“Wannabe,” “2 Become 1,” “Spice Up Your Life”
Who Are They?
Only the most popular girl group in the history of the world. (And the best-known pop act since John, Paul, George, and Ringo.)
Once upon a time in the mid-to-late-‘90s, the entire teen-band scene was saturated with boys. Though ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys came a couple years later, we still had bands like Take That and East 17 (if those aren’t ringing any bells, don’t worry about it). So father-and-son management team Bob and Chris Herbert decided it was time to create an all female pop group.
Enter Melanie Chisholm, Victoria Adams (Beckham), Emma Bunton, Melanie Brown and Geri Halliwell. Those five ladies survived auditions, callbacks, and endless renditions of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” to become Touch (isn’t that a terrible name?).
After a couple of showcases, it became apparent that the girls needed some work. Heart Management was pulling them in one direction, but the girls wanted to go in a completely different direction. Frustrated with the lack of a contract (and the sinking feeling that this project just wasn’t going anywhere), our heroines took matters into their own hands.
The group persuaded Bob Herbert to set up a showcase performance for a bunch of producers and industry bigwigs. Due to an overwhelmingly positive reaction, the Herberts quickly created a binding contract for the group (because who would want to let go of the Spice Girls?). The girls delayed signing the contract, and in March 1995, they left Heart Management. (Legend has it that they stole the master recordings of their discography from the management offices.)
After signing a management deal with 19 Entertainment and a record deal with Virgin Records, the group became the Spice Girls and released their debut album, Spice, in 1996.
Their debut single “Wannabe” became a global hit, hitting #1 in 31 countries. Oh, and in case you didn’t know, it’s the biggest selling debut single by an all-female group of all time.
Paul Gorman, contributing editor of Music Week, wrote a piece on the girls in July 1996 in which he predicted the end of Britpop and the rise of so-called “bubblegum” pop.
He wrote: “Just when boys with guitars threaten to rule pop life, an all-girl, in-yer-face pop group have arrived with enough sass to burst that rockist bubble.”
Was he right? The obvious answer is "yes."
After the Spice Girls conquered Europe with Spice, they went straight to the US, where their arrival was accurately compared to Beatlemania. Spice ended up winning a slew of awards and spawned four consecutive #1 hits, a feat previously accomplished by one other group in history (Jackson 5.)
So what does the biggest selling band in the world do its free time? Make a movie, of course! Spice World was released in 1997 alongside the album of the same name.
After the success of the film and the album, the Spice Girls fired their manager, Simon Fuller, which proved to be a bad move. Less than a year after the decision to ditch Simon, Geri Halliwell left the group. She claimed she was suffering from exhaustion, but the tabloids blamed her departure on a fight with Mel B.
Where Are They Now?
Officially broken up (put perhaps planning for a comeback soon?).
Despite Geri’s sudden exit (and Victoria and Mel B.’s pregnancies), the Spice Girls decided to release one more album, 2000’s Forever.
The album wasn’t nearly as successful as its predecessors, and in December 2000, the group announced that they were going on an indefinite hiatus.
But that wasn’t the end of the Spice Girls.
The Brit babes reunited in 2007 for a world tour (tickets for the first London date of the tour sold out in 38 seconds). No new album surfaced, but a handful of charity singles were released.
The comeback tour ended a year later, but in 2009, rumors about a second reunion (and a Spice Girls musical called Viva Forever) emerged.
But Why Spice Girls?
Because I can, that’s why. Also, they may be making yet another comeback this year. In January 2012, Mel B. hinted at the possibility of a reunion at the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games. Here’s to hoping it actually happens.
What Does Sam Think?
So I’m sure every girl who was alive in the ‘90s loved the Spice Girls. You may deny it now, but don’t lie to me and say that you didn’t know every word to “Wannabe” (even the “zigazig-a” part). You still have that song memorized. Admit it.
That said, it really doesn’t matter if the girls had real talent or not. They single-handedly changed the face of pop music. We went from Britpop bands like Blur and Oasis to bubblegum pop groups like the Spice Girls and the boy bands of the late-‘90s.
While not everyone was happy about the musical shift, you have to admire the sheer power behind it. The Spice Girls had one of the best marketing campaigns I’ve ever seen. This may sound like blasphemy, but they were The Beatles of the ‘90s. Yeah, they were created by a greedy management agency, but they escaped the mold made for them and went off in their own direction.
So let’s look at these girls as pop culture icons (because that’s exactly what they are).
Each girl took on a different persona in the group and each girl had her own look (Sporty Spice, Scary Spice, Baby Spice, Posh Spice, and Ginger Spice.) Those separate images set them apart as a group. Little girls everywhere could pick one member to identify with (even if that Spice Girl’s image wasn’t exactly true to her character.) You had a favorite Spice Girl and you know it (mine was Scary Spice.)
That marketing technique grabbed the attention of preteen girls. That's is a good and bad thing. On one hand, it plays with a more mainstream idea of feminism. You (as a preteen girl) can be any kind of girl you want: scary, posh, sporty, etc. The group also preached the “Girl Power!” slogan. In essence, the Spice Girls kind of made girls like being girls.
But of course you have feminists who claim that the Spice Girls were an embarrassment to the idea of feminism. For example, you can be proud to be a girl, but only if you identify as posh, sporty, etc. You can’t just be you.
I personally think the Spice Girls served as decent role models for little girls. They weren't as in-your-face as the Riot Grrrl bands, but they weren't nearly as sexualized as later pop acts (Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera.) They kind of pushed Britpop into a corner, though. I’m not too happy about that. But they had a lasting affect on music. Now that we have pop groups like the Pussycat Dolls or what have you, I really find myself missing the days of watching Spice World and singing along to “Wannabe” at slumber parties.
Friendship lasts forever, guys.
-- Sam Boyer, reporting from the ‘90s.