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Apr 15

MELANIE C – “I Turn To You”

Popular50 comments • 4,431 views

#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.

5

Comments

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  1. 1
    flahr on 17 Apr 2015 #

    New to me. I liked this more than I was expecting – I think the production convinces me and although I’m not sure Mel C’s voice is a great stylistic fit it might be an imperfect stylistic fit in a way that works. It’s not my kind of thing but it doesn’t seem bad: [5]

    Good sleeve.

  2. 2
    lonepilgrim on 17 Apr 2015 #

    this sounds to me like a fair-to-middling Eurovision entry – vague, earnest lyrics over a boshing beat and a sprinkle of strings for a touch of class. It’s too bland for me to love or hate so 5 seems about right

  3. 3
    Steve Mannion on 17 Apr 2015 #

    “co-produced by hardcore dance legend Rob Playford” this is a shocking revelation to me – worst #1 of the millennium up to this Popular point :(

    It always feels like a collective failure of imagination to me when the fourth (or later) single from an album goes to #1. Sheer dumb luck too.

  4. 4
    AMZ1981 on 17 Apr 2015 #

    Well that’s a first. I clicked on here to see if their was a new entry, saw that Rock DJ was still featured so decided I may as well refresh my memory of I Turn To You so that I was ready for the next entry. When I clicked off youtube, the I Turn To You piece was here.

    In all honesty it felt a bit like a slipstream number one at the time. Melanie C had started with two moderate hits and everybody was surprised when Never Be The Same Again took off as strongly as it did. It also feels a bit cynical, going after a big summer dance hit at just about the right time.

    In chart terms there were a few curious things about this. It was Mel C’s tenth number one, making her the second female to break into double figures and putting her in a tie with her former bandmate. It was also her last hit of any real significance. The fact that the follow up only made number 18 can be excused by the fact she released it over Christmas and was already available on a year old album. However she only troubled the top ten twice more with Here It Comes Again (2003, number seven with a 7-16-27 top forty trajectory) and Next Best Superstar (2005, no 10, 10-30). Both of these songs were the lead off from new albums, both were fanbase hits. In 2000 it felt like she only had to turn up to top the charts. In 2015 she is still making music and maintains a modest following but the wider public has long since ceased to take notice.

    Finally in the long run of one week wonders we’re currently discussing it’s worth noting that I Turn To You is the only one that wouldn’t have held the top spot if the week after hadn’t seen any big new releases – it dropped to four with Rock DJ still at three.

  5. 5
    James BC on 17 Apr 2015 #

    Clearly a 4 or 5. If they’d got Bryan Adams to join in it might have been a 7.

  6. 6
    Tom on 17 Apr 2015 #

    The light touch of Mr Playford is really not audible in the single mix, Steve. But you can just about hear it in the album version.

  7. 7
    Tom on 17 Apr 2015 #

    It’s no Bombscare that’s for certain.

  8. 8
    swanstep on 17 Apr 2015 #

    The album mix has 50% more streams on Spotify than the Hector Hex radio mix does, so Tom’s (and my) preference seems to be quite widely shared. Decent track in that form, though nothing too exciting. 5 seems about right to me.

  9. 9
    Mark G on 17 Apr 2015 #

    fifth single (or thereabouts) from the album was always going to need some backing, but I do still really like this.

    Didn’t this mean that as far as ‘count’ was concerned, Mel C was now the top number one songwriter (discounting Beatles)N

  10. 10
    chelovek na lune on 17 Apr 2015 #

    Generic, not unpleasant dance pop that anyone could have done anytime in the five years preceding this. But, while Mel C’s voice retains its agreeable fragility, the song is kind of insubstantial, decent to dance to in the main single version, but hardly earthshattering, timeless, stuff. (I quite liked the fifth single, “If That Were Me” the fragility and sensitivity of her voice was put to good work there with the song’s subject matter – it was really rather lovely, if kind of slight)

    This one is, however, far superior to Christina Aguliera’s hit of the same name from almost exactly the same time. But of all Mel C’s singles, “Northern Star” shines and stands out, way above all the others, in my book. The constant switching between different styles seems peculiarly ill-advised. (5)

  11. 11
    AMZ1981 on 17 Apr 2015 #

    #9 At the time of I Turn To You Ulvaeus/ Andersson had at least twelve at a quick count; nine with Abba, one with Elaine Paige/ Barbara Dickson and covers by Erasure and Westlife.

  12. 12
    mapman132 on 17 Apr 2015 #

    Unlike almost every other post-Spice solo record, I’m actually familiar with this one. It never reached the Hot 100, but it did get some airplay, and also topped Billboard’s dance chart. I like it a bit more than others here: 7/10.

  13. 13
    Mark G on 17 Apr 2015 #

    the comment above about having no set style to the singles so far puts me more in mind of Bjork..

