This album sold approximately thirty-three million copies worldwide. Shit, that’s a lot. Thirty three million is over twice the current number of inhabitants of my native country. It is highly unlikely that anyone will ever do those kinds of numbers again in this time of iTunes and μtorrent, let alone top Michael’s one hundred and ten million copies for Thriller so basically for better or worse this kind of omnipresent culture phenomenon of an album has died out already.
So, the Spice Girls were truly a cultural phenomenon. Like the Beatles, like Madonna, like Elvis, like motherfucking Michael. That’s not to say they’re in the same league musically as these folks because I don’t feel capable of passing judgment on that so I won’t try, but that they were as much a part of public consciousness in ’96 as the artists listed above were in their heyday is simply a matter of fact. They came with their own iconic items, such as Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack-dress and have one song which everybody and their grandmother knows, which is included on Spice. Why, today, are they held in such low regard then? Yes manufactured, yes mediocre singing, yes sterile… but… I don’t know. The Beatles came up singing simplistic love songs and any critic who’d dare shit on them for some obvious flaws (such as their less than fantastic singing and ditto instrument-playing) instantaneously loses his bitching credentials. It’s likely that the general negative consensus on the girls and ‘90s music in general is because 1996 isn’t that long ago and we all still remember the excessive, now outdated, silliness but it has just been long for all of us to move on to bigger and better things. I do however predict that eventually a lot of ‘90s artists, among which Spice, in the near future will be held in the same regard as ABBA is today, which isn’t enviable or some shit since nobody respects ABBA and dares admit it. But that does mean that Spice might get a musical in tribute of them, with other people singing their songs within the frame of an incoherent “story” which nobody, nobody, nobody could give half a shit about, everybody involved in making the musical included, which people will visit to “ironically” sing along to.
So the Girls, consisting of Victoria Adams (later Beckham, somebody certainly preventive married out of tabloid irrelevance), Geri Halliwell, Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm and Emma Bunton, were put together by a management company who were probably looking to put together the female Take That (who were in turn were assembled to become the British NKOTB) or the white, European En Vogue or some shit, in 1994. The five members were given the following fictitious distinct personalities: Scary Spice, Baby Spice, Ginger Spice, Posh Spice and Sporty Spice (I could not for the life of me find out who is supposed to be who, and the music itself didn’t provide any clues) so girls around the world could each relate to one of them which is fucking brilliant from a marketing point of view because if you wanted the record buying audience, at the time when there was such a thing, (young girls) to go pay for your stuff you had to make them believe it’s specifically about them (not as hard as it sounds). Also there was their promotion girl power. Yes girl power, the idea you can be both (A) feminist and (B) female. No more fucking bra burning and unshavenness or shit like that. Rather outperform those chauvinist pigs at their own games while you distract them with your sexy girliness, at least that is what I think they meant… And what girl doesn’t want to do that!? Anyway, they promoted their catchy ass songs with glittery but rowdy music videos and a full length movie, about which I can’t say shit as I haven’t seen it. After three years they broke up to only to successfully reunite for a new single, a greatest hits album and a successful tour in 2007, which they only did in the first place because their solo careers hadn’t gone as well as planned off course. That’s their story in a nutshell.
Now as for the music.
Wouldn’t know where to start with explaining how influential this song was and still is, really, but then do I really need to? It’s amazing how “I won’t be hasty, I’ll give you a try. If you really bug me then I’ll say goodbye.” are both moronically simplistic and canonical lyrics all the same. As a song that exist only to be catchy it works, makes one really, really, really want to zig-a-zig ahhh whatever that may be. Also, it was this song which merged want, to and be into one word to be used in everyday speech for the rest of eternity. (P.s.: Matt Rowe, the guy who helped write and produce this, would end up producing for Amy Winehouse of all people…)
2. Say You’ll Be There
Hiphop heads, take notice. This instrumental sounds like it was lifted off Snoop’s 1993 Doggystyle album, well… with a little added make-up off course. The fact that the union of Spice and G-Funk does not sound optimally awkward goes to show that the producers active in the teen pop genre were a lot more intelligent and creative than they were given credit for. But, uhm… the girls’ confident performances and overt Britishness (how often do you hear a succesful British singer who doesn’t sing with an American accent?) help hide the overall confusion in the lyrics pretty effectively and as catchy girl-n-boy group pop fluff this is pretty much perfection. This is probably the 1996 equivalent of Rihanna incorporating dubstep in her music and it probably pissed off a lot of Snoop’s fans. Poor Gz and hustlas. I don’t think anyone of them could imagine back then what would happen in the years after this, as their beloved genre being bastardized is concerned.
3. 2 Become 1
And suddenly the fun vibe is beaten flat with this Walter Afanasieff-like adult contemporary yawn inducer. This is Céline Dion stuff, and a relatively poor variety at that. And this would be where it’d hit you hard that the girls aren’t actually good singers. For the safe-sex promotion the Girls do deserve a pat on the back (no pun intended) so there’s that.
