PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

'Melanie C' is Ready to Be Herself

Photo: Partial of album cover

On her self-titled eighth solo album, Melanie C is finally ready to shatter the illusion and to form her true self among the pieces.

Melanie C
Melanie C

Red Girl Media

2 October 2020

As far as eponymously titled studio albums go, we usually see them emerge within the first few records of an artist's discography. It's rare to see one be released as their eighth studio album, but it somehow makes sense for Melanie C (formerly Sporty Spice). Her last few releases were subject to mixed reviews, especially as her mid-2000s pop-rock swagger started to get lost in time. But on Melanie C, her best work in years and certainly her most honest, Mel is finally ready to accept the inevitable: who has the time to be someone they're not?

Melanie C immediately sets the stage for a record of unabashed honesty. "I was lost in the ruins of who I thought I should be," she sings on "Who I Am", the lead single and album opener. "They don't recognize when I'm being honest / 'Cause I wasn't before." In addition to openly embracing her unapologetic self and finding strength in weakness, the album also finds Melanie C addressing some rather heavy personal struggles, such as depression and an eating disorder. "Unlocking the door / To truths that I've been hiding," she sings on "Overload", an aptly titled ode to the countless things we humans feel compelled to conceal. "If I said what I thought / You'd realize why I'm still smiling."

For the singer, the songwriting process for Melanie C was her way of finally working through these issues, which had been mounting since her days as a Spice Girl. "The lows of being famous were devastatingly hard," she told The Guardian. "I was vulnerable, and the tabloids were cruel and heartless. It pushed me to the point of illness. I was struggling with an eating disorder and suffering from depression. I had everything I'd ever dreamed of and was desperately unhappy. It's often forgotten that people in the public eye are human."

It was learning how to love and accept the concept that public figures are still humans, which leads to the album's warmest and most welcoming tracks. On "Escape", she learns how to release ugly feelings: "Don't hold your breath, gotta let it go / Dive deeper in, into the unknown / If you don't try then you'll never know / So take a breath, just take a breath / And let it all go." On "Nowhere to Run", whose production was inspired by Billie Eilish, she realizes we can only hide from ourselves for so long: "Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide / No mistaking, you're overtaking / Without me letting my guard down / Why do you do this to me?" And on "Here I Am", she asserts that she ain't no quitter: "I was out for a minute / Caught my breath, I'm back in it / I was lost, but I've found my feet / Here I am."

Above all, Melanie C has realized that "playing the game" can only get you so far, and that there is no reason to live up to anybody's expectation other than your own. "Pop bands are a young person's game," she said. "It's unsustainable to keep up with the constant promoting and touring. It's a catch-22: I wouldn't have the stamina for it now, but at that stage in your life, you're not equipped to deal with the pressure." Thus, she would much rather make music that reflects the unapologetically honest woman she is today, instead of catering to any given pop music market and combatting the ageism therein. And it just goes to show how interesting we all are when we shed the mask and just be ourselves.

Typically, when a former member of a high-profile pop band launches their solo career, the debut solo record might be self-titled—to begin revealing their true selves, outside of the perhaps manufactured or inauthentic image of the group. Paul McCartney had McCartney. Harry Styles and Camila Cabello did Harry Styles and Camila respectively. It took Melanie C eight solo albums to shed the layers, at last, collaborating with a mostly female team to create an electro/disco-infused pop album that does what good pop does best: celebrate our weaknesses, acknowledge our scars, and dance some of the pain away.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.