During her rather extensive career we’ve seen Melanie C go through several stages, as is general with artists with long careers. However, in Melanie’s case, most of them are real personalities instead of just stage characters created for artistic purposes. Therefore, we’ve actually been able to listen to her while dealing with different issues, and grow from the factory-made Sporty Spice image into a much more mature, grown artist, who’s tackled a pretty big variety of genders and styles, all of them while still being the same person, no masks or costumes attached.
That being said, it is only natural that when she releases a new album, the first question that comes to mind is what part of her personality will be showcased the most in this record. If we go back and take a look at her previous works, she’s been following an angsty/reflexive/angsty/reflexive pattern in her solo albums, so my initial expectations were we’d be treated to another Melanie C rock album, much like “Northern Star” or “Beautiful Intentions”, where her style shines the most. However, after hearing the first outtakes from it, I won’t deny I started doubting this would happen at all, and I started fearing we’d be presented with a “This Time, part 2”.
After listening to the full album, however, I can say that the end result is neither a rock album nor a rehash of the beautiful, yet repetitive “This Time”. The Sea is actually the best balanced album Melanie has recorded so far, and that is something that in this case plays in its favor. The Sea is, indeed, a sea of styles and ideas that somehow manage to work and blend well enough to create a mostly enjoyable experience.
On one hand, we have the upbeat songs Melanie seems to enjoy doing, starting with the already released singles “Think About It” and “Rock Me”, the latter being the weakest of the up-tempo tracks of the album with its attempt at being a rock song that fails by becoming repetitive, and the former being an almost dance song, which takes a bit to grow on the listener yet becomes lovely once it does. To this list we can add “Burn”, an amazing pop-rock song, “Get Out Of Here”, a strong rock ballad filled with frustration following the style of several Garbage songs, with the exception of the personal, to the point lyrics Melanie generally uses. “Stupid Game” is another upbeat, nearly glam song very reminiscent of Adam Lambert’s “Surefire Winners”, with a fast, strong tempo that doesn’t really become contemporary rock, yet can’t be catalogued as pure pop either. “Drown” presents us with a mixture between a soft and an up-tempo song, a rather classical rock song with her own style, and a strong track on its own. And last, but not least, there is “All About You”, which is definitely the strongest song overall of the album – A solid rock song expressing anguish without even hinting at becoming a ballad, a supposed break-up song with a much darker meaning hidden within the lines. We could easily call that Melanie C’s own rock version of Gloomy Sunday.
On the other hand, we have the quieter side of the album. “The Sea”, the song that names the album, is a beautiful, deep song that easily becomes almost ambient on its style. It isn’t really a ballad, but it isn’t rock music either – I believe it’s as close to chill out as Melanie C will ever get, with ethereal vocals and instrumentation, a true delight to the ears. “Weak” is an attempt at a rock ballad that ends up as more of an up-tempo ballad, the rock part of it becoming just an idea. It isn’t a bad song at all, but it isn’t the best, or even close to it at all – Its name itself can describe it, since it is indeed pretty weak when compared to most of the other songs in the album. “Let There Be Love” is the most This Time-styled song in the album. It’s a nice ballad, with sweet lyrics that, as often happens with Melanie’s ballads, doesn’t really end up being great, even when it can stand on its own. It just isn’t too memorable unless you’re in the mood for sweet, mellow ballads. “Beautiful Mind” is in itself a good song, with great strings being played on the background during the chorus that greatly helps it to become a middle of the road styled song, easily comparable to the strongest songs from “This Time”. And last, there is “One by One”, which has the same issue most of Melanie’s ballads have: It just isn’t too memorable and, even when it has nice lyrics, the rhythm doesn’t help too much, and the song falls flat with the rest of the album, an album with several pretty strong songs that manage to drown this one out and single it out as a filler song.
All in all, “The Sea” is a pretty strong effort, which manages to showcase several of the styles Melanie’s been through during her career while adding a couple newer ones. However, it also manages to show off some of Melanie’s bigger weaknesses, which lie mainly with her ballads. Even when she has managed to compose some killer ballads (“Reason”, “Northern Star” and “Melt” being three personal favorites), her softer side really shines when it’s mixed with rock sounds, much as it does in “You’ll Get Yours” and, sadly, there’s no “You’ll Get Yours” in this album. The upbeat part of the album, however, is where it actually manages to shine, with catchy, strong songs, though none of them manage to reach the rock heights she previously reached with “Goin’ Down” or “Never Say Never”.
Another point that should be mentioned here is that lyrically the album is usual Melanie C. If you’re looking for very deep, complex lyrics, this is mostly the wrong place to look for them: Melanie tends to be pretty straightforward on what she sings, and that shows with most of the songs. Her lyrics are strong, but I can’t help but wonder just how much better several of her songs would be if she were to pair up with stronger lyricists. She has in many occasions managed to create amazing sounds, but her lyrics sometimes fall flat due to simplicity, and this album isn’t an exception to said rule.
That being said, however, “The Sea” is a very enjoyable effort, one of the strongest points of Melanie C’s catalog, and an album that combines aspects from both “Beautiful Intentions” and “This Time”. It doesn’t become as repetitive as her previous ballad albums do, yet it doesn’t reach the heights she reached with “Beautiful Intentions”. Let’s just call it a great effort, and one that shouldn’t be looked over by her fan base, or by anyone curious about her.
Final Review Rating: 4/5
Availability: The album is currently available on physical and digital form from Amazon.com
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