"They said I was too old," 46-year-old singer Melanie C sings defiantly on the ground-stomping track, Here I Am, off her latest self-titled studio album.
"That out of the embers hot and cold, but I'm on fire, I'm on fire," she continues singing as if it is her battle cry, one she belts out as she vehemently charges forward on the fight against age discrimination.
When StarLifestyle spoke to the performer about the inspiration behind the lyrics, she confirmed it had to do with her firsthand experience with ageism.
“There’s a lot of ageism in the entertainment industry, especially for women. It does exist for men, but much more if you're a woman, ” said the Spice Girls member, known to many as Mel C or Sporty Spice, in an exclusive interview via video call from London.
She added candidly: “There’s a radio station here in the UK that literally when you hit a certain age, they don't play any of your music anymore - no matter how it sounds.”
Of course, Mel C isn’t the only one who has spoken out about the issue. She joins a chorus of female performers, be it singers like Cher and Madonna or actresses like Jessica Lange and Jane Fonda.
Meryl Streep even funded a screenwriting lab for female writers over 40.
For Mel C, who has an 11-year-old daughter, she feels there should be a mix of both new and more mature voices in the music industry.
“It's kind of crazy. I understand it in one respect. Obviously the music of young people is so important because they are the voice of their generation.
"They're experiencing the world as they're growing up, which is a very different world compared to the generations before them.
“But I think also as a more mature artiste, you have a different perspective on life and you have something different to offer. So I think that there is room for everybody, ” she adds.
Thankfully, the singer believes the tides are shifting in the youth-obsessed showbiz landscape. “I think things are changing, but it is a very gradual process.”
Music by and for all
The British singer-songwriter hopes the music she makes will appeal to listeners of all ages.
“Being back on stage with the girls last year, it reminded me that the appeal of Spice Girls is multi-generational, ” she recalls her reunion tour with fellow Spice Girls members Geri Halliwell, Mel B and Emma Bunton.
“We had all our 30-something fans who had grown up with the Spice Girls sound, but we also had kids there and we had mums and grandmothers. It was so lovely to have that.”
“I'm just making the music that I want to make and I hope that, like the music of Spice Girls, it appeals to many, many generations.”
Mel C does just that in her eighth album, released in October. It features a melange of disco and EDM influences, a marriage the old and the new – particularly evident in her third single off the album, In And Out Of Love.
Incidentally, it’s a musical style that’s quite current, with pop sensations like Dua Lipa sporting it.
There’s something else about her new music. It harkens back to her Spice Girls days.
Mel C, who worked on the album around the same time she went on the Spice Girls reunion tour, shared: “During that process and being back on stage with the girls in 2019, it just made me feel really reflective about being Spice Girls, being a solo artist and just about my whole career.
“And I started to just feel very proud of all of my achievements. And I started to have this real sense of self acceptance.”
Mel C – who branched out as a solo artiste more than 20 years ago – admitted that that wasn’t always the case.
Bringing back Sporty Spice
Over the years, she experimented with a melting pot of musical and fashion styles (goodbye high ponytail!), at times, in an attempt to run away from her Spice Girls roots, she confessed.
“I feel like at the beginning of my career, I was so frustrated that people couldn't see anything but a Spice Girl when I performed.
"But as I've gotten older, I realised that there is room for both and I don't need to prove anything."
The singer, who was in her mid 20s when she put out her first solo album Northern Star, reflected: “I think it's quite a youthful thing to feel like you're in these constraints and you want to be free and prove that you can do something different to the thing that everybody knows you for.
"Where in fact, it's much better to embrace what you are and who you are.”
And, boy, is she embracing who she is. Who I Am, the lead single off her new album, celebrates all the things that made her the artiste she is today, both lyrically and visually.
“The video was so weird to shoot because I appear in all these different images of myself, like my blonde short hair from Northern Star, my big sporty pony and how I look like now, ” Mel C touched on the music video set in a museum featuring the different personas she embodied in the past.
“But it was good because it allowed me to make peace with those moments.
"So it almost seems like a really important exercise for the release of this album because that's what it's all about. It's kind of about celebrating your past, not only the good bits, but the difficult things that you've overcome.”
Asked what it felt like wearing a tracksuit again (Sporty Spice’s signature look) for the music video, Mel C – now a mother to an 11-year-old – replied: “It was amazing. I love being Sporty Spice again. It was so much fun. I didn't realise how much I've missed it.”