Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Schizophonic": Geri Halliwell 10 Years Later

As a member of the Spice Girls, Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell ascended the ranks in popular music history as one of the most successful female groups ever. In May of 1998, Halliwell departed the Spice Girls dramatically before the start of the American leg of their Spice World Tour. The remaining four Spice Girls stormed through the American leg and completed it without fail. A reinvention of their own went on without Halliwell. Scrutiny fell upon the Halliwell, the question of whether she had the talent to make it alone was omnipresent.

Halliwell did have the talent and her debut album Schizophonic (1999) carved out her own niche in pop music. Ten years later, the record is as hungry, urgent, and fascinating as when it first arrived.

The History
After the uproar of Halliwell's departure cooled, she managed to quickly secure a record deal with EMI, the parent company to Virgin Records where she resided as a Spice Girl. It was important to not cause ripples for her former band mates, but go with a label that was still familiar to her presence.

Looking to the past few months for writing experience, Halliwell began an unsure trek toward what became Schizophonic.

The Record
Geri Halliwell immediately reached out to the production duo Absolute, Paul Wilson and Andy Watkins. Absolute had ties with Halliwell from her Spice Girls days.

Halliwell had bathed in the pop of Shirley Bassey, Madonna, and George Michael and all of that worked itself into her debut. Halliwell's unashamed love of pop music is what helped Schizophonic take on its fresh appeal. Thematically, Schizophonic divided between a "red" and "white" section. The "red" section dealt with "ego," and "white" with "spirituality." Lead writing credits on all 10 cuts went to Halliwell, who set the track that she was a wit with a pen.  Cleverness was platformed on the saucy thrust of "Bag It Up." In conjunction with a plethora of disco fluff and groove, Halliwell quipped about male and female contests:
I like chocolate and controversy, he likes Friday and bad company. I like midnight, it's when I'm in the mood, he likes the morning, that's when he's rude! Just a bad case of opposite sex! Have to look to the stars! All we need is a little respect! 'Cos men are from Venus and girls are from Mars!"
Noteworthiness extended to Halliwell's voice, which sounded comfortable in its own husky glory on "Bag It Up." Halliwell didn't hide, rather she made her voice the force that tied songs like the "La Isla Bonita" doused "Mi Chico Latino" and the touching "Someone's Watching Over Me" together.  Schizophonic followed  a pop changeability model, no two songs sounded alike. One could hear the jazzed up pop explosiveness of "Look At Me" or the Hindi pep of "Let Me Love You."

"Let Me Love You" started with a sitar rinsed chant from Halliwell which hypnotized the listener before it fell into kinetic guitar and drum dramatics. It stood out as the best example of converging the musical, vocal, and lyrical ambitions of the LP into one perfect song.

The Impact
Schizophonic was released in England on June 7th, 1999 and sailed into the #4 position on the U.K. Album Chart. It moveD over 600,000 copies and earned certified double platinum there.
The album spun off four singles: "Look At Me" (5/10/99-#2), "Mi Chico Latino" (8/16/99-#1), "Lift Me Up" (11/1/99-#1), and "Bag It Up" (3/13/00-#1). Halliwell scored a U.K. Top 10 hit, and three U.K. number one hit singles, following the six she achieved as a Spice Girl.

This trend was duplicated by her former group mates respective solo careers. Halliwell actually entered into the first, and only, "Spice Girls Chart Battle" with Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton on November 1st, 1999. Ms. Bunton released her first solo single, a joint effort with U.K. rockers Tin Tin Out, a cover of Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians' "What I Am." Going head to head with Halliwell's third single "Lift Me Up," Bunton's single-only release took the #2 position on the U.K. Singles Chart, while Halliwell took #1. The song later appeared on Bunton's gold certified debut, A Girl Like Me (2001).

Schizophonic, along with Melanie C's Northern Star (1999) and Bunton's Free Me (2004/2005) are the only solo-Spice Girl recordings to get a U.S. release. It moved enough units by 2001 Stateside to gain a gold certification with 500,000 copies. Though it had a limited shelf life on the U.S. Billboard 200 (#42), it's the highest ranking for a solo Spice Girl on American charts. Internationally, the record did respectably, it reached reach gold status in Mexico, Australia, and Spain.

Schizophonic EPK, Circa 1999

Geri Halliwell recorded two more albums: Scream If You Wanna Go Faster (2001) and Passion (2005). Both spun off many hit singles, but sales tapered off with each record. Between these projects Halliwell wrote two best-selling autobiographies before reuniting with the Spice Girls in the 2007 for their successful tour and best-of collection. These days Halliwell is a content mother and author of a popular line of children's books. Her mark as an indelible pop act for her time is heard throughout Schizophonic, a timeless token to pop spunk. Five stars out of five.-QH

[Editor's Note: Schizophonic is in print as an affordable import or easily found used in U.S. record stores.-QH]


Aaron S. said...

A great write-up for one of my favorite performers! I have been a fan of Geri Halliwell from her days in the Spice Girls all the way through her Solo career. She has always stayed true to herself, and has brought integrity, wit, passion & love to everything she has achieved.

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