The Spice Girls today – Part One: ‘Baby Spice’ – Emma Bunton
by Mark Keen
With the Spice Girls reforming and touring this year I thought this was a good opportunity to revisit the solo careers of the five members. I’m starting with my favourite Spice – Emma Bunton. To me she always came across as the most genuine one (I don’t remember her ever complaining about fame) and I think her solo career has some stellar and varied highlights!
Her solo career got off to a great start in 1999 with the track, “What I Am” with Tin Tin Out. This was a cover of the Edie Brickell classic and hit number 2 in the UK as well as hitting the European charts.
Emma would return in 2001 with the huge number one single “What Took You So Long?” which has aged remarkably well, with a great video filmed in the Mojave Desert. The writers and producers of this hit, Stannard & Gallagher, have written plenty of hits for a range of artists including Kylie (“In Your Eyes” and “Love At First Sight”) and Gabrielle (“When A Woman”). Emma has not had another number one single, but there were plenty more highlights.
The follow up single “Take My Breath Away” would hit the top 5, and features another great video filmed in Sardinia with a horse. Again the writers Hector & Mac are well known for writing hits, including many for Westlife, but perhaps more surprisingly Steve Mac has worked work Ed Sheeran co-writing “Shape Of You”.
The album “A Girl Like You” followed in 2001 peaking at number four in the UK album charts, included a cover of “Sunshine On A Rainy Day“, surely a single that never was. The final single would be the more popish “We’re Not Gonna Sleep Tonight” which hit the top 20. Again another well known writer Rhett Lawrence contributed, more well known for producing Marian Carey’s first single “Vision Of You”. The single has a lovely Spanish vibe, but perhaps got caught in the Christmas 2001 rush and underperformed.
It would be 2003 before Emma would return and a move to more sixties inspired pop which I loved. The first single “Free Me” would peak at number five and again Emma was off on her travels to Brazil to make the video. What a great song!
The follow up single in 2004 is the super “Maybe” continuing the 60s vibe in the video and sound. A really fun track with a bossa nova influence peaking at number six, with the video a real highlight. I loved this 60’s feel which is akin to Swing Out Sister in the “Kaleidoscope World” period.
The album “Free Me”‘ would go on to peak at number 7 in the UK, and received great reviews for taking a direction outside of the R&B of the time (‘one of the best solo Spice records ever’). The third single “I’ll Be There” took Emma off to Paris and continued the 60’s theme. The single would also peak at number six.
The final single “Crickets Sing For Anamaria” should take the prize for the best title ever for a single. This is an English language of a Brazilian song called “The Crickets”. What a great find! The single peaked at number 15, but is an undiscovered gem. Again another fun video!
Emma would take a bit of a break before returning with the “Life In Mono” album in 2007. Emma would continue the 60’s vibe with the release of her cover of Petula Clark’s “Downtown” in November 2006 for Children in Need. It peaked at number three.
The follow up single completely missed the charts, but is perhaps my favourite and has a lovely video with Emma as an angel roaming the streets of London, although peaked at number 60 due to a lack of promotion. I think Emma was pregnant at the time.
The album “Life In Mono” suffered again from lack of promotion and unfortunately only reached number 65, but deserved so much better. However, Emma was about to return to the Spice Girls for the reunion tour and greatest hits, and with a growing family I don’t think many tears were spilt. Alongside this, Emma had a burgeoning television career including stints in Dancing on Ice, a cameo in Neighbours, a recurring role in Absolutely Fabulous and more recently breakfast radio with Jamie Theakston.
More recently Emma recorded the duet, with her old band mate Mel C, “I Know Him So Well” from Mel’s “Stages” album.
So where are we now? There’s been some great news recently with Emma signing a new solo contract and back in the studio. I’m hoping she sticks to the 60s vibe which suits her so well. You can never have too much bossa nova! Obviously before then we have the Spice Girls tour.
Next time, we will focus on another Spice Girl’s solo career! I might need some strong medication to revisit Victoria’s!