"America’s always been a really important place for us, and they really embraced us first time around. So we’re just hoping that we have some success—even if not as much success as we had before."
——Mel C.

ADVENTURES IN THE SPICE TRADE

Girl Power Meets The Third Rail Of The Music Biz As Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton and Melanie "Sporty Spice" Chisholm Talk To HITS
You may remember a soft-spoken, low-key little pop act called the Spice Girls. Then a fivesome, they conquered America like few British imports since the moptops from Liverpool. After a few years of growing up, having kids, pursuing solo projects and dominating the tabloids at home, the Girls are back—this time as a foursome—with a new album, "Forever" (Virgin), which features tracks produced by the likes of Rodney Jerkins and Jam & Lewis, among others. The first single and video, "Holler," is already showing there's still a lot of love for the Girls in the U.S. But nothing in their previous Stateside experience could have prepared them for the sleep-inducing interrogative of HITS prima donna Simon "Old Spice" Glickman, who chatted with Emma and Mel C.

"Holler" has a very contemporary R&B vibe.
Emma:
Yeah. Well, I think with the whole record, it's kind of moved on, kind of matured. I mean working with Rodney Jerkins and Jam & Lewis, the whole kind of feel of it is a little bit R&B. But I think when you hear kind of our sweet melodies and our harmonies, I think it really kind of puts still that very Spice-y, very fun kind of element onto it, which we always want to keep. We want our music to be fun and stuff that you can dance to and quite positive and stuff like that.

I'm interested to know what the experience of working with Rodney and with Jam & Lewis, was like for you. I've always heard that they foster a really unique creative atmosphere.
Emma:
Definitely. The first time I met Rodney Jerkins I came over to New York and we met up and had dinner and just talked about what kinds of things he had done, but I can say for all of us that it was just a fantastic experience. They do make it very comfortable, and also we found American producers really kind of help. They pushed us vocally; they're very inspiring. We had the best time and actually became really good friends after. It's been lovely. Yeah, they do make the whole atmosphere very comfortable, very welcoming. Obviously, we're English girls and we're like, "Oh my, Jam & Lewis and Rodney Jerkins!" It was very scary at first. We really look up to them and know all of their music, so it was quite a nerve-wracking experience for us. But they were fabulous. Again they really pushed us vocally. We were doing stuff that we never believed that we could.

Mel C.: There are a couple of tracks on the album produced by the guys we've worked with previously and they know us well, who sings what best and the sentiment of lyrics. But working with someone completely new really shook things up for us. Because it used to be like, "Oh, get in there and be dramatic." But now they were really experimenting with our voices and really giving us a lot of confidence vocally to try for a lot more R&B style with vocals. So it was fun. It was really enjoyable to do something different, and we just struck up a really good relationship with everybody.

What about the experience of doing the vocals was different? Was it that the harmonies were more complex?
Emma:
Yeah, there was harmony, and they just say, "Right, go in there and do your thing and come on, get up to that next note." And you'll be like, "I can't!" And they'll say, "Yes, you can." They're really helpful and they made you feel so good. We just went for it and it was fabulous.

So you felt you really stretched by the process.
Emma:
Yeah, definitely! We're really proud of what we've done on this record. And we have matured as women. It's just a natural progression for us. I think that really shows in the music and lyrics and everything.

Mel C.: Things are really good at the moment. This little Spice-y comeback seems to be going well, and we're excited about reports that it's doing well on radio in America. America's always been a really important place for us, and they really embraced us first time around. So we're just hoping that we have some success—even if not as much success as we had before.

So, would you say that, for the most part, what you've made is largely an R&B-leaning kind of record, or would you say it's more a sampler of different kinds of Pop styles?
Mel C.:
I think it's less diverse than our first two albums, and I think it's a lot more R&B-influenced. But it's still Pop. But I think the great thing about Pop music now is a lot of different styles are being accepted as Pop, like R&B, a lot of stuff like Destiny's Child and Jennifer Lopez. Some of it's very modern-R&B-sounding, but it's accepted in the Pop market. Then Limp Bizkit can be in the same chart and I think that's very exciting, because I know I love listening to Destiny's Child and I love listening to Limp Bizkit and Britney [Spears]. But then I also love listening to The Bloodhound Gang. So I just think it's a quite healthy attitude to have towards music.

With the amount of time that elapsed since you guys were sort of dominating the entire Pop cultural landscape, you're returning to a different world, in the sense that Pop is now so dominated by teen artists.
Emma:
Yeah, definitely. I think we've always said that we feel that there's room for all kinds of music. Especially kids today, they love to listen to all types of music. We just feel so lucky our fans, especially in America, have always been so loyal and all the radio people, all the TV people, they've always really stuck by us which has been, for us, absolutely brilliant. Because obviously coming away, we did take time on this album and we did do solo albums and TV stuff over in England and we were a little bit nervous about having been away for quite a while. But I was over in New York just a little while ago and I met with lots of radio people and lots of TV people and they're all so supportive of us! We're just really lucky to have people like that behind us.

Mel C.: I think the success of the Spice Girls has probably got a lot to answer for musically, and a lot of record companies and management companies jumped on the bandwagon. There's some great stuff out there, some really talented kids. But also I think here in the UK, more than in America, there's a lot of manufactured, formulated music, and we're just overloaded at the moment here. I think it's time for a bit of a change. We need a musical revolution. But I'm very proud of being a part of something that sort of took it to another level.

