I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want….
The Most Fukt Election in US History wasn’t the only thing that happened on November 7, guys… why, it was the release of the NEW SPICE GIRLS ALBUM! And that means a special Blather album review!
Pump it up, pump it up….
The Spice Girls hit the charts well before The Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Destiny’s Child, TLC’s "No Scrubs" and Cher’s "Believe"… but you’d never guess from listening to their new album. Titled Forever (aw, who’re they trying to convince?), this is typical urban hip-hop top 40 pop stuff. It’s slickly produced, yeah… but it’s also totally lacking in the glib cheekiness, the "we ain’t takin’ this, or ourselves, too seriously" feel that I associate with the Spicies… and that differentiated them from Pop Hoi Polloi. I guess, after marriages, divorces, babies, tabloid headlines and critical savaging, and especially, the abdication of Geri, the Girls have definite messages with this album: 1) we’re still BEST FRIENDS!, 2) we’re not "girls" anymore and 3) we’re serious musical artists, yo!
They’ve dropped the "__ Spice" monikers. They’ve got a glam’d-up and "mature" look for their album photos. They’ve tightened up their harmonies. Why, they’ve got different producers (Darkchild Entertainment, Inc.) and songwriters (including some dudes who worked with Whitney, Janet, Mariah, Toni and Destiny’s Child. That, really, should tell you everything you need to know). In fact, they’ve done everything but change the band name to Spice Women.
But guys? Most of us didn’t listen to Spice Girls for "serious" music. Really.
Frankly, the Spice Girls have always been as much about "serious music" as, say, Josie and the Pussycats. Founded as little more than a great big and brilliantly marketed cartoon, the Girls were fun because they were a lovable cast of recognizable characters who spouted catchy slogans ("Girl Power!") and sassed the media (acceptably and predictably, mind. As their international audience grew, for instance, Sporty Spice’s f-word laden diatribes and alluded lesbian qualities were downplayed… or cut altogether). They pinched Prince Charles on the ass, and appeared on every bag of crisps and can of pop that me and The Husband-Type Man came across during our honeymoon in England in 1997. F’Gawd’s sake, one of their songs on Spice World was a Pepsi commercial! They never tried to convince us that this was anything but a [money-making] lark for them.
And now…? Now I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Britney Spears is joining the gang as Derivative Spice.
That’s not to say that the album sucks donkey. I mean, for the most part, as yet another Boy Band-esque ballad grinds its way through the CD player, I can’t help begging the Girls to kick up the BPMs, gawddammit! But there’s some fun and groovy stuff, too… catchy, danceable (if not sing-along-able) tunes that I’m sure’ll make their way onto my Teen Poo compilation CD along with that one 98* song and the non-ballad stuff from Millenium and No Strings Attached. And there’re still some of the Spice Girls touches I loved so much from albums past… the uneven lyrical stanzas, redundant wording, and incorrect sentence structure/verb agreements ["I won’t keep waiting for you/to come and let me take you to my fantasy room" or "trust in me what I need" or "what the night has got in store for you"], and there’re still plenny o’ the Stock Spice Phrases about how "friendship never ends" and "you wanna get with me" and "I know we were meant to be." And there’re even a few touches of the brilliant self-commercialization I associate with the Spicies, like with 8 out of 11 of the tracks, there’s a rap vocal that announces some variation of "Spice Girls! Darkchild! 2000!"… basically, um, rapping the copyright info.
It’s also hard not to read into Forever’s song lyrics, associating "Goodbye" (which was released as a CD single back in ’98) with Geri’s departure. Or "Tell Me Why" and "Wasting My Time" with Mel B- no, Mel G-, no, wait, Mel B again, okay, so, Mel B’s short-lived marriage and acrimonious divorce. And, of course, we’ll never need to see a Spice Girl’s Behind the Music, thanks to "Right Back At Ya" ["There’ve been tears along the way/But we’re still the best of friends" and "Now we’ve had a taste of what we can achieve/But we’re coming back for more/We’ll show you how/to turn your dreams into a reality" and "We started a trend they all imitated"… why, it covers all the BtM bases!].
