeted event of the entire 2012 Games, at 116,000 tweets per minute worldwide.

    (You’ve probably guessed that I’m one of those diehard fans I refer to in an earlier post, but I promise I’m trying my best to be objective!)

    ‘Headlines’ was an unmitigated disaster.

    The Spice Girls’ Greatest Hits album, which boasted little content most fans wouldn’t already own (two songs, or five for those who hadn’t owned Forever or its singles), is estimated to have shipped 7 million copies worldwide, with 300,000 shipped in the UK. However, it peaked at no.2 in the UK, the second time a Spice Girls album was pipped by a Simon Cowell product.

    On the other hand, Take That managed to shift 2.2m copies of their repurposed greatest hits collection Never Forget in the UK alone in 2005, with just one new song (‘Today I’ve Lost You’ – cleverly not released as a single), a live rendition of ‘Pray’ and a dodgy ‘Relight My Fire’ remix. These substitutions made for a few minor hits aside, the CD is identical to 1995’s Greatest Hits, which itself had done over a million.

    Then again, there would perhaps be more appeal in a TT hits compilation? Their first three studio albums had sold combined, in the UK, half of the Spices’ first two combined.

  5. 35
    Mark G on 19 Apr 2015 #

    So, basically, “Headlines” was more a commercial/infoblip for the reunion/tour rather than a song for the kids to sing with their friends.

  6. 36
    AMZ1981 on 19 Apr 2015 #

    We are getting a bit ahead of ourselves but by the time we get to the next Take That bunny we’ll have forgotten this discussion.

    I must admit that the impression I got at the time was that the Spice Girls assumed what worked for Take That would work for them. Boyzone also attempted a comeback around the same time and did rather better than the Spices, if rather worse than Take That.

    I suppose that in 2006/07 the Spice Girls’ various solo careers were still trundling along. By contrast Take That had two members with faltering solo careers and two who were never likely to have a solo career which made the comeback narrative more remarkable.

    Perhaps more critically the Spice Girls’ reunion saw a once estranged member return meekly to the fold. By contrast Take That had a renegade member very much in the limelight and still occasionally flashing two fingers at them – I remember James Masterton noting at the time that the possibility of an eventual five piece reunion gave Take That an ace still to play.

  7. 37
    Andrew on 20 Apr 2015 #

    I still think we’re comparing two very different comebacks, or at least comparing the Spice nostalgia reunion to TT’s new material, which came later.

    The first Take That reunion tour was, like the Spice Girls’, a greatest hits exercise; the only difference between the two is that the Girls released their new song as a single to limited success and TT kept theirs as an album track where it didn’t have a chance to succeed or fail on its own terms. (‘Today I’ve Lost You’ might well have been a number one of course, but it equally could have been number 11 – at a guess, at least a top 5 would have been probable, but it’s got absolutely nothing on their bunnied hits of 2006, 2007, 2008 or 2014.)

    The phenomenal demand of TT’s 2006 tour (11 arena dates across the UK that were extended to 27; five stadium dates added) was the realisation that there was still huge demand for the band, which prompted them to write and record Beautiful World.

    This might always have been their plan, but it was never the Spice Girls’, who had made it clear in the press conference announcing the reunion that there wouldn’t be a new album; it was an opportunity to perform for their fans again and get to the places they’d never toured before (that they ended up not doing so was unfortunate; I outlined earlier why this happened).

    IIRC Mel C even made clear shortly after the tour that the new material was a contractual obligation in order to make the hits package more appealing. Obvious upon listening to it, you might counter – but not many popstars would admit it.

  8. 38
    DanusJonus on 20 Apr 2015 #

    I think at the time Take That very much tried to play the RW card (or it was played on their behalf), rather than calculating it would be shrewd to play this ace in the future.

    It was by no means certain that a TT reunion would be a success, however looking back and taking the music they subsequently brought out into consideration, you don’t really get that impression. I remember the ITV documentary that helped to announce their reunion. It very much presented TT as a 90’s curiosity who were taking the gamble to return. The central plank of the programme was that ‘mega-star’ Robbie Williams might co-operate with the reunion and grace it with his presence. The programme seemed to suggest this was the only way TT would again be a success (as well him once being in the group seeming to be the only reason ITV were making the documentary).

