Wednesday, November 10, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 57

Cougar Comics Online
Movie Review: The Bachelor

Concert Preview: Rahzel

The Wrestling Report

Game Review: PGA Championship

Album Review: Rage Against the Machine


About the Cougar

Solo star in the making?

Sporty Spice's debut CD relatively impressive, for a Spice Girl

Northern Star

Melanie C
Virgin Records
12 tracks, 53:40

Grade: B-

By Jim Parsons
Daily Cougar Staff

Have you heard the one about the Spice Girl who wants to make a name for herself as a serious solo artist?

Don't laugh -- Sporty Spice, a.k.a. Melanie Chisholm, is serious. And the really funny thing is that her solo debut, Northern Star, isn't bad. It's definitely not what you would expect from a member of the British pop supergroup.

Melanie C, a.k.a. Sporty Spice, releases her debut solo album that -- surprisingly --- isn't too bad.

Rankin/Virgin Records

Chisholm had a hand in writing all the songs on the album, and if they sound familiar at times, there's a reason. She worked with a stellar supporting cast of writers, producers and mixers, including William Orbit, Marius DeVries, Rick Nowels and Patrick McCarthy.

Together, they have helped make the most successful women in music -- Beth Orton, Madonna, Annie Lennox, Sinead O'Connor, Dido and Fiona Apple, to name a few. That in itself says something about how seriously Chisholm's peers take her.

"It's very odd being in the studio with these kind of people," Chisholm said. "What was even stranger was that they had such respect for me and for what I was trying to do -- they gave me enormous confidence in myself."

For the most part, the project displays a tougher side of Chisholm that is emphasized by her new image: tanned, tattooed, nose-ringed and as buff as an East German female athlete. It's in full force on the album's first single, "Goin' Down," which finds Chisholm adopting a Sonic Youth-like vocal style over a grinding industrial soundtrack.

The problem with the track is that it's just too much, a judgment that could be applied to most of the album. Chisholm makes the unlikely leap from bubble-gum to alt-rock, but seems unable to toe the line between girl and grrrl.

Part of that is probably due to the previously mentioned support staff. Their influences show in Chisholm's material, much of which is reminiscent of Garbage's Version 2.0 and Madonna's Ray of Light. But even though the music is good and Chisholm's voice is strong, the songs fall short of Garbage's spunky sound and Madonna's spectacular work on Ray.

The album does have its saving graces, though. The first track, "Go!" features catchy lyrics laid over a groovy backbeat. "I Turn To You" seems destined for a house remix, and Chisholm even dips into guitar rock and folksy, Janis Joplin-esque moods elsewhere in the album.

Overall, Northern Star's lyrics aren't the deepest, and the varying musical styles make for a little incongruity. But it's a slick production that gives Sporty her own voice. And who knows? If she keeps this kind of talent in her corner, Chisholm might become everyone's favorite Spice.

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