A Jolly Good Sport

As one fifth of The Spice Girls, Melanie C had already sold 55 million records by the time she was 24, not to mention the 12 million she flogged afterwards as a solo artist. These days, things are a teensy bit harder, but the artist formerly known as Sporty reckons girl power is still alive and well

At a time when albums by superstars like Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé struggle to hit the one million sales mark, Melanie Chisholm, with her 25 platinum records, is something of a pop alien.

When we got our first glimpse of Mel C back in 1996, she was a backflipping, crop top-wearing loudmouth in a high ponytail and a nose ring. Pretty soon, her face was gracing everything from frozen pizza boxes to bean bags. Back then, being a pop star was big business, and no-one did more business than the Spice Girls. In 2012, it can take as few as 40,000 sales to score a number one album in the US; small fry compared to the 200,000 Spiceworld shifted in its first week in ‘97. How does Chisholm, who released her fifth solo album last year, rate the change in the industry?

“You know, it’s really hard to get feedback,” she says, “because there’s people downloading your music and enjoying your music that you may never know about. The industry’s going through a really weird time, you just don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s forced people to rethink the way they put their music out there. All sorts has happened over the last few years, you see people doing deals with supermarkets that you never thought would do that. You have to do so much more work before you see any kind of result.”

With the Spice Girls, Chisholm had the kind of career that sets you up for life, so it’s remarkable that at age 38, she’s busier than ever. Having spent six months performing in the West End in Blood Brothers, she gave birth to her first child (a girl named Scarlett), ran the London triathlon and in 2011, released latest album, The Sea. Good Lord, Melanie. Don’t you ever feel like just kicking back and resting on your Spice Girls millions?

“You know, I don’t! The thing is, I want to keep making music for as long as I can. After the last album, I didn’t really have a plan, but when Blood Brothers came up, it was a real challenge vocally and mentally. Being on stage night after night, it’s really, really tiring and unusual. Even when you’re on tour, you’re not going to be playing eight shows a week. After that, I sort of felt the need to keep going.”

Next on the agenda is Spice Girls; The Musical, which is set to hit the stage by the end of the year.

“We talked about it way, way back,” she recalls. “The girls and I always thought the songs would be great in a musical. Then Geri had the idea to get Judy Craymer on board, she’s done Mamma Mia! so she’s got an amazing record with musicals, and Jennifer Saunders is writing the script. It’s going to be weird, they’re not gonna be portraying us but they’ll be singing all the songs. It’ll be brilliant to have younger people in the audience singing along.”

‘90s junkies look away now; Chisholm is about to deny that the globetrotting fivesome are reuniting at this year’s Olympic Games. Not that the Liverpool lass will be betraying her old moniker come July 27.

“I’ve never been approached about it, so unfortunately, the reunion isn’t going to happen, but I’m excited about the games and I’m hoping to get along to some of the events.”

Before that, there’s the small matter of an Ireland and UK tour. Mel will struggle to top a gig in the West End last December when she was joined on stage by Queen legend Brian May.

“It was one of those moments where you look up and you can’t believe it’s real.” she squeals. “I remember it so clearly. I have a mental picture ingrained in my head. It was just great. He’s such a star.”

Meanwhile, Chisholm is keeping schtum on a rumored duet with pop vixen Jessie J.

“That would be brilliant, wouldn’t it? But I think maybe you shouldn’t sing with people who are better than you! But I love Jessie J, I love her attitude and she really seems to know where she’s going.’

With female solo artists damn near dominating charts and award shows (just look at the Brits Critics’ Choice Award, which has been scooped by a woman five years in a row!), it seems like Girl Power is in better health than ever.

“It’s brilliant to see artists like Adele and Emeli Sandé doing so well,” Chisholm beams, before stopping to reconsider. “Well, it’s great for women, I don’t know how the men feel about it!”

Mel C gives The Sea a live airing in the Limelight, Belfast (March 3) and the Olympia, Dublin (5).

 

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