If you’re fancying a trip back to what was tearing up the UK charts as the London Eye was being erected on the South Bank, or as the latest James Bond film hit the big screen (The World Is Not Enough), then you’ve come to the right place, as we bring you another chapter from The Story of Pop: 1999. This week: our last encounter with a solo Spice this series…
There’s one thing we do have to say since we published our recounting of the ‘Geri vs Emma’ chart battle on here a couple of weeks ago, and it’s this. For ardent Spice Girls fans, in retrospect, 1999 must have been a pretty rotten year to be a fan of theirs the whole way round.
For whilst Geri Halliwell was still flying the poptastic flag, she was doing it solo, as indeed all the other girls were, slowly embarking on solo careers, when most just wanted their Fab Four or even Fab Five back. And it’s fair to say that if Geri was still embracing her girl power pop roots, her former Sporty colleague was the antithesis of this, rebelling in quite an extreme way.
Melanie C’s first outing away from the remaining Spicy quartet had actually come just under a year before. That was on ‘When You’re Gone’, a storming pop rock duet with none other than Bryan Adams that had been a #3 hit at Christmas 1998. It had even stayed on the charts for longer than ‘Goodbye’, the Spice Girls’ third Christmas number one from the same time did.
It was also the first sign that under her trackies was a bit of a rock chick waiting to emerge, which it finally did to very divisive effect in September 1999. Gone was the ponytail and Adidas donning Sporty of yore. In her place was a spiky haired, snarling rock chick for her solo debut proper ‘Goin’ Down’.
It peaked at #4, but vanished from the top 40 just two weeks later, taking sales of her debut album with it, as a public and (mainly) press backlash of sorts rang in her ears from music snobs and the ‘serious’ industry press at a member of one of the poppiest groups on the planet daring to embrace a genre that many felt she didn’t ‘belong’ in.
Fortunately, that first single hadn’t been anywhere near representative of what else lay on her debut album, ‘Northern Star’, which she worked on out in Los Angeles with William Orbit, Rhett Lawrence and the legendary Rick Rubin amongst others.
Hence the decision was made to go for its beautiful and reflective title track for its second single that November. Once released as a single, it became her second consecutive solo top 5 hit, also peaking at #4, but performed much better at radio and was in the charts until well into the first month of a new millennium.
And once the new year hit, the album’s next few singles would see to it that Melanie C would go onto have one of the most stellar solo careers away from the Spice Girls – to the point where she was reluctant to rejoin them for their own third album. But that’s another story for next year…
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