It’s been nearly 21 years since former Spice Girl, Melanie C, released her debut solo album, Northern Star. Now the singer-songwriter, formerly known as “Sporty Spice,” has released a new self-titled album that is perhaps her most introspective work yet.
Melanie C, which debuted in the top 100 on Billboard’s Album Sales Chart and comprises her first U.S. album chart debut as a solo artist, reunites the songstress with longtime Spice Girls writing and producing legend Richard “Biff” Stannard as well as a variety of talented rising artists and producers like Shura, Rae Morris, Little Boots, and Nadia Rose.
Make no mistake. While Melanie C invites you to get up and dance, welcoming a bit of nostalgia for a time when it was safer to be in closed spaces, its deeply introspective lyrics and emotional vocals remind us that the singer is on a whole other level than her former Spice Girl crew.
Not to mention, Melanie looks better now in her 40s than she ever did touring the world in her 20s wearing workout pants and a sports bra.
“I wanted to make a record that would make people want to dance,” she tells Out. “I’ve been DJing for a couple years and really having that new experience of seeing how music affects a dance floor — not an audience from like an artist’s perspective — so that really went into this album… I wanted to make a positive record. I wanted it to be empowering lyrically, and the response I've had from fans that it's come in this time that’s been so difficult for people. It’s really been a great distraction for them so that's been a real positive.”
2019 was shapping up to be an exciting time before the pandemic went into full swing. Melanie had just been to Australia to promote the album and was in Los Angeles when the entire city began issuing stay-at-home orders. So, she had to fly back home to the U.K. and cancel pretty much all of her promotional tour.
“I got home and I was like, shit, I've got this album. How am I going to promote it?” she explains. “We just had to rethink everything.”
Thankfully, technology allowed her to stay connected to fans, which ended up being one of the best things to happen while in quarantine. “I feel really grateful that I had the album because it's given me some focus,” explains Melanie, who recently performed at this year's Out100 event. “On those down days, when I've had work to do, it’s the thing that's gotten me out of bed.”
In the two decades since the Spice Girls first split, Melanie has gone on to have a successful career in the music business. Life after the Spice Girls wasn’t always easy, but with eight critically acclaimed solo albums on her independent label and a loyal fan base that includes Billie Eilish, who calls herself Melanie’s “number one fan,” the singer is earning a new respect in the industry not only for her talent and longevity but also because the message behind “girl power,” which was coined by the Spice Girls, has taken on a new meaning in today’s progressive culture.
“I really feel like ‘girl power’ has evolved. I know it has for me,” she says. “Back in the ‘90s, when we we started screaming about it, it was from our experience. We had encountered sexism within the industry and we wanted to shout about girl power, about equality for girls. But then, as time has gone one, we wanted to be inclusive to everybody that needed to stand up and be heard. I feel like ‘girl power’ has evolved in that way… I feel like it's more about equality now than feminism. I believe that in the ‘90s [girl power] kind of made feminism more palatable for young people, you know, it took it away from being political or maybe intimidating. So, I think [girl power] is just kind of part of our social makeup now.”
Equality has also been at the root of girl power, especially for devoted queer fans with whom Melanie C was recently reunited with when the Spice Girls embarked on a reunion tour last year that sold out in minutes.
“We had a huge audience in the gay community,” she says. “Then that kind of grew, and we realized there was lots of different areas within the LGBTQ+ community [who were Spice Girl fans]. I think, especially last year back on stage, doing stadiums with the girls, we’ve spent so much time really thinking about our fans — who they are, who they become, the obstacles they've overcome, the journeys they've been on and the stories that we get told, whether it be fan mail or through social media. We began to realize that we have this kinship.”
She continues, “As a Spice Girl, it's all about being who you are. It's about individuality. It's about celebrating our differences, but coming together to be strong. That's what the LGBTQ+ community can be. No two people are the same. It’s so wonderful that you can just truly be yourself.”
