After recording three albums with the Spice Girls, one of the most successful pop groups in history, singer Emma Bunton was more than ready to stand out on her own by late 2000, after the Spice Girls released their final album Forever. Known worldwide as Baby Spice, Bunton was considered the young and innocent one of the all-girl group, with her wide smile, baby doll dresses, and pigtails as her calling card. But once the Spice Girls broke up, Bunton began to assert herself as an independent young woman with music to match.
Born on January 21, 1976 in the north London, England suburb of Barnet, Bunton grew up in a single parent home from the age of 11 on. After attending St. Theresa's Roman Catholic Primary School, Bunton enrolled at the Sylvia Young Theatre School and began doing odd modeling and commercial jobs. By the time she was 16 the acting bug had caught Bunton, and she left school to study drama at Barnet Technical College. Appearing in advertisements and magazines, Bunton even scored a small acting gig on the popular British soap EastEnders while she was still in school.
At 18, Bunton became the youngest member of a new manufactured pop group called the Spice Girls. After searching schools and dance studios for young woman to be a part of their new manufactured all-girl singing group, Chris and Bob Herbert placed an ad in the British theater newspaper The Stage. The ad read, "R.U. 18-23 with the ability to sing/dance? R.U. streetwise, outgoing, ambitious and dedicated?" Over 400 girls auditioned and only 10 made it down to the final cut, including future Spice Girls Victoria Adams, Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm, and Geri Halliwell. Young Bunton was brought in a few months later after another girl quit. The Spice Girls released Spice in 1996, reinvigorating a languishing pop market in the throes of alternative music. To distinguish each girl's "distinctive" personalities each member was given a nickname, and Bunton, being the youngest of the group, was dubbed Baby Spice; a moniker that haunted her long after the group broke up. Using the cliché of girl power, the Spice Girls sold not only bubblegum music, but also millions of pieces of merchandise worldwide for more than three solid years. In June of 1997, after a whirlwind of press and shows, Bunton broke her ankle at a Turkish TV station and was given little time to heal before the Spice Girls began filming the movie Spice World.
The Spice Girls eventually broke up after their 2000 release Forever. Though the split was amicable, Bunton assured an interviewer for People magazine that, "We are always on the phone, checking everyone's all right. We talk about boys and what we're wearing. Girly stuff."
In 1999, British electronica group Tin Tin Out asked Bunton to sing on a cover of Edie Brickell's "What I Am," jumpstarting her solo career. In 2001, two years after both Melanie C. (Sporty Spice) and Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice) released their own albums, Bunton emerged with A Girl Like Me. While the records by her former Spice Girl friends concentrated on glossy dance-pop, A Girl Like Me took a more sophisticated turn with acoustic guitars, moody atmospheres, and even a little edge. The United Kingdom-only released album got positive reviews, including a song-by-song breakdown in NME, where they commented on the standout track "Spell It Out." "Over the sound of a piano, Miss Bunton recalls the classic pop epics of yore with smoldering intent," NME wrote. Bunton had proved herself a mature young woman who was confident and secure. The single "What Took You So Long" instantly shot to number one the first week it was released.
In 2004 Bunton's second album, Free Me, was released in the United Kingdom. As soon as the singles "Free Me" and "Maybe" hit the airwaves, they went to the top of charts. The new record ran the musical gamut from slinky bossa nova ballads to dance-club singles, swinging '60s breezy pop, and Motown shimmer. Her image was sexier than her previous album, and the collection of songs, co-written by Bunton, was more secure than those from A Girl Like Me. People's Chuck Arnold heralded the album in early 2005, when Free Me was finally released in the United States. "Blending airy '60s pop with modern-day Europop, the result is a Petula Clark-meets-Kylie Minogue cocktail that goes down smoothly," Arnold wrote.
In an interview with VH1.com, Bunton revealed her influences for the timeless sounds found on Free Me. "Motown was all I would listen to when I was younger," she said. "I would move onto other people, but it always seemed to come back to Motown for me. So I wanted to bring an element of Motown in my music …" After hearing Free Me, Billboard.com's Chuck Taylor concluded that Bunton was in fact that most talented of the Spice Girls. "Free Me is a careful up-tempo romp tailor-made for singing along, sipping Cosmos and sashaying down your own imaginary runway," he wrote.
In February of 2005, Bunton appeared in a sexy two-page spread in music magazine Blender, showing off her newfound confidence. She showed off her spicy personality as she revealed to Blender's Nick Duerden that she was, "a green belt in karate, I'm quite good at tap dancing, and I can say the alphabet backwards." But as she reiterated to VH1.com, she'll still always be remembered for being Baby Spice. "Obviously there will always be a touch of Baby Spice in me. She is a part of me. But I think people can see that I have grown up."
A Girl Like Me, Virgin Records, 2001.
Free Me, 19 Recordings/Universal, 2004/2005.
For the Record …
Born on January 21, 1976, in Barnet, North London, England. Education: Studied drama at Barnet Technical College.
Joined pop group Spice Girls under the nickname Baby Spice, 1993; released solo debut A Girl Like Me, Virgin Records, 2001; released sophomore album, Free Me on 19 Recordings/Universal in the U.K., 2004; Free Me released in the U.S., 2005.
Addresses: Record company—19 Recordings, website: http://www.19.co.uk/site3m.html. Website—Emma Bunton Official Website: http://www.emmabuntonofficial.com.
Dafydd Rees, Luke Crampton, VH1 Rock Stars Encyclopedia, DK Publishing.
Blender, February 2005, p. 75.
People, February 7, 2005; February 14, 2005, p. 56.
"Brighton Breezy," NME,http://www.nme.com (March 4, 2005).
"Emma Bunton," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (March 4, 2005).
"Emma Bunton: Baby, It's You," VH1.com,http://www.vh1.com/artists/interview/1496725/020905/bunton_emma.jhtml (March 4, 2005).
"Bunton, Emma." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 20, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/bunton-emma
"Bunton, Emma." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved February 20, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/bunton-emma
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