... so [B]'Hot'[/B] she's taking a shower in a desert on the record sleeve...

Executed with the kind of ruthless strategic efficiency that makes the SAS seem ill-prepared by comparison, the rapid deployment and manipulation of solo [a]Spice Girls[/a] into whichever strain of pop is fleetingly in vogue has been, if nothing else, a triumph for the marketing team at Virgin Records.

Posh paired up with UK garage while it had its 15 minutes this summer. Mel C continues to flounder excruciatingly between indie and trance. Emma is scheduled for saccharine ballads in the new year (after the third [a]Spice Girls[/a] project proper). And this week, rough, tough Melanie B plays the superfly scrub-dissin’, fur-wearin’ bitch, so ‘Hot’ she’s taking a shower in a desert on the record sleeve, thereby displaying what many consider to be her two greatest assets.

It’s hard to overstate just how bad this record is. By spreading her meagre vocal range thinly across a selection of even slimmer songs, Melanie Bore is pouting proof that not even the world’s finest producers can right something so emphatically wrong. ‘Hot’ is notable if only because it unites on one album the brains behind modern US R&B, namely Fred Jerkins, Teddy ‘Blackstreet’ Riley and the dream team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis; four men whose mission it was to transform Mel B into something she can never be: American.

Yet how they tried. Jerkins offers ‘Lullaby’, a pretty TLC-style ballad, while Jam and Lewis‘ equally charming ‘Feels So Good’ is ruined from the start by the sound of Our Mel from Leeds bleating about getting “all soft an’ smoo-cheh” in fluent Yorkshire. ‘Pack Your Shit’ (risqui – but hey, that’s the image she’s trying to cultivate) finds Riley employing second-hand Timbaland beats as Mel simpers angrily about love-rat hubby Jimmy G, and she plummets to Halliwell-esque depths of contrived ‘love speak’ – “I can feel it baby, come closer” etc – on the stillborn ‘Feel Me Now’.

As deeply personal as this whole record undoubtedly is, it’s difficult to take seriously as an artist a woman whose lavish but doomed wedding ‘coincided’ with the week of release of her duet with Missy ‘Misdemeanor’ Elliott, ‘I Want You Back’, the only track here that sounds vaguely contemporary. The remainder are but ticks in boxes representing target audience demographics and generic musical bases covered.

In that respect, Melanie B has something for everyone. But by the same token, she gives us absolutely nothing. Roll on the next [a]Spice Girls[/a] product. Gosh, the fun never stops.