    You wouldn’t have guessed at the time that TT would be so successful again while RW’s profile would slide somewhat, to the point where it became a good career move for him to go back to them for an album.

    When you consider the other 90’s pop group reunions (East 17, Steps, to name but two), the quality or critical response to the songs is what really makes Take That’s a success. I think their ace was having somebody who actually wrote the songs and therefore was more in control of correlating the tone of the music to their situation. Are their many reunions that are successful where the protagonists don’t write their own material?

    I also think it’s worth noting that The Spice Girls very much seemed to assume and act as though it was inevitable that their reunion would be a success. As the BB4 documentary at the weekend noted, TT were very self-deprecating about themselves which seemed to get the press onside.

  9. 39
    Andrew on 20 Apr 2015 #

    #38 yes, there is an excruciating scene in the TT documentary where the four arrive one by one at an old country pile to get in a room together, chat about the old days and essentially see if they could stand each other’s company enough to consider a tour (Steps copied this very format in 2011).

    Unless it was staged (and who knows), they are waiting for Robbie to drop by – and eventually are told that he won’t be coming, but – hey! – he’s recorded a video message, in which one by one he addresses the ‘lads’. It’s really quite painful to watch.

    His contribution to the Ultimate Tour in 2006 was to film a few lines of ‘Could It Be Magic’ in almost comically sombre, torch song style, which were projected as a hologram at the beginning of the encore. At the show I saw this received one of the loudest screams of a rather scream-heavy evening.

    The 2010 reunion of the original line-up was filmed for a seriousface b&w documentary Look Back but Don’t Stare, which makes for fascinating viewing: the creative and personal tensions between five men approaching middle age, thrown together at audition 20 years previously, reforging friendships and recording an album entirely secretly – ostensibly to save the surprise of RW rejoining, but presumably also to reduce the pressure of what would have been considerable fan expectation. (I think it a real shame that ‘The Flood’ is unbunnied, incidentally; one of my favourite songs Barlow or Williams have ever done, group or solo)

  10. 40
    AMZ1981 on 20 Apr 2015 #

    Just picking up on some of the points above, it’s worth noting that Today I’ve Lost you was an unreleased song rather than a new recording.

    By the time the Spice Girls announced their return Take That had two bunnies and a massive selling album under their belts. While it could be argued that the Spice Girls initially stated there wouldn’t be a new album; had Headlines been a massive number one smash and they’d decided to do a new album after all I don’t think anyone would have condemned them for broken promises.

    Regarding Take That, Nigel Martin-Smith famously refused to get involved with the comeback tour, saying that nobody would be interested. Robbie Williams was always going to be the elephant in the room but; perhaps at the same time the Take That/ Robbie Williams relationship had always been a parasitic one even during the years when Take That were inactive. Robbie Williams was still referencing his sacking by the band in song as late as 2006 and any Take That comeback was always going to face comparison with Robbie’s stellar career.

    If I recall that documentary Robbie Williams was invited to meet up with his old bandmates and, after a bit of would he, wouldn’t he, declined at the last minute – the disappointment on their faces obvious. However he did send a video message wishing them well – who would have thought then that five years later he’d return almost as a supplicant.

  11. 41
    Andrew on 20 Apr 2015 #

    #40 that is true; likewise TT probably wouldn’t have pressed ahead with a new album if the reunion hits tour had flopped. I think it obvious that ‘Headlines’ was a contractual afterthought.

    ‘Today I’ve Lost You’ was both an unreleased song and a new recording. It had been demoed in 1995, but was properly recorded in 2005.

  12. 42
    AMZ1981 on 20 Apr 2015 #

    I think we might have to agree to differ slightly as I remain convinced that with Headlines the Spice Girls thought they could (and perhaps would) achieve the same success as second phase Take That. I would also point out that this was not the first time that the Spices attempted to fob off their fans with inferior product but our discussion of the first example isn’t that far off now.

