As the Spice Girls reconvene without Easy V (she dont come for free) for a string of 2019 stadium shows, we sift their catalogue to decide whats best
Suffice to say that this drum machine-driven take on the festive favourite – slapped on to the B-side of 2 Become 1, presumably to underline it as a contender for the Christmas No 1 – is not going to displace the Ronettes version in anyones affections.
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The Spice Girls invented the band-as-brand, embracing product endorsement of everything from crisps to cola with an unprecedented rapaciousness. That their corporate sponsors did not always get their best work in return is underlined by this forgettable rewrite of Manfred Manns 5-4-3-2-1 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) that they came up with for the launch of Channel 5.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Spice Girls: Power of Five – video 40. Bumper to Bumper (1996) The Spice Girls were not a band in the business of throwing away their best material on B-sides, as proven by this pallid piece of pop-R&B, the forgotten flip of Wannabe. Its solitary saving grace may be how utterly un-American – indeed how Watford – Geri Halliwells spoken-word interjections sound.
Time goes by remarkably slowly on this kettledrum-bedecked MOR ballad, which crawls along like a Soviet state funeral. It is hard work, which is one thing Spice Girls records should never be.
Martel, who now fronts BBC show Homes Under The Hammer, wrote: “Victoria Beckham – or Posh – has infuriated fellow Spicers but particularly Mel B (Scary) by steadfastly saying no to the return of Girl Power.
Rodney Jerkins, the R&B auteur and co-producer of their final album, Forever, does his best here, muscling in for some distorted call-and-response vocals, but it is hard to escape the sense that the now-four-piece Spice Girls – with solo careers in the offing – are not really that bothered any more.
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Facebook Twitter Pinterest No Jerkins required … the vaguely more R&B Spice Girls play the MTV Europe Music awards, 2000. Photograph: Jonas Ekstromer/AP 37. Right Back at Ya (2000) Reportedly described by its co-author, Elliot Kennedy, as plodding, boring, bottom-of-the-drawer R&B, Right Back at Ya defiantly posits the Spice Girls as harbingers of a wave of female-fronted pop: alas, that only highlights how limp this sounds compared to, say, Oops! … I Did It Again from the same year.
The Spice Girls first reunion sold a lot of concert tickets – 17 nights at Londons O2 arena – but their new music found fewer takers: limp and uninspired, Headlines was their first single to stall outside the Top 10, the zing of their best work apparently harder to harness a decade on.
“As a showbiz reporter in London, shes the only star to have sued me, though she had to stop proceedings and a claim for damages because my story was true.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Spice Girls: Headlines (Friendship Never Ends) – video 35. Weekend Love (2000) The appearance of the kind of faux-sitar sound that decorated umpteen Motown hits of the late 60s and early 70s is a nice touch, but there is no getting around how restrained and polite this sounds: only the gear change provided by Mel Bs typically by eck rap bit has any spark about it.
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Another decent production from Forever – vaguely acid house synthesizers abound – and a pretty good song cannot disguise the fact that the Spice Girls are not great R&B vocalists. Destinys Child might have smashed this.
No one is going to claim that this track, from Elton John and Tim Rices musical Aida, represents Captain Fantastics greatest work, but there is something appealingly canny about getting the Geri-less Spice Girls, with Victoria Beckham now their biggest star, to sing a song about a rapacious fashionista.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest National Elt Service … Sir Elton makes a guest appearance in Spice World, 1997. Photograph: Cine Text/Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar 32. Let Love Lead the Way (2000) The sound of the Spice Girls first incarnation going out with a whimper, rather than a bang. This is not a bad ballad in polished, Heart FM-friendly style, but there is nothing spectacular about it: the explosive din of Wannabe seems like the work of a different act entirely.
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The fact that it is the only track from their debut album that the Spice Girls never performed live has sealed Last Time Lovers fate as pleasant but unmemorable padding. It might have been more striking had it remained in its original form, as First Time Lover, a song about losing your virginity.
The other new track from the re-formed Spice Girls, included on their Greatest Hits, was better than the single Headlines. A snappy leftover from the sessions for Forever, Voodoo still could not touch their best 90s hits, suggesting the reunion would be predicated on nostalgia.