So, track by track….
Track 1, "Holler": It’s danceable (in a sedate way), has a slightly naughty, catchy chorus, and heck, the Girls rhyme "holler" with "follow"… what’s not to love? Well, other than the fact that it immediately sounds like "No Scrubs" at first….
Track 2, "Tell Me Why": Groovalicious (in a sedate way). The Mels can really sing.
Track 3, "Let Love Lead the Way": Isn’t this an N’Sync cover? Ick… between the schmaltzy music and lyrics like "Why is there joy/why is there pain/why is there sunshine and the rain?" (Ballad count: 1)
Track 4, "Right Back At Ya": Prolly one of the most-recognizable-as-the-Spice-Girls track on the album… I can see it as the opening song on tour and all… but it drags. Really drags. Well, it has a brief Moment when Mel B raps (in a sedate way).
Tack 5, "Get Down With Me": I think this one’s my favorite. It owes a lot to disco… in fact, it reminds me of something, but I haven’t been able to place it yet. The vocals are really good, especially the sparkling Baby Spice harmonies. I could even sing along to this while driving… which is the Ultimate Test for a SG song/album. It’s funky with a groovy base, and has more ooompfff to it than anything else on the album. But it takes that self-referential rapping thing too far, with the Darkchild Guy making like an uninvited party guest, responding to almost every line ("Yeah, yeah, " "No doubt!" "C’mon, dance with me") and basically announcing the direction of the song (opening with "Hey Scary, you ready?" before the vocals and "Let’s go!" before the chorus and "Spice Girls, Darkchild, to the bridge, c’mon" at the bridge)…. I mean, he does everything but add "bring it home!" before the last chorus and pipe up "The End!" at the song’s conclusion. Cripes. That doesn’t stop me from listening to it a couple times in a row and making like I have Emma’s vocal range as I yodel along.
Track 6, "Wasting My Time": I dig this one, too. It’s kickin’ (in a sedate way), and I dig on Mel C’s voice. She’s my favorite Spice, btw. When my then-5-year-old niecelette Skyler and I discussed our favorite Spices, she said she preferred Posh because "she’s pretty and she gets to wear high heels and she does this [stands with one hand on hips, the other hand out in the Posh Spice Patented Peace Sign]." I pointed out to the kidlet that Posh can’t sing… Sporty has the best voice, and she does backflips… Posh can’t do backflips in high heels, can she? (Well, SOMEONE needs to bring stereotypes to the kidlet’s attention!)
Track 7, "Weekend Love": Isn’t this a Debbie Gibson cover song? (Ballad count: 2)
Track 8, "Time Goes By": Isn’t this a Toni Braxton cover song? (Ballad count: 3)
Track 9, "If You Wanna Have Some Fun": Okay, no, THIS is the best song on the album. Yes! It really does kick, groove and funk… and contains the repeated hook "Wink wink, nudge nudge, tell me do you like the rudest stuff/ wink wink, nudge nudge, are you man enough?" This is what I listen to the Spicies for! Pass me a Pepsi! Girl Powaaaaah!
Track 10, "Oxygen": Spice Girls need love too! But if I had a 12-year-old daughter, I’d worry that she’d take lyrics like "It doesn’t really matter whoever you are/Don’t matter where you go/just make sure you’re there to answer when love comes around" seriously. Ooookay. And Girls…? "Loving is like oxygen"…? *hysterical laughter* (Ballad count: 4)
Track 11, "Goodbye": Gak. (Ballad count: 5)
So the verdict? It's okay... but not really enough bang for my buck. No kitsch, little fun, only moderate grooves, too many gikky ballads, and little that I can sing along to.
Say. Are the Powerpuff Girls going to be putting out an album any time soon?
Milla had insight re: the new album. Check it out!
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