it's all over

Geri cited “differences” with the other four girls as her reason for leaving,
a formula as traditional as anything in pop except that crucially it omitted
the word “musical.” — BBC News

Now it’s too late to go back home, it’s saccharine and silicone. — Rialto

Geri Halliwell made an uncharacteristically bright move when she terminated her relationship with the Spice Girls, even though her first solo release Schizophonic had a cool title she couldn’t possibly have thought up herself and pleaded for an inappropriate comparison to All Things Must Pass. Geri is no George Harrison, but the Spice Girls have led a parallel existence to the Monkees, from their publicized demand for autonomy, a decline in popularity after their film debut, and the subsequent departure of a core member among the more obvious instances of history repeating itself. It’s looking increasingly doubtful they’ll enjoy a similar period of reassessment, however. The film Head may initially have met with a similar critical reaction to the one Spiceworld received but it’s now considered one of the most innovative music films ever made. Once free of Don Kirschner’s meddling, the four Monkees recorded their best album, Headquarters, not only calling the shots but playing all the parts. The Spice Girls embraced the things the Monkees protested, championing ‘empowerment’ and materialism over enlightenment. If power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, does Girl Power corrupt girls?

The answer has to be yes from the look of their third LP Forever. When left to their own devices, the best the Spice Girls have come up with is a pale replay of the late 1980s. The Rodney Jerkins production on the first eight tracks is exact almost to a fault, layering vocals so precisely and coldly it gives the impression that the four Spice Girls were never in the studio at the same time (which is likely to be true). “Holler” and “Tell Me Why” and a later pairing, “Get Down With Me” and “Wasting My Time” are almost seamlessly connected, even when their sentiments are vividly contradictory. “Weekend Love” even accomplishes this within itself: the gentle one-night-stand ballad is interrupted by a vitriolic Mel B rap (obnoxious even for her). Forever generally manages to avoid self-aggrandizing Girl Power platitudes except for “Right Back At Ya,” in which Mel B takes credit for the subsequent deluge of boy/girl groups that have spawned in their wake: “We started a trend that they all imitated/A new generation of Spice we created.” Even assuming this to be true, it’s not a virtue to be responsible for enabling shadow groups with even less autonomy and creativity than the Spice Girls enjoy.

Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis provide the next two consecutive selections. “If You Wanna Have Some Fun” sounds a lot like the kind of records they once made for Cherrelle. (Perhaps, like their onetime mentor Prince, Jam and Lewis keep a vault full of unused songs.) The second Jam and Lewis contribution, “Oxygen”, is the best track on Forever, coaxing out surprisingly natural-sounding vocals. The water droplet sound effects give the impression they were trying to create the Elements suite from SMiLE, perhaps not so unintentionally considering the elemental theme is used in the “Let Love Lead the Way” video, included as a RealVideo file along with its A-side “Holler.”

“Goodbye” preceded Forever as a single by almost two years but of the five Spice Girls only the song’s ostensible subject, Geri Halliwell, realised the advantages to calling it quits. Its inclusion at the end of Forever says more than it was ever intended to.

©2002 Rodney E Griffith. All rights reserved.