What do you think the music revolution needs to be?
Mel C.:
I think it needs to be more real. There's so many talented musicians out there, and at the moment people only seem to be interested in making money right now. So you have lots of pretty and handsome young girls and boys, but not many people making their own music. It just feels too plasticky now. I think one thing with the Spice Girls that we always liked about our sound is, in the earlier days it was very raw—and it was accepted that way. I think things become too polished and clean and they lose a lot of the emotion. America has always been the place, in the Pop world, for quite clean production, and it sort of loses its soul. I think there needs to be somebody with something to say rather than just singing love songs to their fans. It's just a bit tedious right now. We need some rebels out there. I mean, there's some great acts out there, like Blink-182 and The Bloodhound Gang, and I think they've got a great sense of humor and they just stir up things a little bit.

So you like the stuff that's a little bit cheekier, a little bit irreverent.
Mel C.:
Absolutely! I think humor in music is great! But I think all the dumb stuff with it, the big steps in the music and all of the manic dance routines, are too fast for anybody to be able to do well. They take themselves a bit too seriously, I think. You've got kids out there, some of the bands like The Bloodhound Gang and Blink-182 might not sing every note in tune, but at least they're putting the heart and soul into it, you know what I mean?

Lets get back to some of the personal issues we were discussing earlier. What is different for you now? Seeing what you've seen and being where you've been and everything else.
Emma:
I'm the one that hasn't changed that much. I'm still the kid! But the others, obviously now there's babies and unconditional love and I'm Auntie Spice! Just being able to achieve so much. We feel really lucky now and we're stronger than ever as a four-piece. We've kind of moved on vocally and with choreography just really moving on. But with babies we're kind of growing together, we've become a lot stronger together as well, you know we understand each other what we do like, what we don't like. We know each other better and I think just as women, as all women do, you kind of grow and learn and just express it on whatever your thing is and ours is music. It's so lovely to be able to do that.

Mel C.: It's a lot more laid-back. When we first became successful, we were with this crazy manager who worked us to the bone and it was a mad frenzy—it was a phenomenon. Everybody knew our names, our faces were on every product you could buy in the shops. It was a crazy, crazy time and now it's like there's a couple of babies involved, so we've grown up a little bit and we've some more time at home.

And priorities are a bit different, aren't they?
Mel C.:
Yeah, absolutely. It's been a nice experience because it's been different but it's just been a lot calmer.

How has the relationship between the four of you changed? Obviously the presence of children has been a factor.
Emma:
Yeah, of course. I mean they're in the studio with us and we have a creche [nursery] and stuff like that. We've become stronger—we're more like sisters. But when we get in the studio, we're like kids. Because there's a kid in each one of us, and we just love to gossip and be girls and hang out and go out together. Even though we weren't working on the album for a while, we were still hanging out. And it was nice for us to get a chance to hang out as a posse and have sleepovers when we weren't working. We learned about each other as well, you know—growing and stuff like that. So I'd say we've changed we have naturally grown but we're also still real kids, so we kind of act like children.

So in a way it's still about girl power?
Emma:
Oh, without a doubt! I think girl power is bred in the bone. It's kind of bred in me—I was brought up with a one-parent family. My mom, who in her forties became a black-belt in karate and now does healing and stuff like that. That's where my inspiration is for girl power. If my mom can do it at 40, I can do whatever I want now and I'm going to achieve that. Because at the end of the day, I'm 24 and if I don't go for it now—and I still want to be going for it all of the time. Ladies, they change from day to day. So we like to achieve different things all of the time! So that's where I look up to my elders and think I just want to keep learning all of the time.

Continuing with that thread, do you envision the Spice Girls phenomenon carrying on for a long time, or do you foresee starting to look at the next phase, where you're saying, we're not girls anymore, we're women now, we're looking beyond the Pop thing to something else?
Emma:
That's quite a hard question, but I think, again, with our music we want people to enjoy it and have fun. We're very serious with our lyrics when we're writing, but when it comes to people enjoying the music that's what we want. We want them to have fun and be able to dance to it and sing along. We never want to lose that. We always feel that when you appreciate music you can appreciate all types of music and we really try to bring that on our stuff. We kind of bring everything because that's what we like. And today's kids love everything! They love bopping around to R&B and jumping up and down to Pop music and getting on the guitar and doing a bit of rock So I think children can really identify with that and really enjoy all types of music and I hope that we bring that, kind of, on our album.

Mel C.: I think we've learned from mistakes in the past. We had to do what we did at the time to be as huge as we were at the time, but we've done that now, so we'd rather just really sit back and enjoy the music like we wanted to do originally. We were lucky enough to have fame and the fortune so now we can back to the most important thing.

Emma: Can you just make sure that you thank everyone for us? The support has been wonderful and we just really, really appreciate it.

ON THE BMM COVER:
RICO WADE
ATL legend (6/17a)
NEAR TRUTHS: THE HITS KEEP COMING (PART TWO)
Born in 1986 by mad scientists; still lurking. (6/17a)
HITS LIST GOES COUNTRY
Pairs well with grits and gravy. (6/14a)
SUMMERTIME ROLLS: FESTIVAL SEASON IS UPON US
The latest tidbits from the bustling live sector. (6/17a)
IS MCK ABOUT TO
MAKE A BIG MOVE?
This would be a great get. (6/17a)
THE GRAMMY SHORT LIST
Who's already a lock?
COUNTRY'S NEWEST DISRUPTOR
Three chords and some truth you may not be ready for.
AI IS ALREADY EATING YOUR LUNCH
The kids can tell the difference... for now.
INDIE DISTRIBUTION'S RISE TO GLORY
The discovery engine is revving higher.
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