Melanie C


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When Mel C launched her solo career in 1999 with Northern Star, she embraced her persona of "Indie Spice," turning out a colorful, promising collection that was hardly "indie," but surely had more musical weight than any other Spice Girl-related solo platter (which may be why it was one of only two released in the U.S.). It didn't sell particularly well, though, which must have scared Melanie Chisholm, if the four-year gap between Northern Star and 2003's Reason is any indication. And if the near half-decade between records isn't a sign that she was shocked into change after the indifferent reaction to her debut, the streamlined, safe approach on Reason is proof that Mel C was desperate to make sure she still had a career of some sort. Falling somewhere between Robbie Williams' stabs at MOR and Geri Halliwell's adult contemporary balladry and dance-pop, Reason aims for the pop center, trying to reach as many people as possible while still trying to retain some semblance of hipness. It winds up sounding flattened out, particularly on the ballads, which contain no aural character and tend to play up the fact that Chisholm has little range as a vocalist. The mid-tempo and dance numbers fare better since they play to her strengths and their hooks are more evident, but too much of Reason sounds stuck in time, as if it could have come out in 1999 as easily as 2003. This would be alright if the songs worked, but most of them are colorless and characterless, sounding as if their main goal is to get on pop radio. There are two exceptions to the rule: the sweetly soulful "Lose Myself in You," sounding like "Say You'll Be There" slowed down for seduction, and "On the Horizon," a number co-written by ex-New Radical Gregg Alexander which, along with Santana's "Game of Love," proves that he is the catchiest, smartest professional mainstream pop songwriter of the early 2000s. But two songs do not make an album, and these bright moments -- along with, to a lesser extent, the lead single/album opener, "Here It Comes Again," whose slow crawl is mannered, but a bit of a grower nonetheless -- aren't enough to make Reason work, which is a real disappointment after the very good, very promising Northern Star.

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