Britney Spears gave it a go. Rihanna’s always fun. Miley Cyrus twerked hard. But over the past decade, there’s been a rather upsetting dearth of spice in our lives.
Eight years after she last put a new song, Mel B—Scary Spice from the Spice Girls—has stealthily released a new dance track and music video called “For Once in My Life.” It’s a loud, thumping, empowering, campy, silly, fun song—in other words, it captures all the flavor notes that make up Scary Spice—with an equally loud, thumping, empowering, campy, silly, fun music video.
Mel B begins the video walking through a picket-fenced suburban neighborhood that should look familiar to anyone who watched Desperate Housewives dressed in constricting office garb. But as the song ramps up and its “you do you” message begins blaring, the singer strips off her clothes, cuts her hair, and eventually—and here’s the buzzy part—makes out with herself.
The bold reentry onto the music scene should hardly surprise anyone who has followed Mel B’s post-Spice career. The star’s hardly been shy: she judges America’s Got Talent and an international version of The X Factor, had her own Style Network reality show, is starring in an upcoming Lifetime holiday movie, and steps in as a regular guest host on the Today show.
Somehow between all that, she found time to sit down with The Daily Beast to chat about her decision to make more music, what Scary Spice and “girl power” mean all these years later, and what it’s like to make out with yourself.
Well, you seem quite chipper. Kind of like you’re living the message of this song.
Yes! Listen, when it all came about, I was mid–America’s Got Talent. I said to my husband, “I’ve got to record a song tonight. I have an idea.” So literally that night after America’s Got Talent, I went into the studio. Wrote the song. Recorded. Mastered it. All in three days. We did the video the following week. I said to my husband, because we do everything together. We got the production on Wisteria Lane. We got the director in—it was the same director who did my last video, “Feels So Good.”
So why the guerrilla operation with the release? It came with no warning.
I said I don’t want to do promotion just yet. I don’t want to do a six-week radio tour and then say my single’s released. I don’t want to go on all these TV shows and say, “My single’s out in a week!” and hype it up. I just want to release it, because a good song is a good song. If people hear it and think it’s a good song first and then hear, “Oh, it’s Mel B,” I’d rather that happen. And so all of that was literally the message of the song. I went into the studio, stripped all the crap away. I hadn’t done music in eight years, but I got all my confidence back. I said, yeah, this is it, and this is how I’m going to do it: on my terms.
That happened so fast.
It’s the pace of the video! The video just goes and goes and goes. There’s no stopping. We shot in nine hours. We edited it that night. And then it went up online.
So why now?
Doing America’s Got Talent and doing my show in the U.K., I’m constantly seeing people perform. Even though it’s a great job, I was just sitting there going, “Oh, my God, I need to perform.” But I was too afraid to say anything. And then just one night it was just a high, and I was like, that’s it! I’m hitting the studio! I’m doing it.
For such a secret operation, it got people’s attention pretty quickly.
Literally, my husband was like, “Oh, my God, are you ready to press ‘send’ on sending this video out and it looking like this?” And I was like, “No ... shut it ... oh, OK ... just do it!” And then it got the response right away. Perez [Hilton] picked it up immediately. I was like, “Please don’t bash the song.” But he was like, “I absolutely love it.” And then the amount of people who started tweeting it, from Tinie Tempah to Kim Kardashian, Tony Hawk. All these people started retweeting it. So I was like, oh, my God. Oh, my God!
How has judging other people on all these talent competitions changed you as a performer?
More than anything I think it’s inspired me to get back out there. I’m always going to perform in the Mel B style. But I’m not going to change anything about what I do. Hopefully I’m going to be rehearsing enough that I’m going to sound better. I don’t think my voice has sounded as good as it’s sounding now, ever.
Of course it was smart to give people something to buzz about with the music video—namely that image of you making out with yourself.
Well, the song is that you’re doing it for yourself. This is your time to just get rid of the excess baggage, to live your life. For once in your life, just do it for you. So I have to make out with myself, then. I couldn’t make out with anyone else.
That’s the best interpretation I’ve ever heard of the phrase “do it for yourself.”
