Melanie Brown

L.A. State of Mind

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The various solo Spice Girls albums have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. For every Northern Star, there's a Scream If You Wanna Go Faster. Melanie B.'s debut, Hot, fell somewhere in between, offering moments of pop brilliance and moments of clich├ęd R&B nonsense in equal measure. Her presenting and acting duties seemed to have sidelined her solo career, but after songs she performed at various showcases in the U.S. were met with such a positive reaction, she decided to record album number two. One can only assume something got lost in translation from the stage to the studio, as L.A. State of Mind is not only the worst solo Spice album by some distance, it's also one of the worst pop albums of the decade. Just 670 copies were sold in its first week of release in the U.K., resulting in a humiliating number 453 chart position -- and judging from lead single "Today," it's not hard to see why so few people were enticed. Inoffensive acoustic pop it may be, but its childlike melodies and dated production are entirely representative of the amateurish nature that encompasses the album. It's not the worst offender by any means. "Music of the Night" attempts to jump on the Ricky Martin Latino bandwagon about six years too late; "Stay in Bed Days" sounds like someone impersonating Shania Twain at a bad karaoke night; and the spoken word verses of "Sweet Pleasure" are an excruciatingly embarrassing attempt at seduction. Worst of all is "Bad, Bad Girl," an ear-shatteringly bad stab at '80s electro that sounds like it was recorded on a children's Casio keyboard. Melanie B. has never been the most gifted vocalist, but her husky tones complemented the other Spice Girls' voices perfectly. Here, she often sounds in pain, maybe because she's wincing at having to recite the sixth-form teenage girl poetry-style lyrics. The only saving grace is "If I Had My Life Again," a lovely, subtle, piano-driven ballad that appears to have wandered in from a much more listenable record entirely. The innovative number one duet with Missy Eliott seems a long time ago indeed.

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