Spice Girls Bring Family Style, R&B Sound To Forever

The Spice Girls, sporting an updated R&B sound, will return to record stores on Election Day with the optimistically titled Forever, the long-awaited follow-up to 1997's Spiceworld.

But these are not your older sister's Spice Girls.

"We couldn't have come back after several years and sung 'Wannabe' again, Spice Girl Victoria Beckham said earlier this month. "We had to take it somewhere, and we knew we had to make a change. We're grown up and ... we've got children now. We're married."

The key ingredients to Forever, she said, are sleek R&B beats — as evidenced by the Rodney Jerkins-produced single "Holler" — and some professional seasoning brought about by the Girls' personal growth.

"They're better singers and they're better in the studio now," added Jimmy Jam, who worked on the LP with production partner Terry Lewis.

"So,

it's just a much more mature album. ... I think my wife put it best when she said [Forever] sounds like the Spice Girls, but it doesn't sound like they're cheerleaders." [RealVideo]

It's been a while since the Spice Girls — Melanie Brown, Emma Bunton, Melanie Chisholm and Beckham — offered a musical cheer together. Founding member Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell left the group after the U.S. leg of the Spiceworld tour, and the band withdrew from the spotlight following the global trek.

"Baby Spice" Brown and "Posh Spice" Beckham have become mothers. Brown gave birth to a girl, Phoenix, in February 1999, and Beckham followed two weeks later with a son, Brooklyn.

Each of the Spice Girls, and Halliwell, has also tried her hands at a solo career, with Chisholm's Northern Star making the biggest impact; it sold more than 1 million copies in the U.K. Acts such as Britney Spears and 'NSYNC, meanwhile, have reaped the benefits

of a pop-music scene the Spice Girls helped resuscitate.

"People are saying to us, 'Do you feel responsible for the 'NSYNC's and your Britneys and people like that, '" Beckham said. "I won't say [we're] responsible, because the Backstreet Boys and 'NSYNC were around ... when we first started, but they hadn't had that success. I'd say that we just made pop music cool again."

On their own album, "we still want to be the same cheeky Spice Girls, don't get me wrong," Beckham said. "There's lots of that on the album, but we still had to go somewhere else. You have to move along. People are so fickle and people can get bored so quickly that you have to" — she snapped her fingers — "keep going."

Bunton and Beckham said the familial nature of the band's lives spilled over into sessions for the album in London.

"It was great," Beckham said. "We were in there, the four

of us and two babies. I think that my mum was in there helping out with Brooklyn, and Melanie [Brown's] sister was there helping out with Phoenix, so it was just really nice and relaxed. We were there together all the time."

"Then we came out to Miami to finish off recording the album," she added. "Mel C followed us a week later, but I think that's because her album is doing so well, and she was busy working that ... But I'd say that 99 percent of [the album] we've done all together."

"That's what I think makes the Spice Girls so special," Bunton said, "that we work together on everything. I don't think we could write a song if two of us were missing, because everyone brings their own thing into the special equation, and it all works. It all works perfect." [RealVideo]

After a lengthy layoff, the Spice Girls, who built their name on such sugar-coated hits as "Wannabe," "Say You'll Be There" and "Spice Up Your Life," gave plenty of thought to what style of music they would return with, and said that's why they chose to work with Jerkins, Lewis and Jam, who have penned hits for R&B singers Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson, Destiny's Child and Mariah Carey.

Bunton said "Holler," the lead track on Forever, connects the band's poppier days with the more-mature, R&B sounds of the new Spice Girls.

"I think that's what's special about 'Holler,'" she said. "It's got some fantastic beats. ... Rodney [Jerkins] worked on the production, and it's a real dance track that everyone can groove to. Then, as soon as you hear our voices and our melodies, you can tell

straight away that it's

the Spice Girls, and that is what we wanted to achieve.

"We wanted to make it funkier, and we're all grown up, so it's naturally moved on. But we still wanted it to have a Spice-y feel, and I think it's definitely worked out well." [RealVideo]

"People that were fans of the Spice Girls before will love the [new] album," Jam said, "because it still sounds like the Spice Girls. People that weren't Spice Girls fans are going to gravitate toward the album just because it sounds like 2000. It sounds like the way records should sound right now." [RealVideo]