ARTIST OF THE MONTH: SPICE GIRLS | SPICE (25TH ANNIVERSARY/DELUXE EDITION) (1996)
The Spice Girls released three albums in their career and their debut, "Spice," arrived on 19th September 1996. As it comes up to its twenty-six anniversary, it is a good time to re-evaluate the album. I remember when the album came out and, beforehand, we all knew about this girl group and the kind of hysteria they were generating. Some have compared the Spice Girls’ popularity with that of The Beatles in the 1960s and, whilst The Beatles and Spice Girls share very little in common, the sort of popularity the Spice Girls received can compare with the Liverpool legends. Although Without Victoria (‘Posh Spice’) in their ranks now, it is a changed line-up, I am not sure whether there are future plans for the Spice Girls relating to new music. To me, the group is very much best left in the past, in the sense that the songs captured a spirit of the 1990s - and a more mature and modern-sounding group would not compare with their debut best.
"Spice" was recorded between 1995 and 1996 and, at that time, we were still very much in the midst of Britpop. By the time "Spice" came out, the best of Britpop had passed, but it was still very much in the air. Maybe that is another reason why the Spice Girls did not have the same width and breadth of popularity as other girl groups such as Destiny’s Child, TLC, En Vogue, or even our All Saints. I think there was a very tight demographic (young girls), but I think their songs are a lot more wide-ranging than people give them credit for. One reason why I like "Spice" is that, apart from a few filler tracks, there are a lot of big hits that stand up today.! "Wannabe," their debut cut, was released in June 1996, and that song was all over the radio at the time. One cannot deny the catchiness of the song, and I think it is one of the biggest anthems of the ‘90s. "Say You’ll Be There," "2 Become 1," and "Mama/Who Do You Think You Are" were the other singles released from "Spice," and the album combined aspects of Dance, R&B, Pop and Hip-Hop.
"Spice" reached number one in over seventeen countries, and it became the world’s best-selling album in 1997; it sold 19 million copies in a year! "Spice" is the best-selling album by a girl group and one of the biggest-selling albums ever. I admit that "Spice" sort of weakens towards the end – tracks like "Something Kinda Funny," and "Naked" are not as strong as material elsewhere. Also, three of the huge singles open the album – "Wannabe" leads to "Say You’ll Be There," which then is followed by "2 Become 1." It is front-loaded and, in terms of quality, I think a slight rearrangement of the tracks could have made for a stronger album. That said, non-singles like "Last Time Lover" are very strong and, at ten tracks that run in at less than forty minutes, "Spice" is a tight and satisfying listen. We have girl groups now – such as Little Mix, but there was a time (from the early-late-1990s) when they were very much in vogue, and there was this great contrast between the U.S. girl groups and the British ones. It was inevitable that the Spice Girls would break America, and the fact that each member had their own nickname – Emma Bunton was "Baby Spice," Geri Halliwell (she is Horner now) was "Ginger Spice;" Mel C was "Sporty Spice," Mel B was "Scary Spice," and Victoria Beckham (or Adams as she was known at the start) was "Posh Spice" – meant that fans could pick their favourite, and Spice Girls were much more than a faceless brand.
Perhaps the personas were pretty forced, but one cannot deny the sort of discussion the Spice Girls provoked. The Spice Girls were fully involved in the writing of all the songs. Halliwell in particular was clearly full of ideas for songs, arriving at sessions with her book of jottings, notes and miscellaneous scribblings which often produced the starting point of a lyric or a song title or just an agenda for the day's work. Although "Spice" was produced by Absolute, Andy Bradfield, Matt Rowe and Richard Stannard, the group themselves had plenty of input, and it was not a case of this manufactured group being directed every step of the way. It seemed like the group collaborated with the producers and there was a lot of experimentation in the studio. Whilst it is clear that some of the group were stronger vocalists than others – Mel B, Mel C and, perhaps, Emma Bunton were better singers than Geri Halliwell and Victoria Adams as their natural bond and unity was their key strength. The Spice Girls recognized their solidarity as a group, which depended on maintaining parity in all departments, including the songwriting credits and the resulting royalties.