4. Love Thing
And we’re back! This instrumentation is deliciously mid-‘90s. These splashy keys and hiphop-y horn-ish hits help date this, and for me, being a child of this era, in a thoroughly enjoyable way. The rap in the middle is also screams 1996, because, you see kids, at that time hiphop was a “trend” which one had to follow in order to be hip, and quickly at that, before the next thing came along. Well something had more staying power in the mainstream than anyone could’ve expected and it damn sure weren’t the Spice girls.
5. Last Time Lover
There is an extremely small chance that one of the lyrics is “do you want to be molested baby?” Unfortunately that would be the most interesting thing about this plastic-y wannabe funk song. See what I did right there? Clevar, huh?
I cannot think of a person who doesn’t have a love-hate relationship with either parent but grows more understanding for those fuckers, and remorseful for previously shown disrespect, while he/she grows older, so yeah, for a saccharine ballad this one is not without meaning, and not terrible either.
7. Who Do You Think You Are?
I generally tend to like these Jamiroquai-ish ‘70s disco throwbacks but the vocals on this one are just too goddamn giddy, especially on the verses. And also the lyrics are over the top nonsensical, especially on the hook. And no I haven’t forgotten what album I am currently listening to, thank you very much.
8. Something Kinda Funny
Whereas this wannabe disco song is sort of, kind of jive, actually.
Ah, finally!, the generic saccharine mid ‘90s ballad with an acoustic guitar and a percussion which sounds like a wet cat repeatedly being smacked onto a wall. Well that’s a relief, I was starting to worry. This one even has non-sung dialogue à la Madonna’s Justify My Love. As a matter of fact this is a pretty misguided attempt at Madge-y sexuality… funny, that.
10. If U Can’t Dance
Well, more raps over instrumentals which you can correctly date from a mile off, while wearing earplugs. The Spice Girls aren’t very good at rapping or singing but in this particular facet of the music diamond most effort is put into the cuteness of the performance rather than the quality anyway. Wait! Come back! There’s more gimmicks! Spanish language lyrics even!
Wannabe, Say You’ll Be There, Love Thing.
Well, Spice holds up surprisingly well for something which was created fifteen years ago, exclusively in order to get 8-year-old girls to coerce their parents into buying it. The reason this aged better than Take That and Party did is because even though it too is little but a pastiche of hip and retro musical styles manufactured with making money in mind rather than artistical merit, it doesn’t lose fun vibe in the process, and not just for young children and gay club visitors (and yes those demographics are similar when it’s music that’s concerned) but also, it seems, for the artists involved in its creation, and (I’m using the term artist liberally.) The reason of this probably that the girls each had a hand in writing each of these songs. A byproduct of that is, off course, some terrible, clumsy songwriting. But poetic, cohesive lyrics are besides the point, after all it is not some pretentious motherfuckers like U2 you’re listening to on Spice. Anyway, it also holds up better than Wham!’s Fantastic because the producers at work here seem to be studio professionals rather than teenagers trying to take the piss out of their audiences. In other words Spice seems to be one of those anomalies. A teen pop album with some shelf life. A Bacardi breezer that just won’t go stale goddamnit. Off course that could be just my nostalgia taking over my sense of reason. It is likely that anyone born after this album was released just won’t get it and will only hear cheese and they have a valid point too, more valid than mine maybe. So for us who grew up in the 1990’s Spice is best to be seen as an inside joke. Either way, Wannabe and Say You’ll Be There are undisputable pop classics in my book and considering the ‘80s revival which is coming to an end on at the moment the Spice Girls are going to be completely fucking hip soon as the ‘90s nostalgia kicks in. Remember, you read it here first! I’m just glad I got to ‘em before the hipsters did, in the name of a fair review.
Tricky one. While I personally as a ‘90s culture junkie had fun a plenty hearing this one, I can almost guarantee that anyone who was older than twelve, maybe nine even, at the time of Spice’s release will not think anything of it other than “Cheesy bullshit”. But ladies, if you remember these songs from your younger years and think you might have a copy of this album lying around you should go look it up, dust it off and pop it into your computer. It’ll take you back to an easier simpler time in your life and It’ll help you understand what the fuck is wrong with your parents and why they choose to never cease bumping those terrible, terrible ABBA songs… Guys, unless you’re music critics I suggest you stay clear of this. Go revisit your Power Rangers tapes or some shit (although unfortunately those won’t pop into your computer, life is unfair.) Lest someone catches you in the act of actually listening to this because that’d possibly be worse than being caught in the act of enjoying transsexual horse lover-porn. Oh well, nowadays you can always take the hipster route and say you were doing it ironically, I guess… and I meant listening to this album, not the porn thing.