TBT: Spice Girls – Spice (1996)

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The debut album from the Spice Girls

Exactly 20 years ago to the date (well 4th November), the debut album from the Spice Girls was released in the UK and went on to become one of the best selling albums of all time. It’s hard to imagine a time in music when there was no Spice Girls, they brought so much attitude and fun that has been replicated ever since in most of the modern pop songs out there. I am, of course, a massive fan of the girl group and I remember getting this (or wishing to get) this album for Christmas, after a number of pleas. The album was well and truly on repeat, over and over, until I knew all of the words and I even remember meeting up with my friends at my local park as a kid and singing the songs together. I have some great memories of these times.

The Spice Girls released this album on the back of two very successful #1 singles, “Wannabe” and “Say You’ll Be There”. There would be no doubt that this album would go straight in at #1 on the UK Album charts, and that it did. The album then became very successful throughout Europe and in the beginning of 1997 it also went to #1 in the United States, they were a force to be reckoned with. To date, the album has sold a total of 31 million copies over the world and like I mentioned earlier, is now one of the best selling albums in the history of music.

There is a lot of great songs on this album, but what is so striking to me is that there is exactly a total of 10 songs on this album. In recent years, this is completely unheard of and to me it feels very bold to just have a handful of tracks on an album, but it is a statement of quality over quantity and literally every track on the album could have been a single, they are all that good (with the exception of “Last Time Lover”). You, of course, have the two lead singles on the album as well as future singles “2 Become 1”, “Mama” and “Who Do You Think You Are”. There is also the live favourite of “If U Can’t Dance” which was regularly played as the opening of their sets live, “Naked” which was a dark and emotional pop song which they used to perform naked (I think it was actually naked body suits but hey), “Something Kinda Funny” which was a funky pop number, “Love Thing” which was meant to be their debut single (thank goodness it wasn’t) and then lastly “Last Time Lover” which is probably the weakest song on the album, but is still a catchy little number.

“Wannabe” was either a hit or a miss, love or hate. It would either do everything or nothing. We felt, well, if nobody likes it then we have got other songs up our sleeves, but that was the one we wanted to release. – Geri Halliwell

It’s time to discuss their debut single “Wannabe”, what a monster of a hit song that was. I literally went out on Friday night in Southampton and this came on in the club, and literally everybody was dancing and singing as if the song had just come out. It has that big personality that you just cannot avoid, no matter how hard you try. I think the video sums this up perfectly, full of energy and introduces the world to the land of Spice. The song was #1 in the UK for a total of 7 weeks, and also went to #1 in 31 countries in the world, bearing in mind this was 1996 and not many territories had their own music charts set up.

I just love how this perfectly sums up how the song was created…

“Wannabe” was written in thirty minutes—mainly because the group had written parts of the song beforehand—in what Brown describes as a “sudden creative frenzy”. During the session, Brown and Bunton came up with the idea of including a rap near the end of the song. At this point the group got very motivated, and incorporated the word “zigazig-ha” into the lyrics. Chisholm told Billboard magazine: “You know when you’re in a gang and you’re having a laugh and you make up silly words? Well we were having a giggle and we made up this silly word, zigazig-ha. And we were in the studio and it all came together in this song.

…and so the frenzy gathered pace…

We recorded it in our trackies and socks in a studio in the producer’s house. It was a cool vibe—dead laid back. A lot of the sentiment in the song has got to do with what we’ve been through together. We’ve always been there for each other, so we wrote about that. – Melanie C

The second single was here and what a corker it was, proving that they were definitely not a one hit wonder and were here to stay. The music video is stunning and showed the girls in more of a “sexy” role. They were on a roll.

It’s basically a love song, but it’s got a message—make sure you put a condom on if you’re going to have sex. We all think that’s very important! – Mel B

This was the groups first ever Christmas #1 single in the UK, and would be their first of three Festive #1’s. The song is a lot more slowed down than their previous two hits and showed yet another side to the group, proving they could do ballads well. I have to admit, as a kid I didn’t pick up on any of the sex connotations but it’s only in my adulthood that I know exactly what they are singing about, “put it on” indeed!

We wrote ‘Mama’ when I was going through a bad phase with my mum. The sentiments are really that your mum’s probably the best friend that you’ve got. Whether she’s an over-protective mother or a bit of a landmine, she probably knows you better than yourself in some ways. – Mel B

This was the song for the mothers, another ballad but with a special meaning and so much emotion poured into it. I remember when me and my mum had a row when I was a kid, I played this song and then would go back and apologise to her. No matter what happens in your life, you only ever have one mum in your life. The lyrics are so poignant at displaying this special connection, and the song has a special place in my heart.

NB. My mum used to hate this song, but I still think of her whenever I play it.

The thing is when they wrote they were also writing the dance routine, constructing the video, all at the same time as writing the song. And that’s when the penny dropped. They say that the mother of invention is copying somebody and getting it wrong. Their sound was actually not getting R&B quite right. – Paul Wilson, producer of the track.

Their 5th and final single from their debut album, although it was released as a Double AA side with “Mama”. This song, along with all of the other singles from the album landed at the top of the chart at #1. This is a big and bold pop number, much like “Wannabe” but with added disco. I still remember seeing them perform this at that years Brit Awards and being absolutely captivated by how amazing they were, and with Geri performing in her Union Jack dress. I was truly proud to be British back then.

The main concept of the album centred on the idea of Girl Power, embodying a feminist image, as both Madonna and Bananarama had employed before. Every track of the album deals with different aspects of this notion: The lead single “Wannabe” makes demands of sincerity and is a feminist message of choosing friends over relationships; “Say You’ll Be There” motivates girls to stand up for themselves as individuals, while the focus of “Love Thing” is the symbolic expression of unity as a group; “Something Kinda Funny” deals with the identification of goals in life and “Last Time Lover” encourages the use of sexual charm as a weapon to be deployed along with any other skills that would help to get a result.

So there you have it, twenty years ago to the date and this was the big news at the time. You couldn’t escape Spice-mania and they were all over your TV sets. I am going to leave you with this gem I found on YouTube which perfectly captures the hear of that moment in time.

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