Over a decade after her previous release, erstwhile Spice Girl Emma Bunton added a fourth album to her solo discography with 2019's My Happy Place. As on past efforts, Bunton's forte lies in '60s-inspired retro-nostalgia with flourishes of Motown and French pop. However, on My Happy Place, the bulk of the tracks consists of cover versions of her favorite tunes, which aren't always in that same vein. Therein lies the biggest difference between this album and her best effort to date (2004's Free Me): when she's in her wheelhouse -- as on the two original compositions -- it's a blissful reminder of where her power lies. Elsewhere, the album loses steam and fades into karaoke. Of the highlights, that pair of new songs -- "Baby Please Don't Stop" and "Too Many Teardrops" -- are the clear standouts, injecting both sexual urgency and grand, sweeping drama to the mix. It's a pity, then, that the entirety of My Happy Place isn't comprised of these mature pop gems. Instead, it's a mixed bag of covers that veers between competent-but-inessential and misguided-and-poorly executed. Of the positives, Bunton's faithful takes on Candie Payne's 2007 could-have-been-a-Bond-theme "I Wish I Could Have Loved You More" and Madison Avenue's 1999 synth-pop throbber "Don't Call Me Baby" actually improve on the vocals of the originals while maintaining their brightness and energy. Otherwise, duets with fellow U.K. popsters Will Young (Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to Be with You"), Josh Kumra (Norah Jones' "Come Away with Me"), and Robbie Williams (a spectacularly failed attempt at redoing the Spice Girls "2 Become 1") come off as aging lounge acts that really could have been something better. As indulgent pet projects go, My Happy Place is sure to include the requisite appearances by spouses and children: her partner Jade Jones joins her on a saccharine "You're All I Need to Get By," while her young boys chime in on an adorable "Here Comes the Sun." Overall, My Happy Place is mostly unnecessary for casual fans and is a fine litmus test for Bunton's true diehards.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung