Geri Halliwell

Schizophonic

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If anyone was going to leave the Spice Girls for a solo career, it would have been Geri Halliwell -- she was the ringleader, the brassy voice for girl power. Ironically, as the Spice Girls regrouped and found a new voice, Halliwell seemed a little lost. She dove head-first into maturity, dressing in sensible suits and becoming, of all things, a Goodwill Ambassador of the U.N. It was as if Robbie Williams had suddenly turned into Gary Barlow. By the time she cut her debut solo album, Halliwell had realized that it was her spunk and character that made her a pop star -- and she explained away the rapid shift in image in the title, Schizophonic, which also is a description of the album's contents. Intent on proving her artistic worth, Halliwell is determined to do it all, from incessantly catchy dance-pop and sweet ballads to Latin-pop and a radio-ready revamp of Madchester psychedelia. Unfortunately, Halliwell doesn't have strong collaborators, who know how to exploit her admittedly limited voice, so much of it falls a little flat musically. There are, however, cuts on Schizophonia sparkle with a gleeful, unabashed love of pop and dance. Invariably, the album soars when it's upbeat -- particularly on the self-conscious, silly "Look at Me," "Let Me Love You" and the closer "You're in a Bubble" -- since Halliwell sounds better when she's surrounded by glittery, flashy dance beats. Once the tempo slows, her limitations become apparent, unless the song gives her a chance to be a diva, such as the jazzy "Goodbye Kiss." If Schizophonia doesn't work on some levels, it does succeed as a statement of purpose from the newly independent Halliwell. If it sounds awkward at times and brash at others, if it veers between the tacky and tasteful, if it is both good and bad, well, that's her - and you either like it or loathe it.

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