Free Me

Pop-starved fans are about to get a heaping helping of cheesecake topped with a cherry. Emma Bunton, arguably the most talented of the Spice Girls, crosses the seas with her second international solo

Pop-starved fans are about to get a heaping helping of cheesecake topped with a cherry. Emma Bunton, arguably the most talented of the Spice Girls, crosses the seas with her second international solo album—her first released in the United States. "Free Me" is a carefree uptempo romp tailor-made for singing along, sipping Cosmos and sashaying down your own imaginary runway. There's nary a miss among the dozen tracks here, thanks to grand, eye-winking production and Bunton's spirited, genial vocals. Think Petula Clark in her "Downtown" days or a new-millennium Girl From Ipanema. The only downside: "Free Me" is likely to remain a private pleasure, until top 40 radio realizes there's more to life than hip-hop and rock. Fortunately, club action has already alerted some to this prize project, truly one of the guilty indulgences of the new year. Key tracks: the title cut, "Maybe," "I'll Be There," "Tomorrow" and . . . ah, hell, all the rest.—CT