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Dec 15

GERI HALLIWELL – “It’s Raining Men”

Popular42 comments • 6,411 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. 1
    Mark G on 2 Dec 2015 #

    OK, so I logged in properly. Let’s go!

  2. 2
    thefatgit on 2 Dec 2015 #

    Nice to have you back, Tom!

    Is Popular done with Geri now?

    I’ll reacquaint myself with Geri’s IRM before I offer a score or comment further.

  3. 3
    JLucas on 2 Dec 2015 #

    When Geri left the Spice Girls in 1998, the big question was whether or not she was going to ‘do a Robbie’. The answer obviously turned out to be no, at least not in the long term, but aside from leaving major pop groups around the same time and being briefly romantically linked, the two didn’t have all that much in common. A more fitting question might have been this – could Geri Halliwell ever have been Kylie Minogue?

    It seems to me that Minogue today represents what Geri might have been. Since her own comeback in 2000, Kylie has managed to combine high-wattage star power with a girl next door appeal that affords her a consistent presence both in the charts and on prime time light entertainment shows, powered by a loyal, diverse audience of fans who snap up concert tickets and album releases in high enough volumes to allow her to continue touring and recording at a high level for as long as she wishes, even in recent years as she inevitably – but fairly gracefully compared to many of her peers – begins to segue from a leading pop figure into a beloved heritage act.

    Certainly, Kylie is more talented than Geri, but that’s not why she’s still around – indeed, many critics are still highly (and unfairly) dismissive of her in this regard. I think a more compelling reason for her endurance is just how carefully she’s steered her career through crowd-pleasing hits, occasional flirtations with credibility and retaining the link with her most loyal audience without alienating the wider public.

    There’s a song on Kylie’s ‘Light Years’ album entitled ‘Your Disco Needs You’. It’s a ridiculously infectious, outrageously camp spectacle that takes the Pet Shop Boys cover of Go West as a blueprint, and turns everything up to 11. It’s probably one of the most popular songs she’s ever recorded, and 15 years later it remains a staple of her touring repertoire. And yet it was never released as a single. At the time this seemed baffling when she was pushing relatively bland fare like Please Stay over what could potentially have been a huge #1 hit.

    The thought is that Parlophone at the time were concerned that the single was a step too far into outright kitsch. Too gay, in other words. Whatever the ethical rights and wrongs of this decision, it’s fair to say that it did her career no harm. The leap from ‘Kids’ and ‘Please Stay’ to her forthcoming bunny was striking, but not all that difficult to swallow. Your Disco Needs You might indeed have pushed her too far into a corner.

    Maybe Geri was always in that corner. She was never convincing as the affable girl next door – she was too bold, too hungry, too nakedly ambitious. Kylie always managed to behave as if success came to her as a surprising blessing, Geri chased it ruthlessly and revelled in it openly. Combined with an obviously marginal vocal talent, it was always going to rub awkwardly against a British public that has always had a problem with tall poppies.

    But if Geri was always a tougher sell than Kylie, I’d argue that the double whammy of Bag It Up and It’s Raining Men put her in a box she was never going to get out of. I know a fair number of musically open-minded heterosexual men who can comfortably appreciate a good Kylie song. I know musical purists who might not have much respect for her as a singer, but can recognise Kylie’s finest moments as ‘good pop songs’. Appreciation for Geri’s solo work can seemingly only take place when you give yourself over fully to kitsch, acknowledge and celebrate her inherent awfulness. You can’t even look past it as you can with some other problematic pop singers. There’s no separation between Geri’s material and her public persona. She is in all aspects the ultimate guilty pleasure.

    It’s Raining Men, then, is last hoorah as a solo artist. In ‘Wannabe’, David Sinclair posits that the quality of her material didn’t necessarily decline, so much as the public simply got tired of her. In truth, the narrative arc of her career was closed by the end of the Schizophonic campaign. This, her biggest solo hit, was actually more of a lucky break – trading her star status for a high profile soundtrack single, covering a surefire disco classic. It was the last ace she had to play, and afterwards she seemingly had nothing more to offer. She was never able to compellingly explore her relationship with her fame or her life before it in the way Robbie Williams could, nor was she able to (or interested in) taking the interesting but non-commercial side roads that Kylie took during her 90s wilderness years. If Geri wasn’t at #1, she didn’t make sense – to herself or to her audience.

