November 16, 2000

Old Spice

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Posh, Sporty, Scary, and Baby are no more: the Spice Girls have become the Spice Women. A lot’s happened since 1997, when the smash album Spice made the British quintet an instant pop phenomenon — former member Geri Halliwell has faded into solo obscurity, Victoria Beckham and Mel B. have had babies, and the ladies have turned out their third album, Forever.

With this latest attempt, the Girls try to project a new, unified, streamlined image. The cover features them clad in sophisticated black and gold against a simplistic white background, linking arms in a sisterly embrace. This single image conveys the intent of the entire album, which is to show the Spice Girls’ progression from an assembly of youthful, technicolor individuals to a sisterhood of mature, demure adults.

Forever’s tracks are much more toned down and instrumentally sophisticated, and the melodies are more aesthetically appealing. More attention is devoted to harmony, and the album resists slipping into individualized instrumental or vocal solos. The album as a whole conveys the feeling that the Spice Girls are striving to abandon the simplistic, juvenile nature of their earlier music in favor of a more concentrated and artistically focused sound — basically, they want to be taken seriously.

The album predictably succeeds most with songs such as “Get Down With Me” and “Wasting My Time” that harken to the former albums with more upbeat, colorful, and funkier beats. However, other tracks like the slow, ballad-esque “Time Goes By,” do little but emphasize the girls’ biggest weakness: their obvious lack of vocal talent.

This is the biggest hurdle the Girls face in their quest to be serious artists. They’re not quite tone deaf, but none of them possesses the talent to emerge as a singularly capable singer. The engineering of Forever’s tracks weighs down their voices with electronic overtones, which succeeds in ironing out vocal imperfections, but makes the songs drag along so that ultimately all of the lyrics and individual voices blend into a sort of single, instrumental drone. When the girls had unique and effervescent charisma (and a lot of sing-yelling) to cover up their vocal inability, listeners forgave their lack of talent, but quite simply, the girls do not have enough vocal prowess to carry an album. The Spice Girls of Spice were actresses, not singers, and we all know what happens when actresses try to switch careers (Jennifer Love Hewitt, anyone?).

The Spice Girls have a problem — they may be maturing, but their talent is not. They simply lack the vocal prowess and the lyrical and instrumental artistry to be taken seriously, and if anything, Forever only makes them seem less self-assured. Closing thought: if their transition from adolescence to adulthood is this rough, what happens when they have a mid-life crisis?

Archived article by Julia Ramey