  13. 43
    Andrew on 20 Apr 2015 #

    #42 fair, but even if they did think ‘Headlines’ was headed straight for the top (and perhaps they did arrogantly assume so), it would have been a one-off hurrah – no studio album would have followed. During the tour, Simon Fuller’s wheels were well in motion for the first season of Victoria Beckham’s fashion line to launch months after the tour ended; a far more lucrative project than any other solo activities pursued by the group.

  14. 44
    JoeWiz on 20 Apr 2015 #

    As mentioned in #38, for me the key difference between the two reunions and their varying levels of success was TT having an established songwriter in their ranks. Mr. Barlow has recieved a bit of kicking in the comments for his 1996/7 number ones, but for me he is one of the finest pop songwriters Britain has ever produced. Even if the reunion tour had been a middling success, the strength of most of those songs on Beautiful World would have convinced someone to release them in some format.
    That 2005 doc is interesting in that it presents Barlow as a bit of a joke, a portly northern joker type, compared with Robbie charming slickness- but then at the end Barlow is shown in a terrifically warm family environment, a sharp contrast to the ‘lonely icon’ Robbie, as witnessed in his ‘Nobody Someday’ doc. Maybe this portrayal of TT as likeable losers helped their comeback, whereas the spices were seen (maybe apart from Emma) as a bit distant and foreign, and the warmth toward them just wasn’t there.

  15. 45
    AMZ1981 on 20 Apr 2015 #

    #44 Being a bit pedantic but Gary Barlow wasn’t the songwriter on his 1997 number one. I might be opening a can of worms with this one but phase 2 Take That songs have always been credited to the band plus co-writers making it hard to ascertain who wrote what or how much outside help was needed – this needs to be seen in the context that in the nineties Barlow insisted a Robbie penned rap was struck off a track so he didn’t have to share a royalty.

    This probably belongs in discussion of an early 2007 bunny but another interesting point about phase 2 Take That is Mark Owen’s increased role – in the nineties he was almost like Ringo in being allowed to sing one song per album, in the noughties he’s almost a co-vocalist and my personal opinion is that 2008 non bunny aside the band are strongest when he’s in the ascendancy.

  16. 46
    JoeWiz on 20 Apr 2015 #

    Yes Owen’s role is clearly greater in phase 2, the hidden track on ‘Progress’ – ‘Flowerbed’ might be one of the loveliest things they’ve ever done. He moves up from Ringo to George, if you will…

  17. 47
    Andrew on 20 Apr 2015 #

    #46 ‘Flowerbed’ is Jason Orange! (and quite wonderful it is too)

    Mark’s solo track on Progress is ‘What Do You Want from Me’ (he shares ‘SOS’ with Robbie and ‘Kidz’ with Gary)

  18. 48
    Mark G on 20 Apr 2015 #

    Is that the “I still want to have sex with you” song?

    uddh…

  19. 49
    Andrew on 21 Apr 2015 #

    Yes, it’s about his wife after his affair was revealed. The lyrics are obviously very personal but it’s almost a bit too much: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/takethat/whatdoyouwantfromme.html

    The recording session, in the Look Back but Don’t Stare documentary, is quite hard to watch.

    I can’t stand Mark’s vocals a lot of the time, I must confess.

  20. 50
    ciaran on 14 Aug 2015 #

    I wouldn’t have had ITTY as a number 1 at all and it’s something I must admit largely passed me by at the time.

    Giving it a play now and whilst it’s better than I could have expected it’s perhaps a bit lost on Mel C and could be more memorbale if given to someone more suited to this kind of thing.Can’t help but hear a bit of Cascada in all of this.5 is right for this.

    Mel C appeared to be trying on several different hats in search of an identity but she lacked the force of personality that other Spice Girls had. She wasnt tabloid fodder like Geri, fashion/pop culture ice queen like Victoria, the slightly cooler big sister like Mel B so other than the first year of goodwill there wasn’t far for Mel C to go.

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