This time last year, Mel C was bouncing around football stadiums across the UK, bringing the Spice Girls back to life for a party run through their biggest hits and craziest outfits.
Then, as soon as she stepped off the stage with Geri, Emma and Mel B at Wembley, she took off on a world tour of Pride events with LGBTQ collective Sink The Pink.
And once that was over, she went straight to the studio to work on her eighth solo album, and kept going until the lockdown happened.
“If you compare my 2019 to my 2020, you couldn’t be more different,” she says.
“You know, I was traveling all over the world, playing stadiums with the Spice Girls, and now I hardly ever got out of my pajamas. ”
Today is not one of those days. The singer joins us from her home in Hampstead, north London, surrounded by scattered cushions, her hair scraped back to reveal her headphones, and dressed in a chic marble-effect t-shirt.
“It’s another day in Zoom-land,” she sighs. “Oh my God, I’m so done. ”
Her Zoom ID, by the way, isn’t Sporty Spice or Mel C or Melanie Jayne Chisholm. It’s not even Melanie C, as she does her hair these days. Instead, she’s stuck with Scarlett, the name of her 11-year-old daughter.
“Agh! I have to change it every time I do something, ”she laughs. “I don’t know how you hold it up. “
Like many families, they struggled to attend home schooling during their forties. Chisholm admits to having succeeded “the bare minimum”.
«JE clothes that, “she said. My little girl is smart enough but she just can’t be bothered.
“And you know, someone said pretty early on in all of this, ‘Think how hard it is, as an adult, to motivate yourself at home – so imagine being a kid. ”
“After that I thought, ‘OK, that’s good. As long as she’s doing something, it’s better than nothing. ‘ ”
It wasn’t until school resumed on a limited basis at the end of June that Chisholm fully understood how the lockdown had affected his daughter.
“She was so brooding and uninspired. It was even difficult to motivate her to go for a walk, which is so out of character, ”she says.
“When they got the chance to come home… having a routine, socializing with her friends, I got my baby girl back. “
“A single at the back”
It might seem like a trivial comparison, but rediscovering yourself after a period of emotional desert is the theme of Chisholm’s new album.
The 46-year-old has always sung about her issues with self-acceptance, from the title track from her 1999 debut solo album Northern Star, to her 2017 album Version Of Me. This time, however, there is a new strength and determination.
« When I look at myself in the mirror, I finally like who I seeShe says on the opening track, Who I Am. Over the next 35 minutes, she sings about letting go, having nothing more to hide and refusing to live up to expectations.I don’t wanna be your acceptable version of me, “Goes the chorus of overload roll-disco jam.”
His struggles with depression and eating disorders are well documented. They began amid the mind-boggling Spice Girls ‘run and media dominance of the late’ 90s. The band sold 31 million records, scored nine number one singles, and rocked industry conventions. music on the viability of girl groups.
Liverpool-born Chisholm was the best dancer and strongest singer, but she was caricatured in the tabloid press as “the simple in the back, who doesn’t do much”.
She did not recognize the person portrayed in the media, amplifying her feeling of inadequacy.
“Because I had this tomboy image and loved my football, people thought I was a little loud, a little loud, part of that ladette culture.
“And, you know, I’m really pretty calm, and I’m really nice.” It was difficult for me for a few years. I found this really confusing.
Her path to recovery began with therapy for clinical depression in the early 2000s. Her daughter’s arrival in 2009 also marked a turning point.
“Being a mom has been so liberating because for the first time in my adult life, it wasn’t all about me,” she says. “It made me realize not only that I had a huge responsibility to her, but also a huge responsibility to myself. By being her teacher, I had to treat myself better.
But the carefree positivity of the new album can really be attributed to reconnecting with the Spice Girls last year. Although the group had reunited before, in 2007, Chisholm must have been convinced to do so. This time it was all different.
“Being on stage with the girls made me feel so dynamic and so positive. We didn’t really understand the full legacy and impact until last year.
“And then doing Pride all over the world, it was such a joyous year to find the self-acceptance that I had always sought.
“I spent many years regretting the personal issues I had with depression and eating disorders so much and I just thought, do you know what? Rather than being ashamed of this time and seeing it as a failure, I think it’s time to say, “I was there and I got along and I’m here to tell the story”. “
Chisholm’s newfound confidence also rekindled his ambition. She says she was inspired to “go bigger” with this album, embracing the pop sensibility that she had been “a little embarrassed” about in her twenties and thirties.
“Working with the girls last year reminded me of everyone,” she says. “We have been fortunate to have this international appeal and would love to visit all of these places again. ”
She chose her collaborators carefully, working mostly with female artists on the cool and believable fringes of British pop – like Shura, Rae Morris and grime star Nadia Rose.
All of them are young enough to have been first wave fans of the Spice Girls, which caused some rough times in the studio.
“There’s been quite a bit of ‘Just let me get rid of my fangirling and we can get down to business,'” the singer smiles, pointing out that she gets “nervous all the time” too.
Working with Rose was a highlight. They hooked up after one of Chisholm’s DJ sets and came up with the concept of their duo, Fearless, on a road trip.
“We started talking about being a woman in the music industry, chasing your dreams and how petrifying so much is, whether it’s going to someone’s house that you don’t. have never met to do a writing session, or take the stage in front of thousands of people.
“And I said, ‘You know, you have to be fearless,’ and we just felt it was such a beautiful thing – trying to empower [our fans] to do, because we both found the strength not to be afraid sometimes. ”
For her part, Rose can’t believe the song exists.
“As a fan of Spice Girls, like a huge Fan of the Spice Girls, this will never appear real to me, “she said,” as far as it has happened, and it is real. ”
“But it was an amazing experience and she’s so cool. “
Another Spice Girls tour?
Release plans for the album were rocked by the lockdown – but Chisholm announced the record’s end last week with the release of In And Out Of Love, a beam of pure disco light waves.
The video was shot in a deserted Alexandra Palace three weeks ago, with the star sharing a socially distanced dance floor with part of the Spice Girls tour crew.
It was a relief, she said, to do something outside the house.
“I sometimes hate videos. They are so boring and exhausting. But this one was pretty magical, I think maybe because it wasn’t in my living room on Zoom. ”
Attentive listeners will hear nods to Rozalla’s’ 90s dance classic, Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good), as well as Dua Lipa’s retro-pop anthem, Don’t Start Now – but Chisholm knows. that it will be difficult to compete in today’s pop landscape.
“Obviously I’m making a pop-dance record and I’m a mature artist, so I have to accept that some radio stations won’t play with me anymore. It is something to be overcome.
“But I want people to enjoy this album, I want people to dance to it, I want people to have the power. And when the coronavirus finally makes one, I want to come out and play it live. “
She’s also open to another Spice Girls tour, saying the group “talks about it constantly,” though fans shouldn’t hold their breath.
“Believe me, it’s a miracle that we do something, because we are impossible,” she said, “but when we do, it’s like the stars align and the magic happens” .
There are also good reasons to reconstitute the group. Notably because Five became Four for last year’s shows.
“Not having Victoria on stage last year, you know, it was bittersweet,” she says. “The shows were phenomenal but someone was missing. ”
Moreover, the group realized too late that they should have filmed the 2019 tour for posterity.
“We hesitated to have a DVD, because people were coming from all over the world and they saved up and they spent all that money to see us, so there is a part of you that wants it to be a unique experience, that magical moment in time.
“But so many people have been upset about it – and so are we, in fact, because it would be lovely to look back and enjoy it again.
“So hopefully if we get together we’ll do another time to go up there and record it properly.” ”
Melanie C’s eponymous album is released on October 2.
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