    For what it’s worth, like Bag It Up, much of what Tom finds flawed about this is what I find endearing. She’s never going to match Martha Wash and Izora Armstead for vocal power, and there’s no way to wring a song like It’s Raining Men for any kind of pathos. What Geri can bring, once again, is a near-manic level of energy. Her delivery here makes Bag It Up sound like Beth Orton. She throws herself into it completely and unrestrainedly, rising to the frantic (and surprisingly good) production by bellowing out every line as though her life depended on it. Once again, she’s the head bridesmaid at the hen party of a lifetime, and she will brook no possibility of a dip in energy. It is in many ways the perfect song for her, and it’s absolutely the perfect swansong to her tenure at the top of the pop tree. There was no way back after this, no possibility for Geri to recalibrate her persona or explore more nuanced creative endeavors. It’s the most commercially successful act of career suicide in recorded history, and I love it without remorse.

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    lonepilgrim on 2 Dec 2015 #

    the original version is characterised – in it’s arrangement, lyrics and performance – by an excess that suits its status as a gay anthem. I suspect that Geri thought she could harness some of that for her performance but it seems flat by comparison. The video with its rather too obvious use of a double for the tricky dance moves embodies the flimsy nature of her performance.

  5. 5
    Shiny Dave on 2 Dec 2015 #

    The review mentions the “secret unrepentance” of Bridget Jones’ ironised relationship with alcohol, cigarettes, and calorie-counting. Here’s how Geri really wasn’t Bridget Jones; she really, really didn’t do unrepentance, and I’m pretty sure her eating disorder was public knowledge at this point. No wonder the video looks completely wrong – Geri is Bridget Jones in many ways alright, except that Bridget Jones ironises the casually disordered approach to eating that forms too much of popular culture amongst that demographic, and Geri serves as a moving embodiment of where that approach can end up.

    Maybe it’s for the best that we see this as a pure pantomime romp. The average local pantomime cast probably has a better singer than Geri Halliwell. Maybe more than one. At least the production isn’t as ruinously overbearing as it is on “Bag It Up,” and seeing as I liked what that song was wanting to be, and this is playing the same game in cover form, I can only dislike it so much. 5, I guess? That feels generous, but it does what it sets out to do in somewhat reasonable fashion.

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    thefatgit on 2 Dec 2015 #

    My earlier unlogged comment in moderation limbo…never mind. I’m pretty certain this is the point we say goodbye to Geri. There’s nothing wrong at all with this cover, except that Geri undersells the song by simply lacking Weather Girl sass. This is one of those occasions where the enjoyable Fame-meets-Flashdance concept of the video feels wasted on a cover version that is frustratingly…not rubbish, but not very good.

    And the producer has thrown a shit-ton of electronic bells and whistles into the mix for Geri to compete with. Only the “go get yourself wet, girl” hints at the sassiness of its predecessor. Nescafe instant to the Weather Girls’ double espresso.

    So in conclusion, this is exactly what you’d expect from Ms Halliwell. (3)

  7. 7
    Lazarus on 2 Dec 2015 #

    Several hours and nearly 350 views in we’re awaiting our first comment – could it be because nobody can actually get their comment up? We’re still waiting for the march of the mods, it seems.

    Quite depressing how many solo number ones Geri eked out of her meagre talent -is it too much to hope that this is the last we’ll hear from her?

  8. 8
    AMZ1981 on 2 Dec 2015 #

    And this marks the end of an era. In the Spring of 2001 it seemed inconceivable that It’s Raining Men would be the last ever number one single by any of the Spice Girls but that’s precisely what it was.

    In a strange kind of way Geri didn’t leave the Spice Girls in 1998 as much as the rest of the group left her, at least stylistically. It was her solo records that were the most reminiscent of the group’s. And here she is singing It’s Raining Men which strangely enough was only the second cover any of the group had released as a single (after Melanie B’s Word Up – Emma Bunton was a guest vocalist on What I Am rather than lead artist) and to me it shows how badly the plot had been lost with regard to girl power. Girl power should have been about how girls could compete on the same playing field as the boys and yet here is the concept’s most vocal advocate singing It’s Raining Men; a song about rushing out to goggle at himbos. Which possibly wouldn’t matter so much if it wasn’t Geri Halliwell who seemed to think girl power was on a parity with Nelson Mandela’s struggle against apartheid but it was Geri Halliwell and so it does matter.