As tough as Jerkinss productions on Forever got: a sparse, uptempo slice of R&B, flecked with chattering electronics.
In the late 90s, Move Over became so synonymous with flogging Pepsi, the most high-profile of the Spice Girls umpteen endorsement deals, that it is subsequently a bit hard to hear as a song rather than an advertising jingle – compounded by the fact that its pretty flimsily constructed.
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The Spice Girls were not great interpreters of song – they tended towards karaoke favourites such as Sisters Are Doin It for Themselves, which is why this list omits the handful of live covers they released – but the decision to record the Waitresses Christmas Wrapping was inspired, auguring the 1981 songs belated entry into the canon of unimpeachable festive classics.
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If you like the idea of the Spice Girls making the kind of track that Mellow Magic might play at 2am, between Zoom by Fat Larrys Band and Coming Around Again by Carly Simon, then you could do worse than this super-smooth ballad.
A return to the G-funk-influenced sound of their 1996 debut, Spice, Denying unexpectedly paraphrases Check Yo Self by Comptons leading exponent of girl power, Ice Cube: as album filler goes, this is cut from a superior cloth.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest His name is Prince … the Spice Girls celebrate 21 years of the Princes Trust, 1997. Photograph: ITV/Rex Shutterstock 24. Take Me Home (1996) The Spice Girls oeuvre is sometimes interesting for how clearly it reflects the modish musical preoccupations of its era: there is a distinct hint of trip-hop about Take Me Homes sparse breakbeat, sawing strings and echoing wah-wah guitar and sax.
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Jerkins was a great signing as producer, although his more avant tendencies, as heard on Brandys astonishing What About Us, were hemmed in by the necessity of making Spice Girls records with direct pop appeal; hence Holler, which is serviceable, rather than thrilling.
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If Viva Forever was the Spice Girls answer to Madonnas La Isla Bonita, then Do It is their rough equivalent to Express Yourself, with lyrics a little stronger than you might expect given the girls pre-teen fanbase (Keep your mouth shut, keep your legs shut, go back in your place).
Produced by the great Jam and Lewis, this is by some distance the best track on Forever: there is a bounce and vitality thats missing from the rest of the album, while the lyrics quote from Monty Pythons famous Candid Photography sketch (Wink-wink, nudge-nudge), which isnt something you could imagine of any of the Spice Girls peers.
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Opening up with an unexpected repurposing of Status Quos Down Down, Saturday Night Divas is not the ferocious ladies-on-the-razz anthem its title suggests, but a surprisingly understated piece of slow-motion, small-hours pop-funk.
A kitschy easy-listening revival was in full swing around the time of Spiceworld, which perhaps accounts for its vaudeville-style closer. It has the most late-90s opening couplet imaginable: Elvis was a Kula Shaker / Marley, Ziggy, Melody Makers.
Listening back to these albums 20 years on, what is striking is how concise and consistent they are by modern pop standards: there isnt much extraneous fat within the 10 tracks on Spice, as evidenced by Naked, an appealing ballad tricked out with spoken-word vocals and fake phone messages.
There was always the chance that the Spice Girls could have worked without Geri, although the idea of them as purveyors of sophisticated, grownup R&B did run contrary to the clumsy brashness that was central to their initial appeal. Calling your comeback single Goodbye was pretty daft – it suggests you have already thrown in the towel – but it was a decent enough song.
That the Spice Girls first two albums were rather better than they strictly needed to be is underlined by Never Give Up on the Good Times, a classy slice of flute-heavy faux-disco that could have been a single.
Wobbling unsteadily along the line that separates cute from schmaltzy, the Spice Girls string-bedecked doo-wop pastiche is not as successful as their Motown homage, Stop. There is something of the cabaret turn about it, although Mel Cs vocals in the bridge are surprisingly gritty.
A B-side that outranks its A-side (Too Much), Outer Space Girls reworks the lyrics of Killer Queen over a backing that sounds like it might be influenced by Massive Attacks Unfinished Sympathy – glowering strings, scratching and all.