    Going Down / Army of me
    ITTY / Big time sensuality
    Never be the same / Venus as a boy
    Northern Star / Play Dead

    OK I admit I’m struggling now. But.

  14. 14
    Phil on 17 Apr 2015 #

    Funny, the album version’s really listenable. OK, it’s Metalheads-by-the-yard, but better artists than Mel C have done all right with William Orbit-by-the-yard, to name but one. That would have been a definite 7, although presumably it would never have got to #1 in the first place. But I don’t care what the kids on the street say, that Hector The Inspector NB check this mix is just awful – 3 from me.

  15. 15
    Shiny Dave on 17 Apr 2015 #

    I’m still not sure which version of this I prefer. Hector’s mix and the album version both scratch different itches – the latter probably more interesting, the former absolutely exciting. Both are all the better for the strings.

    Whatever happened to “First Day Of My Life” though? If memory serves it was a hit everywhere in Europe except here, where it didn’t get released as a single. However, it did make it onto the DAB radio station Life, was on heavy rotation, and was the soundtrack to my pre-university summer, the end of an appendix year thrust upon me by family gaslighting – that it was the first song that played when I turned my radio on upon unpacking it in my room in halls made for one of the most powerful musical memories I will ever have. Would’ve been a case of “I really can’t not give it a 10 even if I should really only stretch to an 8” had it been bunnied.

    This? I’ll go as far as a 7.

  16. 16
    thefatgit on 17 Apr 2015 #

    Id totally forgotten ITTY existed, until I reminded myself via YouTube and the chorus kicks in and it’s classic…”oh, THIS one!”. Yeah, I’m falling in with the consensus here and thinking about the number of different hats she was trying on should be no impediment to success. As far as the average pop punter was concerned, Mel C was covering all bases quite ably, without settling into something that suited her Spice persona. Nevertheless, ITTY, while quite agreeable is nothing special and obviously not unique enough to allow me to recall the song without the necessary prompt…waffle, waffle, blah, blah. (5)

  17. 17
    Mostro on 17 Apr 2015 #

    I remember hearing the single at the time and not being at all convinced that her voice was suited to (what I thought was) an ill-judged attempt to jump on the trance bandwagon.

    Having only now discovered that this wasn’t the original, I looked that up on YouTube. And, yes, it’s a much better fit, even if the song itself isn’t overly outstanding.

  18. 18
    Andrew on 17 Apr 2015 #

    I like ‘I Turn to You’ a lot. The album version is gorgeously Ray of Light-ish, with the opportunistically banging Ibiza-ready remix taking it into the chart’s glory-hunting territory. What’s not to like?

    In terms of the previous number ones of 2000, the radio edit builds nicely upon the trance-lite stylings of Chicane, Fragma and Sonique, and (save for a 2002 cover version bunny) is the last pop-trance chart-topper until it resurfaces in a house-flecked iteration in 2009 (under the nauseating EDM label).

    Melanie performed it at the Spice Girls’ reunion tour in 2007-08, and it was one of the show’s highlights, given the full Gatecrasher strobes and laser treatment and triumphantly culminating the solo section.

    The song is reportedly about her relationship with her mum. This interpretation does away with some of the understandable accusations of lyrical genericness – mums aren’t that well-represented in lyrics to number one singles (Mel had gone there in 1997 with the Girls, of course).

    9

  19. 19
    mrdiscopop on 17 Apr 2015 #

    I remember Radio 1 playing the first track off Northern Star (Ga Ga) without revealing the singer… As if we’d be unable to recognise those foghorn leghorn vocals. It was never released as a single – which seemed a missed opportunity to me at the time, its Garbage-lite popgrunge sound being a perfect fit for Mel’s confrontational persona and raspy delivery.

    Time hadn’t kind to the song, though. And, of the other directions Mel tried on for size, this sort of humanised trance fits best. As Tom says, the album mix is better-paced and more involving. But I’d be happy with most of those 20 remixes.

    An aside: I’ve always wondered which of the ex-Spices has the most career longevity (excepting Posh, who’s astonishingly well-regarded for her fashion work)? Mel C tours pretty much constantly, Emma is great on Heart radio, Mel B is part of the global X Factor “family” and Geri is… well, forever Geri. But none of them is quite the global draw we’d have expected at this time in Popular history.

  20. 20
    Mark G on 18 Apr 2015 #

    See, the main rule for succeeding with solo albums is: Make it much better than anyone could reasonably expect.

    This is why MelC, Robbie and Phil Collins succeeded, and why Gary Barlow, Jarvis and Roger Waters didn’t so much: They made those albums everyone expected.

    And when it comes to Girls Aloud, lots of “I fancy you” songs with vids wearing not much tends to get nobody excited really. Half the battle is understanding the music you are making. Cheryl gets underestimated with regard to that.

