Last year saw the 25th anniversary of “Spice”, the debut album from the English five-piece, (Check out that review here) and we not only applauded their immediate impact on both the music industry AND pop culture, but we legitimately lauded them for the phenomenon they became. Yes, they were manufactured, for a purpose, but manufactured none the less, but nobody could truly have ever predicted how gargantuan “Girl Power” would become. That debut album saw them release five hit singles, and they genuinely did have the music industry, no, the entertainment industry, eating out of the palms of their hands.
The trouble with this, however, is any level of success to that extent, means all that money and marketing will eventually lead to greed and exploitation. Within the space of twelve months, Baby, Scary, Sporty, Posh and the soulless one (Sorry, Ginger) were already promoting their second album; “Spice World”, as well as full motion picture. Could the girls keep up with the demand? Was there enough gas in the tank to keep this machine running? Well, we’re about to find out...
Opening track and lead single “Spice Up Your Life” starts things off promisingly to be fair. It carried on from their first album in terms of vibrancy and energy, with a very late nineties sense of futurism. The almost neo-utopian aesthetics of the video, with it’s very monotone, darkly depicted feeling of a coerced cityscape uniformity, is jarring in comparison to the message of the song itself. Over a backdrop of samba-esque rhythmic beats, the girls sing of the joys of variety in every aspect of life from colour, gender and culture, and one can only appreciate how together they are given their gimmicked diversity. It’s their mission statement if you will, and they absolutely deliver.
Given the impact of their debut, we must expect another fine collection of additional singles too, and the album does have its memorable moments. “Too Much” saw them garner their second consecutive Christmas number one, with the doo-wop inspired slow jam, and its string-led brass rich instrumentation. It was a very sultry piece of pop musically, but lyrically, while on face value it speaks of mixed emotions regarding relations, it almost subliminally refers to their own career. Their direction and relationship with label management, and the juxtaposition of them being everywhere, and yet with that fear of fading too quickly in the public’s eyes and hearts. Wanting a man, not a boy who thinks he can, can easily mean stability in more ways than originally thought, and this is fascinating.
This itself is a theme carried throughout as tracks like “Stop”, which with its Motown inspired delivery channels both an innocence and passive aggressiveness within its message. Yes, on face value we can look at it as the rushing of a serious relationship; wanting to steady your own ship and enjoy your youthful years, but this can also be a subtle dig at their label, management and the industry as a whole. Talking of their own longevity, or its potential at the very least, acknowledging the very craze they are at the heart of. They sound like they want to slow it down, or even call it a day already.
No strangers to bangers in the form of ballads however, they dropped “Viva Forever” amidst a shit show of controversy, as the track title had a sense of cruel irony in Ginger’s departure from the group. She was still featured in the song, naturally, and in the admittedly surreal stop-motion animated video for the single, but despite topping the charts once more, with their softly sung harmonies over Spanish guitar, providing a truly emotional piece of pop music, the writing was on the wall. Forever in their legacy maybe, and their place on the record books, but, not as a group. Forget “2 Become 1” ...five very quickly became four...
There was no immediate worry for the girls themselves commercially, the previous albums singles were still heavily circulated and these new tracks, as well as the aforementioned movie, ensured that their place in pop history was nothing short of cemented. Geri leaving grabbed headlines of course, but this wasn’t the end of the Spice Girls, not at all, and even though other album tracks like “Denying” and “Move Over” were underwhelming, highlighting the apparent burn out felt by the girls, what they left behind was a truly breath-taking legacy.
For a purposely manufactured, hand-picked, hand-crafted pop group, designed solely to go against the grain, and that grain being a male dominated pop group scene, they overachieved by the bucketload. For those couple of years, the Spice Girls ruled the world, and “Girl Power” inspired and influenced not only people in music like CHARLI XCX and BEYONCE, but generations of girls around the globe to be their true selves. You can’t not respect these ladies, and they belong in the same conversation as ABBA in terms of importance in pop music. Their career as a five piece may have been a flash in the pan, but their name and brand will live on forever.
Some people will look back and cringe, some with rose tinted glasses, some forget outright, but, we have to admire and acknowledge that, Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh and yes, Sporty, were your lot...they were the Spice Girls, ready to go, ladies and gents, can we drop the pretence and, admit that we enjoyed their show?