The video and the message is all about yourself: feeling confident in yourself, getting that courage to say OK. Whether it’s a change of job, change of your look—it’s just going out and being free for one night, just do it all for you. So if you look at the whole video, I’m a stripping off my clothes from the bullshit office job that I’ve got. Then I’m hanging out with cheerleaders, which is fun and lively. I’m doing double dutch like kids do, getting back to that kind of freedom and not caring, which all kids have. To cutting my hair off, to going to a house party, to just being completely free ... to make out with myself. I know it all sounds silly, but if you think about it metaphorically, it all makes sense.
And who better to make out with than yourself, right?
Than me. The best. Yeah. And the director is just amazing. To do a video that has four hair and makeup changes, four costume changes, and do it nine hours from start to finish? I don’t think that’s ever been heard of. And don’t forget, all four scenes were shot in one long take.
And it was shot on the Desperate Housewives set, which must’ve been a blast. Did you watch the show?
I did! Felicity Huffman [who starred on the show] texted me, “That street looks very familiar ...” She tweeted me. All these people were tweeting me! Ellen DeGeneres tweeted me. I couldn’t have asked for more support than I got. And I’m not just talking about celebrities.
Of course. I’m sure your fans exploded with excitement, too.
The fans! I went out clubbing Saturday with Mel C to this gay place in the U.K. and they just played and played and played it.
I mean, this is destined to be a gay-club hit.
What is that gay club here? Westgay at Westway? I went there the night before I was going to release the song, and I snuck in the back and said to the DJ, “Can you just play this song? I want to see the crowd reaction.” And nobody stopped dancing! My heart was pounding. It’s been definitely a really interesting, really roller-coaster ride so far.
I went to a taping of America’s Got Talent a few months ago, and the hype man kept introducing you as Scary Spice. Do you still own that label?
I’m always going to be Scary Spice. Always, always, always. That’s where I came from. That’s how I’m able to have great houses and go on great holidays and raise my kids in laps of luxury. If it wasn’t for being part of the Spice Girls and being tagged as Scary Spice, I wouldn’t be here.
So what does Scary Spice mean now?
It means exactly what my song is. Just being you and feeling confident. Whatever that version of you is, just be that version of you.
A big part of why this song is getting such a big response, I think, is because so many of us were in love with you when you were with the Spice Girls, and it’s just really exciting for us to see you do well now. Why do you think, all these decades later, people still think of you and the girls so fondly, in ways that a lot of groups don’t experience?
I think you’ll have to ask the fans. We were just being girls. At the Olympics, we were just being us. Hopefully there was something there for everyone. We just had a message and still have that message of girl power and being very supportive of women and very supportive of each other. I think you can tell when a group of girls is genuine. And who doesn’t want to have four best friends that you can hang out with and talk smack with and argue and fight and love and hate at the same time?
So in this age of Miley Cyrus twerking and cyberbullying and Twitter fights and all of that, has the meaning of girl power changed?
Miley did exactly what she wanted to do. Nobody forced her to do that. it was brilliant. She has everyone on every talk show talking about her. She’s a great artist and a great performer, so she can back it up with talent. And do whatever she wants.
Just like your song says to do.
It’s one of those songs that just makes you feel good. That’s why I’m so glad I did it the way I did it. I think if I had done the big announcement, like, “After eight years, I’m back! Single’s out in three weeks!” That just sets you up for such high expectations from everyone. What kind of music is it going to be? Am I going to like it? I just snuck it out like nobody’s business.
What were you thinking right before you “snuck it out”?
I prayed. I got down on my knees and my husband was like, “What are you doing?” I was like, “I’m praying! We spent so much money on this video and so much money on this song! Let it do well, please.”
What would you have done if it didn’t get that response?
I would’ve taken it off the Internet. I would’ve gone, “Oops!”
But did you really have a doubt that people would like it?
There’s always that fear. Of course. But at the end of the day I’m so strong-willed that I just wanted to get it out there. I knew in my heart of hearts that it was going to be a good song. I just hoped that everyone else would, too.
It’s like one of those songs that you dance around in your apartment to with a glass of wine while getting ready on a Friday night.
Yes! What I hoped for was for it to be that song that everyone rings in the New Year with. Like, this is my New Year’s resolution. Like, for once in my life.