  21. 21
    mrdiscopop on 18 Apr 2015 #

    I’m not sure Cheryl gets underestimated. None of her albums fall into the “better than anyone could have expected” category, for sure. I think her fatal flaw is an underwhelming taste in music. She wants to be a smooth-as-silk R&B singer, when her constituency is girl-next-door pop fans.

    Now, Nicola Roberts – there’s the real unappreciated genius of The Aloud.

  22. 22
    chelovek na lune on 18 Apr 2015 #

    #21 Nicola Roberts – yes, precisely. If only that album had had a bit more spent on it production-wise (marketing-wise, too) ….well (to judge by the quite, quite, brilliant lead single, which did get the cash and a push),… it would still have been largely ignored…unfortunately

  23. 23
    Andrew on 18 Apr 2015 #

    Nicola is certainly the most interesting Aloud, her Cinderella’s Eyes album is ambitiously packed to the brim with brilliantly off-centre production and highly personal lyrics, and was probably just a bit too gloriously odd for the core of the Aloud fanbase to latch on. The relative scale of her bandmates’ ambition is intriguing, with Cheryl blithely picking up the bunnies while seeming not to be particularly bothered about popstardom, Sarah going into acting (a St. Trinian’s reboot; has just started filming Corrie) and Nadine opting for that now much-mocked Tesco distribution deal. Kimberley skipped pop altogether (one dance feature aside), with an album of songs from the stage (after a spell in Shrek the Musical), a what-now? move that Melanie C was able to stave off until her sixth album release (following an Olivier-nominated stint in Blood Brothers and a Jesus Christ Superstar arena tour).

    Meanwhile, all but one Spices managed a number one single (we’ll talk about the only one who didn’t very soon in the context of her nemesis – and the final one who did when Popular reaches 2001). All but Mel B managed at least one top ten album, with three of the Girls achieving two (Victoria only released one).

    Why such a disparity? Better material? More effort? Greater goodwill towards the Spice Girls? Perhaps it is simply the case that in the industry boom of the late ’90s (and following the group’s unprecedentedly global levels of success) the Spice Force Five were all able to strut into album deals and receive the full weight of major label backing for at least one campaign. There was, according to David Sinclair’s superior Spice Girls biography, a private feeling among Virgin executives that the Northern Star album had received a little too much hard work, and that Melanie’s ensuing disassociation from the group was one reason their ironically named Forever ‘era’ was so short-lived. Again, something to chat about in a couple of Popular months.

  24. 24
    JLucas on 18 Apr 2015 #

    With a multi-platinum debut album, two number one singles and huge success in Europe – at this point, the prospect that Mel C would ‘do a Robbie’ really looked like a reality.

    But while Robbie’s solo career endured, Mel’s commercial fortunes rapidly collapsed – this was her commercial peak, but it was also her last major UK hit of any note.

    What went wrong? It doesn’t really matter that fifth single ‘If That Were Me’ missed the top ten, most fifth singles do. But the “I couldn’t live without my phone / But you don’t even have a home” lyrical clunker was roundly mocked and I think any fragile shred of credibility she’d built up (the media was still predominantly hostile to her – from NME savaging her to the tabloid media criticising her weight) took a major hit that might have coloured what happened next.

    What did happen next was that the public just seemed to utterly lose interest. Perhaps it was Spice girl fatigue – the group were on haitus but all five solo careers were operating at once from 1999-2001, and there was a *lot* of material being put out, of wildly varying quality.

    Perhaps Mel C’s pop narrative had just reached its natural end point. Robbie’s major selling point has always been his personality, and Mel doesn’t have that same level of charisma. (A pop star with Mel’s talent and Geri’s force of personality could be a force to reckon with indeed. Indeed, that’s kind of what Lady Gaga is/was). She was the talented underdog who deserved her moment, and she got it. After that, what did she have to keep the public engaged?

    Which brings us to the music, and perhaps the simple answer is that Mel C never made a better album than Northern Star. ‘Reason’ was a complete commercial disaster, selling less than a tenth of Northern Star’s total in the UK and doing even worse on the continent. But it isn’t a Rudebox-esque folly by any means. It’s just – sort of bland. As I mentioned in the NBTSA thread, the curious thing about Mel C is that she never really attempted to replicate her two biggest hits. There’s no RnB or Euro-dance on ‘Reason’, just a lot of her (presumably) preferred genre of soft rock.

    Lead single Here It Comes Again is listenable enough, but it’s one of those songs that tries to feel epic without really earning it. It passed people by – as did the Ronan Keating-esque follow-up ‘On The Horizon’ – which for me features one of her most unpleasantly shrill vocal performances. Whatever the public wanted from Mel C, this wasn’t it.

