Melanie Brown rose to fame as one fifth of pop group, The Spice Girls who dominated the charts in the second half of the 1990s. Nowadays she has enjoyed a recent stint as a judge on ITV’s X Factor, where her distinctive Leeds dialect stood out a mile amongst the phalanx of accents on the judging panel. Known for her forthrightness in her praise and criticism of contestants she brings true Yorkshire spirit to the music industry in which she belongs.
She was born on May 29th 1975 in Harehills, Leeds and also lived in Kirkstall for a time. A young Melanie took an interest in singing and dancing from a young age and studied performing arts at Intake High School, before progressing to Leeds College of Music and the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Chapeltown.
While undertaking a non-music role as a telemarketer for a local newspaper she crossed the Pennines to make her first TV appearance on Coronation Street in October 1993. She played the un-credited part of Amy Nelson in the character’s last episode after filling in for another actress, who had left the soap suddenly due to health reasons.
In 1994, like four hundred other women Melanie Brown answered an advert in “The Stage” magazine, who were looking for “streetwise, outgoing, ambitious and dedicated females aged 18-23 that were able to sing and dance.” The company responsible for the ad were “Heart management Ltd and were looking to form an “all female pop act for a record deal.”
She made it through to the final auditions singing, “The Greatest Love of All,” by Whitney Houston. Her, along with Melanie Chisholm, Victoria Adams, Geri Halliwell, who had arrived late in the process, and another girl called Michelle Stephenson formed the band, “Touch” and lived in a house owned by Heart Management. They rehearsed and practiced songs at South Hill recording studios in Berkshire, including one track called “Sugar and Spice,” which eventually inspired them to change their names to the “Spice Girls.”
Michelle Stephenson left the band after failing to gel with the other band members and was replaced by an eighteen year old named Emma Bunton.
The bands continued to record and rehearse, even writing their own song, “It’s Another One of Those Days.” By March 1995 the group were beginning to grow frustrated by their lack of progress and treatment by Heart Management, who had yet to produce them a recording contract. They began sending their demos off to other management companies and persuaded their boss, Bob Herbert to give them with more showcases and opportunities. Word was beginning to spread among music management circles about these five Spice girls. The group eventually left Heart management and joined Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment in March 1995. The group continued to write new material and toured the West Coast of the USA. Amongst the new material to be written by Melanie Brown and her cohorts was a song called “Wannabe,” which after several recording and mixing attempts finally became their first single in the summer of 1996.
The single was a smash hit topping the charts in twenty-nine countries, while the now famous music video was a massive hit on the relatively new “Box” video channel. It also became the biggest selling single by an all-girl group, meaning Melanie Brown and The Spice Girls had arrived with a bang. One magazine at the time started to give them nicknames, of which Melanie B was dubbed, “Scary Spice,” a name which has stuck ever since.
The Spice Girls went on to have nine more number one singles throughout the rest of the decade plus three albums, “Spice, “Spiceworld” and “Forever.” They were by far the biggest pop band on the planet throughout these years. Their first album, “Spice” went multi-platinum across the world and they were at the forefront of many advertising campaigns including Pepsi and the launch of Channel 5 in 1997. There was also “Spiceworld the movie,” which like everything the girls touched seemed to turn to gold, breaking box office records in America.
The demise of the Spice Girls began when Geri Halliwell left the band in 1998 and the group, including Melanie carried on as a four piece for two further years. Their third album, “Forever,” (2000) was not as successful as the others, merely reaching number two in the album charts, spawning the moderate singles, “Holler” and the ominously titled “Goodbye.” They broke up in late 2000 to pursue solo careers.
Melanie Brown had already tasted solo success before the breakup of the Spice Girls, when she teamed up with rapper, Missy Elliott to release “I Want You Back,” which stormed to number one in 1998. She also released a solo album, “Hot,” one month before the Spice Girls’ final album was released.
After the breakup she continued with her music career, but as the decade progressed and the 1990s were left further behind, the popularity of her and the other girls’ solo music waned.
In 2007 it was announced that the Spice Girls were to re-unite and embark upon a one –off world tour, joined by their children on stage at one of their gigs in London.
After this was over and a Greatest Hits album the girls went their separate ways once again. Melanie Brown turned to another burgeoning industry which was beginning to grow during the late 2000s, – being a judge in a reality show. With her vast experience of being a member of the biggest pop band in the late 90s, coupled with her down to earth, forthright views steeped in Leeds and Yorkshireness she seemed the ideal choice.
Mel cut her teeth in this new world as a celebrity mentor in the judge’s houses round of X Factor Australia in 2010. The following year she became a judge in her own right, replacing Radio DJ Kyle Sandilands on the panel in the antipodean version of the show. She became firmly ensconced in the Simon Cowell Empire by being a judge on America’s Got Talent in 2013 and appearing on the British X Factor, as a guest judge during the Manchester auditions. In 2014 she signed a contract to become a member of the main judging panel for that year’s season alongside Cowell, the ever-green Louis Walsh and Cheryl Cole.
The 2014 series was not without its problems for the diva from Leeds. She had to pull out of the judging panel at the X Factor final, due to stomach pains, amid rumours about the nature of her relationship with her husband, Stephen Belafonte. She was then axed by the show’s producers for the next series, set to start in August 2015.
During her short stay with X Factor her direct and bulldozing style made her a popular addition to any judging panel she has been on, coupled with her experience of being at the very top of the music industry.