Following the reunion tour, Melanie went straight into a tour of her own after the release of her single “High Heels.” This time, with the queens from the popular London-based drag collective, Sink The Pink.
“Some of the queens are non binary and I was learning so much and it gave me an opportunity to fully accept myself,” she remembers. “I have a lot to learn because we all spend our childhood, or when we get to our teen years and we're figuring out who we are, we always feel like we have to conform to something — whoever you are, wherever you're from, there’s this thing where we need to belong, we need to fit in, we need to be like this or that. And it's like, fuck that! Even as a Spice Girl, 25 years down the line, I feel so grateful to the LGBTQ+ community for making me realize that whatever I am, that is enough.”
Her latest single, "Into You," which dropped this week, tells the story of an outsider who finally becomes aware of their power: “Wasn't ready for love / Just wanted somebody to hold me,” Melanie sings. “Now I know I’m enough / I’m better when I put me first / I’m ready to love / But I’m not feeling lonely / ‘Cause I know I’m enough.
The album's focus single, "In and Out of Love," was dropped earlier this summer.
“It’s been a journey,” she says of her personal evolution, which inspired the album. “I have spent many years looking for a relationship to make me whole, or even looking for somebody to rescue me. I don't know whether it's growing up on bloody Disney movies or something, but I think a lot of people grow up like that. We feel like we're gonna meet somebody and then everything is going to be OK. As I've gotten older, I've realized that that just isn't true.”
“I’m in a relationship now,” she continues, “and one of the things my partner said to me a few years ago was, I said, ‘I feel so alone.’ And he said, ‘Well, you come into this world alone and you leave this world alone. At the end of the day, it's just you.’ And I didn't like that. I was like, I hate the sound of that. I just think it is so important to realize whatever your circumstances, whether you're in a relationship, whether you have children, with your family, you must have your independence because at the end of the day, you are the person who controls your destiny. You can't depend on anybody else. Of course we have support. My support network are my friends, my family, my daughter, she's like my, my best mate. But at the end of the day, I have to do what's right for me and in doing what’s right for me, I can be the best person for everybody else too. It’s really important.”
In recent months, the singer has been hitting weekly #AskMelanieCLive live streams on her YouTube channel, where she speaks about music, mental health, and staying sand during lockdown. For Melanie, it’s also welcomed a new way of connecting with fans and learning about their stories. Still, the idea of being so unfiltered with the world wasn’t easy.
“I was so reluctant at first because I have this love-hate relationship with social media,” she quips. “My career started before [social media] existed. I grew up in the public eye with the tabloid media in the U.K. just being ruthless. They were so mean, and the paparazzi, just creeping up on you in bushes when you're on holiday. All the stuff. And you feel really protective of any privacy and then social media turns up, right? And everyone expects you to show, like, everything: your holiday, your kids, your dinner, just everything. And so I just feel like, where's the line? Where is the line where my life in the public eye ends and my personal and private life begins? I’ve always felt a bit weird about it, but then when [the pandemic] happened, I felt this feeling of being compelled to reach out to people.”
She continues, “For the first time in our lifetime, or maybe the first time ever, we are experiencing something across the globe so similar — at the same time. Life is so busy and we're all striving to achieve, whether it's work, whether it's family, whatever it is, we all had a moment to stop. We were all facing the same shit, right? And it just made me want to reach out to people. So I did… It made me realize it can be a really positive tool.”
Despite the trauma happening in the world, Melanie says that no matter how hard things can get, the most important thing to know is that this too shall pass. It’s a lesson she’s carried all her life.
“There’s that light inside that makes me know everything's gonna be OK,” she says. “There's been times when things aren't OK, but I've always believed I will get to the point where it will be better. I think that's something I've learned. Something I felt a lot more over this year is that everything passes. I have dealt with depression in my life and you just have to remember that good things come and go. And the bad things do, too.”
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