    There are nice moments on the album. Third single ‘Melt’ went totally ignored, but is as lovely as anything on Northern Star and should have been released sooner. ‘Water’ and ‘Home’ are also pretty midtempo moments, but the album clearly lacked in hits.

    To her credit, while the rest of the girls only seemed interested in making music for as long as the public were interested in buying it, Mel has ploughed on and quietly built up a small but loyal following. She got a big break in Europe when Enrique Iglesias-penned ‘First Day of My Life’ became a huge hit that strangely never got a push here. She did have one more brief top ten appearance with ‘Next Best Superstar’, which is rather bitter lyrically but actually in my opinion one of the post-Northern Star releases that best fits her voice.

    In recent years she seems to have had a modest revival in fortunes with a successful run in Jesus Christ Superstar, tours with Jools Holland and even a return to the top 20 in a duet with Matt Cardle. The impression I get is that people broadly like and respect Mel C – which is more than can be said for her bandmates – but ultimately aren’t terribly invested in her as a recording artist.

    Still, she’s worked hard and proven to her many detractors that she actually is a musician first. She’s wealthy enough and has enough of a following that she gets to keep doing what she loves. She may not have had Robbie’s career, but on the whole she seems to have survived pop superstardom pretty well, and proven a lot of people wrong in the process. Good for her.

  25. 25
    JLucas on 18 Apr 2015 #

    As for I Turn To You itself, the remix is *very* of it’s time. I think I enjoy both versions about equally. The album version is more powerful, but I’m a sucker for a big turn of the century Euro-banger. The video is unintentionally funny for how uncomfortable she looks – notice all the fast cuts to disguise the fact that she really can’t dance at all.

    It’s an 8 for me in either form.

  26. 26
    JoeWiz on 18 Apr 2015 #

    It’s amazing that more care wasn’t taken with that second Mel C album. She had a tremendous chance to really establish herself as a solo star. It took four (?) years to come out, which suggests that maybe too much care was taken with it? Was she involved in a lot of other projects between 1999 and 2003?
    This sounds like a passable late 90s trance pop song, and has dated much worse than its cool, slinky rnb tinged parent single.

  27. 27
    Andrew on 18 Apr 2015 #

    Northern Star was extensively toured, well into 2001. Melanie then took a bit of time out (having not really stopped work since 1996), met the man with whom she would eventually have her daughter and started writing and recording Reason.

    She resurfaced publicly to present an award at the MTV EMAs in November 2002, looking very much like the Sporty of yore (long dark hair, svelte – not that she’d been anything above a size 12 when the tabloids were calling her Sumo Spice), at which point the album was essentially ready to go, with a sampler circulating.

    A late 2002 release would have been three years since Northern Star, but Virgin were probably wise to avoid the Christmas rush.

    Reason eventually came out in the spring of 2003, with one review at the time describing it as sounding ‘focus-grouped into existence’, a slightly mean but not inaccurate assessment. There are plenty of nice songs on the album but it’s an exercise in blandness, with the edges and miscellany of Northern Star sanded off.

    The title track, which was at one point mooted as a single, is a highlight.

    2011 album The Sea is the return to Northern Star era form, however, with lead single Think About It a Katy Perryesque pop-rock banger and the most obvious smash a Spice Girl had released in at least five years, long since the ship had sailed for them to actually have hits

  28. 28
    AMZ1981 on 19 Apr 2015 #

    There is a surface similarity between Robbie and Mel C (who I believe had a brief fling circa 1997) in that both initially courted an indie audience and both scored their biggest solo hits after an initial wobble. What Robbie got right and Mel C didn’t is that Robbie struck while the iron was hot – I’ve Been Expecting You came out just thirteen months after Life Thru A Lens and indeed he was exceptionally prolific, issuing four studio albums, a covers record and a standalone single in just over five years. By contrast Mel C waited over two years before releasing new material and, as #24 noted above, didn’t seem to go after the right audience.

    It’s also worth noting that the Spice Girls never formally disbanded, announcing an `indefinite hiatus` at the end of 2000 (obviously on the other side of a bunny). Perhaps this meant that their solo stuff still felt like side projects.

  29. 29
    Tommy Mack on 19 Apr 2015 #

    Perhaps the Spice Girls name was kept on the back burner in case the solo stuff had really bombed.

    I remember in Q’s* ‘You ask the questions’ someone told Mark E Smith that they had a mate in marketing who reckoned he should very publicly disband The Fall, do low-key solo projects for five years then stage a reunion and sell ten times as many records/gig tickets. MES inevitably disagreed, saying “Most people think we split up years ago, anyway.”

    *I always seem to be quoting from Q on here which is odd as I must have bought about half a dozen copies in my life.

  30. 30
    AMZ1981 on 19 Apr 2015 #

    Ironically enough when the Spice Girls eventually attempted a reunion, to say it bombed was an understatement.

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