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Dec 15

GERI HALLIWELL – “It’s Raining Men”

Popular41 comments • 3,773 views

#897, 12th May 2001

gerirain Living with my parents over summer ‘95 I read the Independent, cover to cover, largely as a way to delay writing job applications. I become a small-scale fan of Bridget Jones Diary: Helen Fielding’s columns, comically exaggerated snippets of semi-posh London life, were a minor weekly highlight. On first encounter the pieces felt like a sitcom, and in classic sitcom style they seemed to match a mildly awful (but sympathetic) lead character with several still more awful supports. Fielding had refused to write an autobiographical single-girl-about-town column, preferring to take a more satirical route, but Bridget grew into an icon, and her sitcom grew a storyline.

The gloss of satire, and the repetitive structure a serial column demands, turned out to be a winning combination: Bridget constantly declares that she wants to change, but never can. But because this is a comedy, and she’s its heroine, this flips into something positive. As Kelly Marsh points out in her essay ‘Contextualising Bridget Jones’, Bridget’s surface neurosis masks secret unrepentance: she lays out her consumption of booze, cigs and food, then tells the stories of how she missed her targets with relish. She deals with society’s expectations (and her own) by ironising them. Fielding knows perfectly well that “guilty pleasures” is an idea that polices pleasure, not celebrates it, and every week Bridget would start with that policing, and go on to comically defy it.

All this makes “It’s Raining Men” an ideal choice of song. It’s about defiant excess, a carnival spirit of release, where guilt is banished, the unnatural order of things is overturned and the world bends to the desires of those who enjoy men. The original Weather Girls video sees two big, wickedly joyful women and a gaggle of dancers go on an unrestrained rampage through a cheap, gaudy set. The heart of The Weather Girls’ song is the crescendo before the final chorus – “I feel stormy weather moving in!” – sung with delight as a claim on pleasure and a warning of its power.

Geri Halliwell doesn’t have the lungs to match that, but she obviously loves the idea of it as a moment. The pantomime emphasis she gives it sums up her whole approach, though – this is a cover of a song done in the foreknowledge that the song is “cheese”, which saps its power. There’s probably no way for a Weather Girls cover in 2001 to escape that fate, but I don’t think Geri’s trying very hard. “It’s Raining Men” is a good song, and a great choice for Bridget Jones, but I don’t get that from this record. And certainly not from the video, which contrasts Renee Zellweiger at her most flustered and farcical with long pans over Geri’s ultra-toned body. The animating spirit of the thing seems to be “Isn’t Geri great, and how on-brand this song is for her!”

It’s too on brand, is the thing. She does a better job with this song than with some of her own, because it’s a better song, and because she barely tries to actually sing it. (Not a complaint, given the options). But she’s not quite convincing singing a song about the breaking of the dams the world puts on desire, since she made clear from the first words of “Wannabe” that she acknowledged no such limits. Who would ever have held her back? So the part of the song that’s about justice, not only joy, backs off, and we’re left with a romp: “Bag It Up”, part 2. Geri doesn’t need it to rain men, and she can’t sing it like she does.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    the bellman on 4 Dec 2015 #

    #23: re ‘Jump’. I see your point, and generally I’m a fan of GA-Xenomania stuff, but I think it’s the weakest of their singles up to this point. Maybe it’s just that my dislike of Richard Curtis films blinds me to merits I’d otherwise happily acknowledge, but the lead into the chorus – the rise on the final ‘mo-o-ore’ which turns into a wail – makes my eyes water. So much effort, only to fail so badly.

    The bits that are good about the record – the crunchiness of the synth and the way it stop-starts, whatever that’s called – would be good in other contexts.

  2. 27
    AMZ1981 on 4 Dec 2015 #

    #25 I’ve just realised I’ve been relying on my memory rather than double checking which is a dangerous thing to do. I thought that the single SIYWGF came out before the album of the same name when in fact that album accompanied It’s Raining Men. So an available parent album makes the relative failure of the next two singles more understandable. Even so I’ve just seen on Wikipedia that the single SIYWGF sold 27,000 copies in its first week, a marked comedown from somebody who’d turned over six figure opening sales with each previous single. The next single along, Calling, managed one better despite coming out in a more competitive chart week.

  3. 28
    Mark G on 4 Dec 2015 #

    Oh, and I apol also, I thought you meant the album. I guess people didn’t like that single as much, and liked the next one more.

  4. 29
    Tommy Mack on 4 Dec 2015 #

    My main memory of this, as I was still occasionally getting dragged to student cheese nights, is the disappointment of hearing it start up and realising it wasn’t the original.

    I also remember being saddened by Geri’s drastic weight loss. Though I am ashamed to admit that it was for largely ignoble reasons at the time.

  5. 30
    katstevens on 4 Dec 2015 #

    #22 the nadir of R Curtis film tie-in singles must be Bill Nighy’s ‘Christmas Is All Around’. Gritted-teeth parody without any humour, so filled with self-loathing that it is determined to self-sabotage. A gleeful-mischief Vic’n’Bob-style take would have worked so much better. Not even the Robert Palmer backing band girls are enjoying themselves :(

  6. 31
    thefatgit on 5 Dec 2015 #

    To be fair, Robert Palmer’s own backing band seemed not to be enjoying themselves, either.

  7. 32
    Lazarus on 5 Dec 2015 #

    Nor did Mr Blobby’s.

    And of course ‘Christmas’ doesn’t scan!

  8. 33
    Chelovek na lune on 5 Dec 2015 #

    To describe this as an undistinguished cover version would be very kind. It brings nothing new or noteworthy to the song, and lacks the qualities (above all: the roaring vocals, but also the pumping accompaniment) that made the Weather Girls’ version a delight. This works neither as listening or dancing material – it’s really poor. 2 would a generous mark.

