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Thursday, 12 April, 2001, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Bunton plays on solo charms
Emma Bunton
Baby Spice tries to flee the Spice Girls' nest
By BBC News Online's Ian Youngs

On the cover of A Girl Like Me, Emma Bunton's freckled face, framed by white hot hair, stares out enigmatically.

She's on a beach. You cannot see, but you can tell. She looks like a cover girl and seems to be selling a fantasy.

She would say that she is selling music - but what she is really selling is dreams and beauty and the songs happen to fit in quite nicely.

She sells a dream because the songs seem like Emma herself - light, fluffy, quite nice really, and certainly not very taxing.

Emma Bunton is the third Spice Girl to release a solo album
The best two tunes are her first single What I Am and Sunshine on a Rainy Day

And the beauty bit fits because what this album proves (apart from my love for you, and other such notions) is that what you need to succeed is looks, a half-decent personality and a half-decent voice.

The rest - which makes up about 95% of the actual music - is down to the songwriters and producers.

The best two tunes are her first hit What I Am and Sunshine On A Rainy Day - neither of which she had a hand in writing and both of which were produced by Tin Tin Out.

Tin Tin Out, in their shadowy producers' anonymity, get the balance between a sharp, fresh sound and an easy-to-swallow, sweet taste spot on.

Mel B and Geri have already learned that life alone in the pop world is tough

Ian Youngs

Sunshine On A Rainy Day was originally the hit that made Zoe a one-hit-wonder in 1991 - and if I remember rightly, she was a similarly-endowed female solo singer too.

The rest is out of focus to varying degrees. There are some smart, sassy and sticky pop songs and some smooth, strong productions - but the two do not collide often enough to give the impression of a singer who is going to escape the sinking Spice Girls ship.

Mel B and Geri Halliwell have already learned that life alone in the pop world is tough. Mel B's Hot could enter the charts no higher than number 28, then disappeared without a trace. Geri's new single, meanwhile, has failed to be playlisted by Radio 1, Radio 2 and Virgin.

Baby Spice has grown up and she still has that dreamy quality to make most stare at CD:UK with a wistful glint.

She has also kept that bubbly, squeaky clean and media-wise personality that will help her ride the wave. But this beach babe will have to wait to see whether surf's up.

A Girl Like Me is released on Monday 16 April by Virgin.

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