The least appealing of the Spice Girls early singles (and kicked into touch by its flip Who Do You Think You Are), Mama was corny, slushy and cravenly released in time for Mothers Day. Things are leavened slightly by what appears to be a post-chorus musical quotation from Talking Heads This Must Be the Place, of all things.
Whenever I go out, wherever it may be / Never is there a Keanu but a dweeb lookin at me, bemoans Mel B glumly on the Digital Underground-sampling If U Cant Dance. She is no great shakes as a rapper, but its an object lesson in how the Spice Girls appeal rested on reflecting their audiences lives back at them.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Gotta get with my friends … the classic five-piece Wannabe Spice Girls give it some zig-a-zig-ah. Photograph: Rex Shutterstock 10. Love Thing (1996) Love Thing ended up as an album track, but the record label apparently proposed it as an early single. What would have happened to them had they agreed is an intriguing question, but its a superior pop confection that would certainly have been a hit in the wake of Wannabe.
One of the few Spice Girls B-sides that warrants repeated listens, the R&B-infused Baby Come Round is an infinitely classier, noticeably tougher track than the double A-side Mama/Who Do You Think You Are, to which it played second fiddle – and comes replete with another demonstration of Mel Bs cheeringly Leeds-accented rapping.
The Spice Girls second album Spiceworld was recorded – as producer-songwriter Matt Rowe recalled – in the middle of the chaos, and occasionally it showed: Spice Up Your Life was written and recorded in an afternoon. This accounts for both its woeful lyrics (Yellow man in Timbuktu / Colour for both me and you) and a certain raw energy that powers it along.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Spice Girls: Spice Up Your Life – video 7. Walk of Life (1997) Yes, the Spice Girls genuinely did record a reggae track. Moreover, it is surprisingly good, although you could perhaps live without Mel Bs toasting. In its combination of a remarkably gritty backing skank and lyrical homage to the streets of the capital, it presages Lily Allens LDN.
Released as a single in July 1998, to soundtrack fleeting holiday romances, Viva Forever lays it on a bit thick: flamenco guitars, hasta mañana, etc. But the dreamy lushness and note of melancholy (for all the pledges of undying love, you somehow know its over) is hard to resist.
Read more 5. Wannabe (1996) By far the Spice Girls most enduring song – with 250m more plays on Spotify than its closest rival – there is almost nothing to Wannabe: a bassline indebted to EMFs Unbelievable, a chorus so catchy that its like a jingle, and some shouting. It is not snippy to say that the shouting is the most important thing here, powering Wannabe with a very different energy to your average girl-group confection.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Spice Girls: Wannabe – video 4. 2 Become 1 (1996) 2 Become 1s lyrics – including a clunky safe-sex public-service announcement – are not great, but the tune is fantastic, the arrangement lush (with strings courtesy of Massive Attack-approved composer Craig Armstrong) and, in a world of glossily perfect Auto-Tune, the vocals sound charming and full of character.
As close as the Spice Girls came to joining in with the retromania of Britpop, although it focused on an area of 60s pop that platinum-selling indie bands ignored. If there is something obligatory about a 90s/00s girl band having a Motown pastiche in their arsenal, then Stop is joyous enough to disarm any criticism.
Wannabe was less a song than a brilliant piece of branding, but its follow-up single was far more sophisticated. Here, verse and chorus melodies alike are instantly memorable, the influence of G-funk is audible in its high sine-wave synths; theres a Stevie Wonder-ish harmonica solo and Mel C gets to really exercise her pipes.
Time has been kinder to the Spice Girls than detractors at the height of their 90s fame might have expected, not least because a new generation of female artists and writers has emerged, lauding their galvanising influence or happy to attest that the first time they heard the word feminism was in conjunction with the slogan girl power. Nevertheless, a charge still levelled against them is that music almost seemed a secondary consideration, a means by which their personalities and image could be marketed. But at the core of their appeal lies a string of punchily, undeniable pop songs of which Who Do You Think You Are is the best: a beautifully done, melodically rich, brass-driven disco pastiche.