    A few things mitigate for this faint photocopy of a cover. In the context of her catalogue it was a stopgap single for a film soundtrack while she focused on a new album. It was hardly her fault that it gave her a fourth consecutive number one (a record for a female artist I think). But her next single, released just three months later, could only get to number eight. Even more incredibly that song; Scream If You Wanna Go Faster; had everything going for it. It was punchier than anything she’d done up to that point, it had a clear schedule (it was the highest new entry of that week) but the fanbase just wasn’t there any more. She’d recover to a number four hit in the years that followed but her days as a solo superstar were gone.

  9. 9
    Adam Puke on 2 Dec 2015 #

    Spot on about cheese sapping its power. I’d forgotten the arrogance/ignorance that partly fuelled the cheese movement, in this case the team behind IRM imagining they’d succeeded in putting a new ironic slant on a supposedly naff 80s hit (which any eejit could tell you was pretty damn knowing and smart in the first place).

  10. 10
    katstevens on 2 Dec 2015 #

    The original Weathergirls video has some of the most shameless and delightfully shonky greenscreen action in pop music.

  11. 11
    GLC on 3 Dec 2015 #

    This was the first version of the song I heard, back in 2001. I’ve heard the Weather Girls’ original since then, and there was no way Geri Halliwell was ever going to top the vocal firepower of Martha “EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!” Wash or Izora Armstead (RIP). Martha Wash is rad, yo.

  12. 12
    swanstep on 3 Dec 2015 #

    Inferior, utterly redundant cover. Did the track have much impact as used in the film? If so it passed me by. The original Flashdance audition scene that’s aped in the vid. has always really annoyed me: the character is supposed to be auditioning for a traditional ballet company not for any kind of jazz dance group (which I suppose is the closest thing to the sort of movement she shows). What she does is like showing up to a football trial and doing all your best rugby tackles and scrummaging etc., and yet still making the first team/professional league team. Flashdance was a stupid, stupid film:
    2

  13. 13
    glue_factory on 3 Dec 2015 #

    This reminds me of the tracks put out by Almighty, the gay-clubbing label, who take songs that you often thought were already pretty “shirts-off, arms-in-the-air”, and makes them more so. And like those, where the vocalists are nice but pretty interchangeable, Geri becomes just another sound amongst the whooshes and bleeps. I quite enjoy it on those terms and occasionally would prefer it to the original, but it’s lacking something.

    I was convinced Geri changed the lyric to “God bless Mother Nature, she’s a single mother too”, a last gasp of Girl Power, but it seems I imagined it.

  14. 14
    Phil on 3 Dec 2015 #

    #8 – weirdly, until reading this I was convinced that Emma Bunton sang on “Here’s where the story ends” – and I’d never knowingly heard “What I am”. FWIW Wikipedia reckons that counts as an Emma Bunton single, probably because the track appears on one of her albums.

  15. 15
    Kinitawowi on 3 Dec 2015 #

    #8: Well, there’s still one Spice Girl Number One left to go, although that’s mainly thanks to a bunch of her fellow Scousers.

    #14: That was Shelley Nelson, of course, who seems to have done very little other than her own two (quite sweet) Tin Tin Out collaborations. (Sometimes > Here’s Where The Story Ends >>>>> the original Here’s Where The Story Ends by The Sundays)

    As for Geri… this song was a resounding “why?”. It took a quite astounding amount of skill to take such a fun original and make something so dry out of it. 3.

  16. 16
    Rory on 3 Dec 2015 #

    I’m unreasonably annoyed by the literalism of the single cover and the corresponding scene in the video. Did they think the Weather Girls’ title was missing a comma? It’s wet out there, fellas. I’d take a brolly if I were you, chaps.

    Anyway, pointless millennial-pop cover of fine ’80s single, with no vocal prowess to elevate it, equals a 4 from me.

  17. 17
    Andrew on 3 Dec 2015 #

    In the film this track accompanies a scene in which Hugh Grant and Colin Firth have a fist fight (over Bridget’s honour – oh, men) that begins as a rather cartoonish brawl and ends with – SPOILER!!1 – quite an unnecessary and unpleasant violent climax when Firth’s character knocks Grant’s to the pavement and the back of his head hits the floor (I remember watching it at the cinema and being shocked at how funny the majority of the audience found the fight).

    The song has no bearing to the scene whatsoever, save for the central piano riff being quite high on tension.

  18. 18
    mapman132 on 3 Dec 2015 #

    Chart fact: The WG original only reached #46 in the US. I guess it was too “gay” and “disco” for its time. It’s still a well-known song though. No US chart action at all for Geri: Wiki doesn’t even show it on the dance chart.

    #12 Never saw Flashdance so I didn’t get the references in the video. That must explain Geri’s’ stumble at the beginning.