  9. 34
    Phil on 6 Dec 2015 #

    The video is weird – the ridiculously obvious body-doubling opening sequence goes on far too long (was “can I start again?” supposed to be some sort of career relaunch reference?), and Geri’s self-presentation veers between a cheery, unthreatening Page 3 beam and some full-on hip-and-midriff action which seems to be attempting to appeal directly to a gay male audience.

    But it’s more interesting than the track, which is just awful. 3, and I think that’s generous.

  10. 35
    James BC on 7 Dec 2015 #

    It’s Raining Men
    Scrapes four out of ten
    Unlike Scream If You Want To Go Faster
    Which was a total disaster

  11. 36
    Ed on 7 Dec 2015 #

    @30 I rather like ‘Christmas Is All Around’… Curtis at least gets points from me for being prepared to mock himself.

    And there are worse bits in Love Actually.

  12. 37
    K on 8 Dec 2015 #

    #35 And then there was Calling
    (Pretty appalling)

  13. 38
    Mostro on 9 Dec 2015 #

    This is just a relatively flat and pointless copy. If I’d never heard the original, I’d probably think it was quite decent.

    It *really* suffers from the loss of the asides and interplay between the two lead singers- partly, of course, because there’s only one here. “Hi, hi, I’m your Weather… er, Spice Girl… no, wait I’m not any more, can we get rid of that?” (To be fair, it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea- for several reasons- to have her mimic the sassy-black-American-woman-isms of the original anyway, even if she’d been capable doing so).

    The way the melody has been flattened in parts- possibly to accommodate her vocal range- grates too. (For example, after the “Just about half past ten…”, when the Weather Girls go up for “…for the first time in history”, Halliwell’s jumps down instead of soaring.)

    It’s hard to tell whether the more over-the-top arrangement of the backing track was intended to compensate for her more limited vocal talents, but at times it has the opposite effect- her utterly flat delivery of the line “I’m gonna go out / I’m gonna let myself get / Absolutely soaking wet” is almost buried in the mix, something you can’t say about the original.

    Seemed to me in her post-Spice Girls phase that she *very* obviously wanted to become a gay icon… but also to be an object of heterosexual male desire (in addition to the existing audience of mainly child/tween Spice Girls fans.) “Look at Me” and “Bag It Up” were quite obvious big, OTT diva-wannabe attempts. The former in particular gave the impression of thinking it would get away with it by being oh-so-ironically-open about its unapologetic attention seeking diva-ness, but if you don’t buy into that, it just comes across as over-ambitious arrogance and makes the whole thing worse.

    Ironically, “It’s Raining Men” doesn’t scream “calculated gay-friendliness” as much as some of her other work, possibly because the Bridget Jones connection brings it more into feminist anthem territory.

  14. 39

    Hello all.

    Sorry I’ve been a bit dormant this year. Unfortunately I set off like a house on fire, both on here and IRL but I moved house on March 14… and somehow got Wi-Fi installed on… August 12. I also cancelled my first ‘adult’ holiday abroad (a European tour everywhere from Seville to Dresden!) twice in autumn, as to paraphrase ABC, I’d seen the future, and I couldn’t quite afford it. First world problems, and people connected with me near and far have been through much worse, and have been very much in my thoughts, but you know what I mean. It was that kind of year. At least my family had some marvellous personal successes and I voted for the winning candidate in a British election for the first time ever (Corbyn)…. OK, I’ll probably never give another penny towards Labour or any other party, and if only I’d put £100 on him in July when he was 200/1 :( … but I was proud to play a little positive role in history.

    Also been a little bit disillusioned with the top 100, but when Popular gets to 2015 I can still see at least three “8s” and one nailed-on “9”… I’d like to thank David Lichfield and Ben Kilbride (who don’t comment here but on Facebook and Twitter have pop picked some of the finest, juiciest past, present and future fruit and single-sickledly restored my faith in the charts), and as ever, Tom for keeping the FT flame alive, and the same to Marcello and Lena on TPL. I know updates haven’t been frequent, but especially in the latter case, I can sympathise with and understand why. Hang on in there, keep going – (though MC/LF – good luck with the, ahem, baggy trilogy for 1990, TE – er, perhaps 7 (seven) of the worst cover versions of all time before we hit 2002! And I’ll have much more to say than recently as September 2001 – June 2003 is Sully 2: the Sixth Form years. Is Tom Hanks a good lead role? You decide. Plus I’m game for a pop Euro 2016, though it’s somewhat difficult to Google an Albanian Popular ’85!)

    Sorry for my occasional sociopathy of yesteryear – to paraphrase Pulp, it’s giving way to socialising, so hope I can meet fellow members of the comments crew in person one day in the not too distant future. If there’s another music writing summit like May’s or an FT pub crawl I’m more than happy to travel to London.

    Best wishes to all Freaky Triggerers/Populistas for Christmas and the New Year. Hope the festive season brings joy, happiness, and the warmth of friends and family shining through. Here’s to 2016.

  15. 40
    Lazarus on 20 Dec 2015 #

    Hi Patrick, good to have you back. As you say the updates are coming infrequently at the moment. We have a vacancy on the TOTP comments crew though, care to take the place of the Swede? Even if you weren’t around at the time (and some of us old farts remember these hits all too well) it would be good to have another viewpoint. Actually it would be more interesting to hear from someone encountering this music for the first time – the first half of ’81 was a mini-golden age for the UK Top 40 IMHO.

  16. 41
    Patrick Mexico on 21 Dec 2015 #

    That’s an offer I can’t refuse, just tell me when the next one I need to cover is on the box and I’ll fire away. It was four years before I was born so I’ll be familiar with a fair few of the hits but the presentation and context will be like a distant foreign land, I’m looking forward to exploring it!

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