Forever is the third and final studio album by the English pop girl group the Spice Girls, released in November 2000. It is their only album without Geri Halliwell, who later rejoined the group for their Greatest Hits album in 2007. Despite not selling as well as their previous two albums, it has sold 5 million copies worldwide, peaking at number two in the United Kingdom and later certified Platinum there for selling over 300,000 copies. A double-A side single was released of "Holler" / "Let Love Lead the Way", which peaked at number one in the UK Singles Chart.
During the Spiceworld Tour in Early 1998, the group took on an initial project to write and record songs for a possible third album and a live album. The original concept for this "3rd Album" was to showcase solos songs, duets, and cover songs featuring all five members, in order to promote the idea that the Spice Girl were all individuals, yet could come together as one. The girls went to Dublin's Windmill Lane Studios with long-time collaborators Richard Stannard and Matt Rowe to work on a new album and a create master recordings for a live album. With the sudden departure of Geri Halliwell in 1998, the project took a major turn, with many of the already produced songs scraped and the live album cancelled.
The Spice Girls recorded material for Forever in July 1998, during the North American leg of their Spiceworld Tour. Once again, the girls teamed up with recording duo, Richard Stannard and Matt Rowe. This is when "Goodbye" was recorded. In the two years between the release of "Goodbye" in December 1998 and the release of Forever in November 2000, the group, along with the pop-music landscape in general, changed dramatically. Hoping to cultivate a more mature image, the group teamed up with a team of new, American producers to give Forever a more R&B sound. This meant that much of what was recorded with Stannard and Rowe would be excluded from Forever.
Among the excluded tracks is a song entitled "W.O.M.A.N." As late as December 1999, it appeared that the group had every intention of including it on their forthcoming album, as they performed it at their Christmas in Spiceworld tour. The song was thought to be too much in the vein of Spiceworld and ultimately this is why it was not included. In an interview with biographer David Sinclair, Stannard relays his disappointment of the omission of "W.O.M.A.N.": "I thought that song was really interesting lyrically, because it was making the progression from girls to women, which was something Matt and I thought it was time for them to do. They needed something to suggest that they were still the same group of friends, but they were gaining more maturity."
Upon its release, the album received mixed to average reviews from most music critics, based on an aggregate score of 45/100 from Metacritic.Stephen Thomas Erlewine, editor of AllMusic, rated it two out of five and said: "Sure, they make all the right moves, hiring superstar producer Rodney Jerkins to helm most of the tracks and attempting to seem mature, but this all results in a record that is curiously self-conscious and flat." Erlewine concluded: "Forever plays like the Girls realized that it's their final album, and they put in just enough effort to make it palatable, but not enough to make it appetizing." The Billboard review was positive, remarking: "The set oozes with timely funk beats and the kind of well-crafted songs that No. 1 hits are made of." Courtney Kemp from Amazon was negative, judging that "Forever 's strategy is a bit different than the other two previous albums and this album could disappoint their old fans and alienate new ones." A review from CDNOW was positive, feeling that Forever is "a forthy soufflé of an album, heavy on the groovy dance beats and go-girl goodwill, light on profundity." Andrew Lynch from Entertainment.ie gave the album a rating of three and half-stars (out of five) and commented: "The production is as slick as ever, but a huge part of that old Girl Power enthusiasm seems to have drained and fallen away- and with it most of the fun that used to redeem their fundamental tackiness. A sorry, full-hearted footnote to a truly remarkable pop phenomenon."
James Hunter from Rolling Stone gave a mixed review, writing: "Forever will probably provoke a reaction somewhere in the middle — with one exception, it's just OK." David Browne from Entertainment Weekly gave to the album a "C" rating, summarizing: "Every genre cliché, from homogenized harmonies to delicately plucked stringed instruments to male rapper interjections, is securely in place. The music is so tasteful, restrained, and assembly line proficient that it makes early singles like 'Say You'll Be There' sound like the rawest punk rock." The Sonic Net review judged: "Yes, this is their 'mature' album, the one where the once effervescent combo that could be counted on for enough hooky innuendoes to excite pre-teen girls and dirty young men alike aspire toward some sort of longer-lasting pop relevance. Which translates here into ballads and a huge dose of R&B-lite. It all sounds very professional, though only a hardcore fan can deny that the bloom is definitely off the rose." A positive review came from Sputnikmusic, opining: "With Forever the Spice Girls showed that every pop act has its lifespan. They sound a bit tired and their hearts were not in the album. Forever also shows what could have been if they really gave it their all and made an album that was truly them. The five good songs on Forever can carry the album but not quite."
The Spice Girls as a four-piece performing "Holler" in Cologne, Germany.
Forever achieved moderate success compared to their previous works. The album peaked at number 2 in the United Kingdom and spent a total of eight weeks in the charts. It was certified Platinum there for selling over 300,000 copies there. In Australia it peaked at number nine, and was certified Gold there. The album reached number ten in Austria, and was also certified Gold there. In Canada it peaked at number six, and was certified double Platinum there making it the highest certification for Forever. The album also peaked at number six in Germany, but was certified Gold there. In Ireland it reached a peak at number 25. The album reached number fifteen on the charts in New Zealand, it was certified Gold there. In Switzerland it peaked at number eleven, and was certified Platinum. In the United States the album achieved highly moderate success, it only peaked at number 39 there selling 207,000 copies.
"Holler" and "Let Love Lead the Way" were chosen to serve as the lead single from Forever. Released as a double A-side single, it charted at number-one on the UK Singles Chart and became the Spice Girls' ninth number-one single in the United Kingdom. It also peaked in the top 10 in nine other countries. In the United States it failed to gain much success and did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100. "Goodbye", released two years prior as a single in 1998, was included on the album as the eleventh track. "Goodbye" peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart and at eleven on the Billboard Hot 100. "Tell Me Why" and "If You Wanna Have Some Fun" served as promo singles prior to the album's release, but were only sent to UK radio stations in October 2000, and never commercially released.
The original studio version never surfaced, but it was performed during the Christmas in Spiceworld Tour. Rather than a Darkchild-produced R&B song, it was a Spiceworld-esque pop song. It was originally written and produced by the Spice Girls and Eliot Kennedy, whom they had worked with before on singles such as "Say You'll Be There"; it was later remixed by Darkchild so it would fit in with the rest of the album. This offended Kennedy and he labeled the final piece another "plodding, boring, bottom drawer R&B song".
The original studio version never surfaced, but it was performed during the Christmas in Spiceworld Tour. It was written by Matthew Paul Row Bottom, Richard Fredrick Stannard and the four Spice Girls in August 1999. It is considered to be the most famous unreleased Spice Girls song. The song was originally set to be included on Forever but after it was decided that the third album would have a more R&B influence, the song was cut as it was thought that its bubblegum pop sound did not fit in with the rest of the album. It is a jazzy pop song that is similar in style to "Who Do You Think You Are".
The track was written by Richard Stannard and Matt Rowe during the Forever era. However, due to time constraints it never was recorded by the Spice Girls. It was eventually placed onto their Greatest Hits album.