Why Melanie B Was TOTALLY the Best Spice Girl
Thirteen years since her solo career tanked, Mel B is back - and in impressively dramatic form for someone whose latest music video has racked up 100,000 fewer views than this wobbly footage of Victoria Beckham getting out of a car.
Against all the odds, as if LA State of Mind never happened, Scary Spice has landed herself a permanent seat on the UK X Factor judging panel: still the biggest show on British television and guarantee of the kind of mainstream exposure Geri Halliwell would kill for. Literally kill for. Like, stab-her-shih-tzu-with-hair-curlers kill for.
As with any Spice-related development, the news has been greeted by an endless torrent of opportunistic online 'pieces' on What The 90s All Meant and Lol At the Ones Who Aren't Victoria. Whatever, internet. Now I've got my digs at Geri, For Once in My Life and that heinous second album out of the way I can focus on what everyone else—Simon Cowell aside—has overlooked: Mel B was always the best Spice Girl.
Ahead of what promises to be a fun-filled autumn of Cheryl-baiting, let's take this opportunity to celebrate the many varied achievements of that talented artiste still best known as Scary Spice.
1. The Hair
Christmas 1996. I was 9 years old. Faced by a world of infinite promise and mystery, I knew but two things to be true - my hair was uncommonly curly, and Melanie B was my favourite Spice Girl. These facts were not unrelated.
"There's someone who understands," I thought to myself, halfway through a twenty-third viewing of 2 Become 1. "Bet that takes hours to dry and flatten out. All bloody Sporty has to do in the morning is pull on a scrunchy."
Curly hair is a unique, troubling affliction. Prone to frizz, foliage, stray spiders and weird old men in pubs who 'just want to see how it feels', it can be hard to deal with alone. Fellow sufferers stick together and Mel B, flying our tangled flag for all to see, therefore deserved my unwavering support. She was also kind enough to suggest a myriad of new ways to keep our heads tamed.
"Horns," I noted.
Alas, surrounded by silken-haired siblings and peers, I grew increasingly ashamed of my unruly mane. By Christmas 1998 I had shaved it all off, realising I had neither the time nor patience to defrizz it into something more readily recognisable as human hair. It was only through Mel B's continued efforts that I was able to vicariously live life as nature intended; proudly touring another multi-platinum album, a galaxy of corkscrew curls bouncing in my wake.
2. Word Up
The kindest thing to say about Mel B's solo output is there's not a whole lot of it, but that's not to say all 7 singles were completely awful. Most people point to the Missy Elliot collaboration as sole highlight of Scary's sparse discography, but personally I'm a fan of her full-bodied assault on Cameo's Word Up - a top 14 SMASH in 1999. Your biggest mistake, Mel? Not starting every song with awwright let's just geeeuuurgh for it.
BRILLIANT IDEA ALERT: A Mel B/Little Mix duet on Misjudged Covers Week. Guest appearance from Melanie C, with I Want Candy. No? Just Me?
See also: "Yippeeeee" opening of Feels So Good
3. 'Owwws beeuurghbehhh?'
Victoria at the wheel of the Spicebus. Victoria falling off a speedboat. Victoria's little (and DRY CLEAN ONLY) gucci dress. I'll admit it - Spice World: The Movie belongs mostly to Victoria.
That said, the best line is snatched right out from under her original nose. It comes at a particularly poignant moment near the beginning of the film, as the girls rehearse for their upcoming gig (with Jools Holland, obviously. No big deal).
Nicola, their heavily pregnant non-famous friend, shuffles in halfway through Say You'll Be There. On spotting her luminous green cardigan, the band quickly abandon their rehearsal - a concert is but 3 hours, whereas of course FRIENDSHIP NEVER ENDS. Nicola is relaxed back into a plushy sofa, her five friends gathered by her side, green cardigan still regrettably intact.
Placing a reassuring hand round her shoulders, Mel B moves closer. The audience holds its breath: here now surely comes further reaffirmation of the power of friendship, of womanhood, of love. In her dying moments ten years on, shot by the deranged brother of Jack Harkness, it is this moment Nicola will remember.
'Owwwwwws beeuuurghbehhh', Mel B rasps, in a voice of damp cigarettes and rusted saws. It gets me every time.
4. Her outfits
As if 'owwwwws beeuuuurghbehhhh' wasn't scene-stealing enough, shortly beforehand Mel B was originally wearing what looks like a FUCKING ASTRONAUT SUIT.
Prior to the 2007 Spice Girls Reunion bonanza and subsequent welcome onto the lucrative talent show judging circuit, Mel B was reportedly in a spot of financial bother. That a significant chunk of her earnings had been cleared out by ex-husband Jimmy Gulzar was well-established celebrity lore, but where the rest of it had gone no one was quite sure. Until, that is, her legendary appearance on MTV reality series Cribs.
"If you have a guest room, you don't just want a plain bed and wardrobe," she explains, not unreasonably. But did you really need five, separately themed guest rooms, Mel?
You can't help but admire someone who installs a dumb waiter next to their dressing table. Full marks for cupid diversity in beuuuurghbeh's room too.
6. Forcing Geri out
Geri wants to do a charity appearance by herself. You don't let her. Geri throws the mother of all pop strops and quits the Spice Girls. The Spice Girls are thrown into chaos. The Spice Girls enter a spiral of terminal decline. The Spice Girls split three years later. Geri releases 'It's Raining Men'. In hindsight - a bit of a mistake, Melanie B?
I SAY NO MELANIE B. Hold your majestically-curled head high and pay no heed to the naysayers. Though perhaps not entirely intentional, in ousting Ginger Spice the balance of power finally shifted your way, leading to a very different direction for the third and final Spice Girls album. Forever was mostly shit, yes, but without your timely in-band bullying we would never have got Holler - fourteen years later and it is still a tune and a half.
It was all worth it, Melanie B.
7. Never knowingly not a Spice Girl
Almost every Spice Girl has gone through a haughty period of awkward disassociation from the band to pursue, variously, fashion (Victoria), shameless self-promotion (Geri), tepid MOR rock (Mel C) and whatever the hell it is Emma does with herself when not in hot pink minidresses (Emma). This is, of course, completely acceptable. Do what you've got to do girls, but just know you'll come round to the idea of miming along to Wannabe again sooner than you think.
For there will always be at least one Spice Girl ready and raring to go at a minute's notice; one Spice Girl forever stoking inaccurate reunion rumours and agitating for another album via social media. While the rest of them were off either collaborating with Dane Bowers or butchering 70s disco classics, Mel B battled on in her one-woman mission to deny the Spice Girls had even split up. As Wikipedia points out, she was the first to reveal plans for a Greatest Hits album - albeit two years before it actually happened. Some say deluded, I say dedicated.
That's why it was so fitting to see Mel B front and centre at the Olympics closing ceremony two years ago, croaking her way through a lion's share of the vocals and loving every second of it. When they're together the Spice Girls are a force of nature; far greater than the sum of their individual parts, but only one of them can truly be said to have a solid track record of 20 years' dedicated service. You just know she had that catsuit made in 2005 - just in case London won the games, and just in case she got invited.
Hurrah for the Spice Girls! Hurrah for Mel B! Hurrah for her long overdue return to prime time UK TV!
Shame it had to be the X Factor though, huh.