And then there were three the Spice Girls as a quartet, the way we knew them after Ginger's departure, are no longer.
Melanie Chisholm the spirited singer known as Sporty Spice reportedly has left the British pop phenomenon for a solo career.
"I don't intend to do any more work with the Spice Girls," Chisholm told Reuters on Thursday (March 8). "Really, I've not been comfortable being in the Spice Girls for probably the last two years. It doesn't really feel that natural to me anymore."
Under the name Melanie C, Chisholm, 27, released her solo debut, Northern Star, in England in fall 1999 and in the United States in October. The album did well overseas, and so far, the single "I Turn to You" has been a moderate hit here.
Chisholm's departure from the Spice Girls could mark the official demise of the group, which has sold 38 million albums globally since 1995.
A spokesperson at Virgin Records, the Spice Girls' U.S. label, was not aware of Chisholm's departure or a possible breakup.
The group appeared to be on the outs after November's Forever was a commercial and critical dud, despite the presence of R&B hitmaker Rodney Jerkins. Chisholm and mates Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), Melanie Brown (Scary Spice) and Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice) ruled the road in their heyday, but they announced no live dates to support Forever.
Chisholm, considered by critics to be the best singer of the bunch, told Reuters there were no plans for a new Spice Girls album. "We were such a huge phenomenon, and there's not really anywhere else to go with that," she said. "It was a question of sacrificing our lives and trying to maintain the success, or just being honest with ourselves. We've all been very honest and we all wanted to pursue solo careers."
This is not the first time there has been talk of a Spice Girls split. Amid reported feuding within the group in 1998, Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice) suddenly quit, and breakup rumors spread. But Halliwell quickly launched a solo career with the album Schizophonic, and the Spice Girls went on without her.
The Spice Girls and their Girl Power crusade burst onto the music scene with 1996's smash single "Wannabe." They scored with other hits, such as "Say You'll Be There" and "2 Become 1." They also released a feature film, "Spice World," in 1997.
Since their inception, the Spice Girls have been tabloid fodder in the States and especially in the UK. Scrutiny has fallen on Chisholm first for gaining weight and later for claims that she is a lesbian, which she denied. Chisholm has acknowledged battling an eating disorder and depression, but she told Reuters she was feeling better, taking mild anti-depressants and undergoing therapy.
Chisholm, who launched the North American leg of her current world tour in Calgary, Canada, on March 29 (see "Melanie C Lines Up Solo Tour"), plans to begin work on her second album in May with Northern Star producers Rick Nowels, Phil Thornalley and Marius De Vries. A fall 2002 release is expected.
"I'll always be a Spice Girl," Chisholm told Reuters. "We're still linked business-wise and we're still friends, but I don't really consider myself to work as a band any more ... I've grown up, and I just feel that I want to do things my own way and not compromise."