The Spice Girls waited three years to deliver their third album, Forever. While they were away, a number of things changed -- things have that tendency -- but the pop scene didn't shift so drastically that it was chilly to a Spice comeback. Many pundits argued, fairly accurately, that they were the trailblazers for the resurgence of frothy, unabashed teen pop in the last two years of the 20th century. But, just like there was a decade separating the ages of the Spices and Britney Spears, there's a huge difference between the cheery, featherweight "Wannabe" and the calculated sex and shock of "...Baby One More Time" -- ironically, the older girls made music that was lighter and more innocent. With Forever, they continue to follow that path, with a sleek, stylish attempt at maturity, but they seem lost because they just don't sound interested any more. Sure, they make all the right moves, hiring superstar producer Rodney Jerkins to helm most of the tracks, but the record is curiously self-conscious and flat. Neither the production, songs, nor performances have much life to them, with the exception of the closer, "Goodbye," which significantly was released as a Christmas single back in 1999. There's little of the giddy sense of friendship that marked their first two records, and the ballads aren't as sweetly sentimental; there's little of the charm that made the Spice Girls so irresistible. Often, Forever plays like the Girls realized that it's their final album, and they put in just enough effort to make it palatable, but not enough to make it appetizing. That's not the best way to go out, but it seems like the best the Spice Girls could do in 2000, considering that their hearts and minds were clearly on their ever-increasing solo projects.
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine