Forty-three songs – that’s all The Spice Girls put out in their reign as the queens of ’90s pop. With the band (well, four of them, anyway) reuniting for the year’s quickest selling tour, we’ve put together a definitive Top 10.
10. Something Kinda Funny
A underrated cut from debut album ‘Spice’, it was apparently the track that first got The Spice Girls signed up with manager Simon Fuller. Showing off the group’s disco leanings, this song probably deserved a proper single release.
9. Viva Forever
Pop loves a dramatic farewell moment, and it doesn’t really get more OTT than ‘Viva Forever”s twanging Spanish guitars and a lyric sheet seemingly cribbed from motivational fridge magnets. Bidding an emotional goodbye to Geri when she left the group in 1998, laying it all on with a trowel, and setting the whole thing to a video that involves chasing a toy chicken (see below) the whole thing is made even more excellent when you consider that the group followed it up with the even more extra ‘Goodbye’ – and continued releasing music for a further two years.
8. Spice Invaders
In an alternate universe, the completely bizarre ‘Spice Invaders’ would be a rambling Beat poem appreciated as genius and beloved by Bukowski Tumblr bros far and wide. As it stands, it’s an absolute train wreck of a pop song. Avant garde – or ‘aven’t-got-a-clue-what-the-hell-they’re-on-about depending who you ask – the song came about when the single ‘Spice Up Your Life’ was left ready for release without a B-side. With all other decent material used up on The Spice Girls’ debut album ‘Spice’, record label Virgin hired the production duo Absolute (Paul Wilson and Andy Watkins) to come up with something else at the last minute. Their brief? Make anything you like. And….um. It shows.
Led by Mel B rambling on about never weeing with your knickers on and accusing Geri of being a tree hugger, the song also features a nonsensical philosophy moment, a brief foray into running up jaw-dropping phone bills, constant scepticism from Mel C and some humming and occasional asides courtesy of a wholly non-committal Victoria and Emma. A under-appreciated gem that’s absolutely carried by Mel B. Well done, Mel B.
7. Baby Come Round
Moving onto a less haphazard b-side, ‘Baby Come Round’ accompanied the incredibly sappy Mother’s Day Hallmark-fest ‘Mama’ and the superior queen of smash hits ‘Who Do You Think You Are’. A bouncy slice of whizzy G-funk-lite with a bit of West Coast Whistle lobbed in there for good measure, there’s even a very chipper rap segment.
6. 2 Become 1
A positively sultry number, which many young children originally mistook for a ballad about basic addition and subtraction, ‘2 Become 1’ is actually a song about bumping nasties. GASP! Thanks to Mel C husking on about making love in the gentle balmy flicker of candlelight etc etc, things do threaten to get a little bit TMI and mushy, but there’s also a bit more substance. First of all, ‘2 Become 1’ touches on the topic of safe sex with the lyric “be a little bit wiser baby, put it on, put it on”. Let it be known, they’re singing about putting on condoms. The Spice Girls also made the smart move of changing a few lyrics for the album version. The slightly heteronormative “Boys and girls feel good together” was altered to “love will bring us back together”. We stan a sex positive inclusi-banger!
5. Spice Up Your Life
When it came to ‘Spice Up Your Life’ The Spice Girls set out with the modest goal of writing a “a song for the world” – which probably explains why the bravely ambitious song incorporates (deep breath) Latin and Bollywood influences, lyrics in Japanese, German and Spanish, and the regrettable lyric “yellow man in Timbuktu”. That one could probably use a rethink.
Achieving world peace through the medium of pop music aside, the greatest thing about ‘Spice Up Your Life’ (apart from those haunting harmonies and chaotically plunking piano hooks) is the nonsensical bridge. Reeling of various latin American dances – flamenco, lambada and so on – Victoria shakes things up and reaches her peak musical moment of all time when she claims that “we moonwalk the foxtrot”. What does that even mean?!
Originally cooked up by Geri Halliwell – who recorded the bare bones of the song onto a dictaphone while the group were rushed off their feet filming for Spice World – ‘Stop’ has all the makings of a hit: a vague Motown influence, a giant chorus and a very literal dance routine based directly on the song’s lyrics. In order to film the video, The Spice Girls headed to Ireland, taking over a street in the Dublin suburb of Stoneybatter. They reportedly paid residents of Carsaw Street £100 for the inconvenience, and signed autographs all afternoon. How thoughtful!
Y’know how some songs get played so much that they lose all grounding in context and reality? ‘Wannabe’ – potentially Spice Girls’ best-known, most ubiquitous hit – is one such song. If you’re not able to yell out the “Here’s a story from A to Z” section off by heart, what are you even doing with your life? Not Spicing it up, that’s for sure.
Absolutely clanging hooks and zig-a-zig-ahs aside, ‘Wannabe’ also wins points for how much it values confidence and self-worth. “If you want my future, forget my past,” goes one line, a sneaky allusion to idiots who like to judge women based on their sexual past; elsewhere potential suitors are advised to “stop wasting my precious time”. There are few other songs that spring to mind written about your love interests being mates with your friends – which is odd, really since your pals know you best of all.
2. Who Do You Think You Are
A hulking slab of Euro-pop filled with parping horns, Mel C warbling her heart out and cheeky double entendres galore (“giving is good, as long as you’re getting“ quips Geri) ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ also takes fire at ego-inflated music industry dickheads, summoning a level of sass comparable to Shania Twain’s ‘That Don’t Impress Me Much’. Completely trouncing ‘Spice Up Your Life’ and the – go on, fight me – ever-so-slightly-overplayed ‘Wannabe’ it’s up there with the greatest of all time.
The group performed the song at the 1997 BRIT Awards, and it quickly became one of ’90s pop’s most iconic moments thanks to Geri’s Union Jack dress. Thanks to rampant nationalism and Brexit, the flag doesn’t have the same wholesome connotation anymore, does it?
1. Say You’ll Be There
Accompanied by a Pulp Fiction-inspired video, which shows the group taking on incredible alter-egos (Midnight Miss Suki and Katrina Highkick, anyone?) and strapping a man to their car for no discernible reason before screeching off across the desert, ‘Say You’ll Be There’ was The Spice Girls’ second and best single.
In similar vein to B-side ‘Baby Come Round’ – but amped up to maximum setting – ‘Say You’ll Be There’ also incorporates generous sloshes of G-Funk along with a harmonica solo that slaps like no other. And like ‘Wannabe’, it’s a song about staying in control of what you want, calling the shots, and saying no to shady behaviour because you’re worth more than that. The essence of everything that girl power stood for, in other words.