While I can scoff at the plethora of copy and paste performers heard nowadays; they follow the publicity, the market trends, and they succeed, and it’s like, upon reflection, every generation seemingly has it’s chosen artist or group; whether it’s LEWIS CAPALDI or ONE DIRECTION for example. This brings us to the mid-to-late 90’s, and more specifically the SPICE GIRLS, and THEY, were a legit phenomenon. Formed by talent managers Bob and Chris Herbert, they literally put a call out for auditions for a blatantly manufactured ‘girl band’, purely to contrast the boyband dominated pop scene. Young girls were swooning over the likes of *NSYNC, TAKE THAT, THE BACKSTREET BOYS left right and centre, but young girls didn’t have many role models and women to look up to in pop music. This was about to change.
The Spice Girls consisted individually of Baby Spice (Emma Bunton), Ginger Spice (Ed Sheeran, sorry, no, Geri Halliwell), Scary Spice (Melanie B), Posh Spice (Victoria Adams), and Sporty Spice (Melanie C), and as mish mash as their aliases were, they showed true diversity not only in vocal performance, but in character and presentation, and gave young girls confidence to be themselves, birthing the ‘Girl Power' revolution. They sold millions of records worldwide and are arguably the biggest, most successful girl band of all time. 2021 happens to be the 25th anniversary of their ground-breaking debut album; “Spice”...an album I remember owning on cassette as well as CD...let’s take a trip down memory lane, and see how well this has aged...
The album opens up with their debut single “Wannabe” and oh boy...this either triggers a sense of happy nostalgia, or PTSD from school discos, there is no in-between. The video highlights the aforementioned points about individuality perfectly, as it hammers home their difference in style and dress sense, alongside their separate vocal contributions. They are very much together as a performing unit, in sync and rehearsed, but there is a uniqueness to each of them, and that gave them their edge. Though to be fair Posh seemed to just tag along here with zero stand out contributions. It’s an iconic track and a real earworm, despite how utterly annoying the bulk of the track is, but it was this catchy simplicity that got people's attention...we were hooked...like the unofficial 6th member; smoking spice.
The rest of the album had its fair share of hit singles, and you’ll be as familiar with all of them to be frank. “Say You’ll Be There” houses it’s sultry, electro-tinged pop elements that accompany the quite Tarantino-esque music video...PVC-clad, ninja bitches in the desert, pleading for relationship equality essentially. The harmonica solo is SO out of the blue it makes the track truth be told, but in all seriousness, they just wanted guys to not be dicks back in 1996...guys still don’t listen. Sort yourselves out guys! Mel C can literally kick you in the face!
A lot of the 90’s was littered with a sense of throwback funk, as genres evolved and transitioned through dance and rave etc, and nothing highlights this more than “Who Do You Think You Are?”...the up-beat, clap-along percussion with brass instrumentation, group vocal harmonies and dance-hall tempo highlighted just how fun pop music could be. I don’t care if you live in a cave and exclusively listen to doom metal, I challenge you to listen to this and not vibe. Honestly, you’d have to be soulless. The Spice Girls weren’t all about chaotic fun however, as they were equally adept at dropping some superb ballads.
The acoustic driven melodies of “Mama” while quaint, are backed by subtle DJ record scratches and a certain sense of swagger with the almost proto-trap beat, and it’s one of the sweetest, most innocent tracks you’ll ever hear. We’ve all been there; you grow up, you want to do your own thing, you rebel a bit, and you may get into trouble here and there, but this track tackles an apologetic maturity with gospel backing and it’s genuinely lovely. As generations come and go, this song is timeless. Speaking of, we have ...”2 Become 1”...the soft, string-led romantic ballad garnered the Spice Girls the coveted UK Christmas Number 1 in the Top 40 Charts and cemented them as superstars. The change in pace and instrumentation showcased their tender side, a more mature side and proved they had all of the tools to succeed, and were far from one trick ponies. The sexual tones of the track were played tastefully here, unlike say, CARDI B with “WAP”, and despite the obvious suggestive lyricism, with even nods to contraception, which as young 90’s children we were naïve to, it’s not in your face and blatantly slutty. Tastefully done ladies.
There are non-released tracks like “Love Thing” and “Naked”, but given the strength of the singles, these are reduced to filler quite frankly, and it’s a 50/50 album at best...however...that 50% rocketed Spice Girls into the stratosphere of pop culture, musical history, relevance and importance for the worlds following generations. Everyone from ADELE, CHARLI XCX and BILLIE EILISH have taken influence from the English quintet. People might think back on the Spice Girls now with a cringeworthy mindset, scoff at them, mock them...but they’re as an important part of pop music as ELVIS is to rock ‘n’ roll, as BLACK SABBATH are to metal...styles change, tastes change, but The Spice Girls left a legacy, and admit it or not, they spiced up your life...though that’s a story for 2022.