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Sunday, 8 October, 2000, 08:07 GMT 09:07 UK
CD Review: Melanie B
Melanie B
Melanie B: Hot (Virgin)
By the BBC's Nigel Packer

Contrary to its title, the first solo album from Melanie B is a disappointingly lukewarm affair.

Mel's duet with Missy Elliott and her cover of Cameo's Word Up promised a sassy and streetwise alternative to her tamer work with the Spice Girls.

But she appears unable to shake off the more commercial leanings of her past, resulting in a collection poised uneasily between breezy bubblegum pop and edgy R 'n' B.

Melanie B at the Emma awards
Marriage break-up influenced album
Feels So Good sets the tone ominously - a sparky singalong which would probably have worked over three minutes but for some inexplicable reason is stretched out to five.

The upbeat lyrics are unexpected given Mel's much-publicised marriage break-up, but there's a dramatic switch of tone for vitriolic new single Tell Me.

"All you loved was Mel B's money," she sings in typically no-nonsense style, against a background of squelchy keyboards and fractured beats.

The deceptively-titled Hell No may sound like the cue for a further rant, but instead it signals another mood swing - as a contrite Mel asks an unnamed lover for forgiveness.

A soft ballad in the same style as the Spice Girls' Mama, it features splashes of harp and the kind of piano flourishes which would do Richard Clayderman proud.

There are flashes of the old Mel in the lines "Don't act like you never lied to me", but don't be fooled - this song is so slushy you may need Wellington boots to get through it.

R 'n' B by numbers

Lullaby is a lightweight feel-good anthem which could have stepped straight from a cereal ad, while ABC 123 is - fittingly enough - R 'n' B by numbers.

Fortunately, though, the album does have its plus points. Mel proves that she has a strong and versatile voice, and relishes the chance to sink her teeth into entire songs rather than wait in line for scraps along with the other Spice Girls.

Melanie B at the Brit awards earlier this year
Hot comes weeks before the Spice Girls' third album
I Believe is a fleet-footed piece of R&B with gutsy vocals, while I Want You Back - the duet with Missy Elliott - retains its punch, making the rest of the album sound timid by comparison.

The production credits read like a who's who of the music business - Jam and Lewis, Sisqo and Teddy Riley are among the contributors - which makes it all the more mystifying that the album occasionally sounds leaden.

Pack Your S**t is the worst offender - a clumsy tale of a domestic tiff - while the adults-only closing track Feel Me Now proves to be another failed experiment, as she whispers sweet nothings over a lazy late-night backing track.

Many fans were confidently expecting Mel B to give bandmate Melanie C a run for her money in the solo success stakes, but that must now be open to doubt - especially given the odd timing of this release.

With a new Spice Girls album due in the next few weeks, Hot could well be pushed to the sidelines as Mel returns to the more pressing concerns of her day job.

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See also:

25 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Spice Girls sing Forever
23 May 00 | Entertainment
Mel B joins stars at Emmas
04 Jan 00 | Entertainment
Mel G flees for the East
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