  19. 19
    JoeWiz on 3 Dec 2015 #

    I always thought this was trailing the 2nd album, rather than being primarily a soundtrack song, but then I wasn’t exactly the Bridget Jones target market. I take it this did feature on the album somewhere?
    This is pretty putrid if you ask me, it all felt far too forced and almost serious, the overriding energy and fun of Ginger Spice was long gone – but that was probably the idea. Geri clearly thought she could play with her image like our biggest popstars can – but we really only loved one version of Geri. And this uber toned fun vacuum really wasn’t it. Remember Brits appearance this year? There was an audible gasp as she strutted down to see Ant n Dec. She was suddenly much harder to love.
    So how bad was album 2? Or would anything she released have (relatively) failed?

  20. 20
    Tom on 3 Dec 2015 #

    #13 To be fair to Almighty, they also take tracks that are very much shirts-on, furrowed-brow and give them the poppers-o-clock treatment. Nickelback’s “How You Remind Me”, for example.

  21. 21
    Mark G on 3 Dec 2015 #

    #19 I think that gasp was in reaction to how painfully thin she had gone. The cover of “Scream if you want to go faster” is a case in point also.

  22. 22
    the bellman on 3 Dec 2015 #

    I thought this was Geri trying to eke out what little remained of her popularity by positioning herself as a gay-friendly novelty act; coinciding fortuitously with an early but now-familiar example of the Richard Curtis-Working Title axis of evil recipe of having a tinny cover version of a good (preferably slightly gay/torch-y) song butchered by a flash-in-the-pan contemporary chart favourite/bankable established act.

    See Girls aloud dancing on the Pointer sisters’ grave, and S Club juniors in a similar vein in Love, actually; the Shithouse family doing Ain’t no sunshine in Notting Hill; and Sam Brown’s Stop being Tonya Harding’d by Jamelia. You could probably add Wet wet wet in 4WAAF to that list.

    And some Comic relief singles, including Westlife’s Uptown girl, recently discussed here, which featured actors implicated in Curtis’ work.

  23. 23
    mrdiscopop on 4 Dec 2015 #

    Hey now #22. Girls Aloud did a stirling job on Jump (well, Xenomania did, anyway). The vocal arrangement on the chorus is particularly fine.

    Which is more than you can say for Geri / IRM. I’m not sure what’s worse – the idea or the execution. The original revels in its own absurdity but Geri is too one-dimensional to carry that off. She commits to the song, but to the wrong part – choosing kitsch over joie de vivre.

    In many ways, the Bridget Jones film did the same – emphasising the clichéd rom com elements over Fielding’s more nuanced satirical take on work, image and identity.

    The two deserved each other. (1)

  24. 24
    AMZ1981 on 4 Dec 2015 #

    #15 I almost noted that this isn’t quite the last appearance of a Spice Girl on a number one single but obviously it’s the last time one of them got their under their own steam. What odds might you have got on that at the time?

    Geri was definitely courting the gay audience at the time and Kylie was an obvious comparison point. Obviously we’re not that far away from a fairly important Kylie bunny but I think there is a critical difference between the two artists. Kylie is a curiously anonymous figure who speaks to her audience through her music. By contrast Geri’s approach to the gay audience is similar to a hen night barging into a gay bar and taking over the dancefloor (as an aside many gay venues don’t allow hen nights in for this reason – gay men still don’t have many intimate places open to them and prefer not to have them invaded).

    Nobody has yet picked up on the question as to why Scream If You Wanna Go Faster bombed as badly as it did. In case anybody quibbles bombed; in the week it entered at eight the number one single (an obviously bunnied cover by a girl band in its second week atop) did 70,000. It’s Raining Men by contrast did 78,000 second week at number one so SIYWGF was a massive, massive comedown. The video is too obviously a Blondie pastiche but that’s not overly apparent from audio alone; it’s a catchy enough pop song and no worse than Lift Me Up. And yet nobody bought it.

  25. 25
    Mark G on 4 Dec 2015 #

    Well, I quibble about “bombed” : OfficialChart has Schizophonic with a fifty week run as opposed to “Scream” which managed 16 weeks. 16 weeks is not a bomb. The Spicey’s “Forever” managed 10. That’s still fairly respectable business, but the comparison gets made.

    So why did it do less well? Fewer blockbuster hits, less ongoing promo, general tiredness, or maybe the feeling that the GenPub only needed one Geri album, the one with the hits on it? As I say, the painfully skinny pic on the front probably put people off.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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 :(

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