When Geri Halliwell left the Spice Girls in 1998, she went to stay with George Michael. Their relationship had blossomed during Ginger Spice’s rise to fame, Michael becoming a reliable confidant and friend, their friendship based on a mutual respect and admiration. The two remained close friends until Christmas Day of 2016 when Michael died.
Half a year on, Halliwell has debuted her tribute track to Michael titled ‘Angels In Chains’, her first solo release in four years. Featuring backing vocals from Michael’s original ‘musical family’, it’s a track that echoes with familiarity, both in sound and in its many references to Michael’s career.
‘Angels In Chains’ is a piano ballad, risky territory for Halliwell who has never been known for her strong vocals. While she starts off a little shaky, she soon finds her feet, the plush percussive accompaniment helping to smooth over any rough edges. It’s a heartfelt tribute from Halliwell, awash with real emotion and a clever repurposing of Michael’s style, the gospel-influenced backing vocals and crescendo chorus reminiscent of many of his famous ballads.
Halliwell’s mission to shoehorn in as many song titles as possible is a little grating at times, lines like “Father Figure, brother, friend,” feeling like a pointless exercise in box-ticking rather than an attempt to say anything new. Its slow build can make for a frustrating listen too, though the pay off is certainly worth the wait. Hearing her belt the line “We’re all angels in chains,” as she does on the final chorus is a powerful moment, the apex of a track that is otherwise focused on restraint and poise.
Despite its few shortcomings, ‘Angels In Chains’ is nonetheless a mature and sophisticated tribute track, beautifully crafted by Halliwell and delivered with an earnestness that never becomes overbearing. Writing a fitting tribute to George Michael was always going to be a big task, but here Halliwell proves she’s more than up to the job.