Even though they'd never actually split up, this double A side was a comeback of sorts, being the first single from the Spice Girls in two years. That's a mere blink of an eye in cosmic terms, but twenty four months is a veritable aeon in the life of a pop group where any hint of foot 'off the gas-ness' can be fatal in terms of career longevity. Fans previous grow up quickly and are never keen to stay faithful while it's notoriously difficult to pull new audiences away from any new kids on the block. Perhaps recognising this problem, the returning Spice Girls play a mature hand that attempts to grow older gracefully along with their original fanbase while attempting to pick up any strays turned off by their previous 'girl power' shenanigans. Clinical maybe, but understandable all the same.
'Holler' tips its hat at urban R&B/hip hop with a lyric of female sexual domination: "Boy don't you hesitate, I won't keep waiting for you to come and let me take you to my fantasy room. You're gonna like it there and all the things that I do. I'll treat you right all through the night". Saucy. And to hammer home the point that we're not in playful Scary, Sporty, Baby or Posh territory any more, the video has the girls gyrating their booty's for all their worth in outfits from the S&M aisle of Mothercare. Which is a roundabout way of saying that none of this is particularly convincing. Mel C may have picked up 'Holler's bare bones from her solo collaboration with Lisa Lopes, but the sub Neptunes production clicks and drips where it should thump and flow, and any 'holler' is met by a hollow echo rebounding off the empty surfaces where the guts should be. For a song selling sexiness, it isn't and any initial surprise or enjoyment wears off long before it limps to a close.
If anything, 'Let Love Lead The Way' is even less successful. A sparkly ballad that sets its sights on the 'big issues', the song's obvious earnestness is cut down by a lyric of cod philosophising that, in its race to try so very hard to 'mean' something, winds up as a set of trite platitudes ("Why is there joy? Why is there pain? Why is there sunshine and the rain?") and vacuous "Just keep the faith and let love lead the way" statements of ideal living that wallow in their own meaninglessness like some B*Witched B side. Which is hardly a good point of reference when you're casting yourself as a set of Muses delivering the wisdom of the ancients. Whatever else the in-prime Spice Girls weren't, they were always fun and cartoony - a gang that every schoolgirl wanted to a member of and every schoolboy yearned to be noticed by. My main beef with 'Let Love Lead The Way' isn't just that it's no fun (and it isn't), but that like a latter day non violent, all speaking Tom & Jerry cartoon, there is nothing but a howling void to fill the gap where that fun used to be.