Spice – Spice Girls (1996)


English five-some the Spice Girls released their debut album “Spice” in 1996 which was to be the beginning of a legacy that continues to be remembered to this day. Culturally the Spice Girls came about at a time where Britain was changing with the country full of optimism with Labour under leader Tony Blair getting into power and the term “Cool Britannia” being coined.

The Spice Girls were quintessentially British. They had been manufactured but they all came with personalities which not even the most forward thinking PR companies would have recommended running with. They had little sex appeal other than you could probably meet many women like them out in most Cities on a Saturday evening. They ended up being given nicknames which were neither clever or cool. The one member of the group who was of black origin was nicknamed “Scary Spice”, and the red haired one “Ginger”.

The image of being brash and in your face needed to be backed up with songs of a similar ilk and the debut single and album’s opener “Wannabe” does just that. This is a perfect slice of nonsense pop because whilst it is not only catchy, the lyrics mean so little. I think most reading will be aware of the song but some of the phrasing it uses in the lyrics are overlooked.

The song is essentially telling a potential partner that if he wants to be in any sort of relationship with them they need to get on with their friends. I find the lyrics confusing due to their simplicity because they are hollow when the shouty brash voices of Mel B and Geri Halliwell feature.

Once the intro, first verse and chorus are done the second verse is quite poignant to how the British public would be living their lifestyles over the next few years in a throwaway era where we would consume so much, get rid of what we don’t want and spend money on replacing anything from electronics, cars and even people.

“What do you think about that now you know how I feel,
Say you can handle my love are you for real,
I won’t be hasty, I’ll give you a try
If you really bug me then I’ll say goodbye.”

“Say You’ll Be There” has a more R&B edge to it’s production which is a little confusing to hear given the change of tact from “Wannabe”. Like the previous track “Say You’ll Be There” is extremely catchy with a chorus that would have everyone singing along.

But the lyrics are nonsense. They are nonsense because they make no sense and seem to change the arc of the song at random points. The protagonist is saying that she doesn’t want this man to confess his love to her as she just wants friendship despite him wanting more. The chorus then says

“I’m giving you everything, all that joy can bring this I swear”

No wonder the fella is confused with what her intentions are with comments such as that. I’d like to think this was an clever critique on the how females are often said to be indecisive and change their mind but sadly I don’t think the song was designed to be that witty.

The third single is the third track and is the first ballad on “Spice”. “2 Become 1” is a massive departure from the bubblegum pop of the last two songs. It’s composition is made up using a keyboard and a string section which is very different to anything else on the set.

The lyrics are a standard in terms of being a love song. But there seems to be a thinly veiled message about contraception which is frankly bizarre:

“Be a little bit wiser baby, put it on put it on”

Why this lyric is in there is baffling considering the rest of the song seems to be about the enjoyment of 2 people being together and having sex. The reference to wearing a condom is of course responsible but turns the song’s attempt at having sex appeal into a bit of an embarrassing moment.

That said “2 Become 1” is arguably the strongest track on the album and has appeal outside the teenagers who would have purchased the album.

“Love Thing” like “Say You’ll Be There” has a more r&b ting to it. The song for the first couple of minutes isn’t that bad and is quite easy to listen to. It’s a breezy pop number which is helped by the vocal from Mel C which sounds really good and fits the track. But then there is a bit of break down and Mel B decides to do some rap/shouting in the style of someone off the Jeremy Kyle show.

“Last Time Lover” is a funny track in the sense that you wouldn’t know it was a Spice Girls song. It’s a mid tempo funky R&B track. The vocals of the girls seem to have been turned down as the baseline drives through the song. The chorus where they sing “Last Time Lover” has no real trace of their voices which I suspect they may not have even sung this part. This is actually a decent track despite it’s obvious attempt to borrow from the TLC. Mel B is the lead on this track with a more R&B feature to her vocal.

“Mama” starts off with a instrumental introduction which will remain playing for the rest of the song. The song is about a relationship with their mothers and how difficult they were growing up. It’s a sweet track and probably the most personal on the album. The production on their vocals is the strongest on the set as it actually makes them sound like a harmonizing girl group. They sing in unison and the addition of the choir near the end helps the song stay interesting for the duration.

Along with “Wannabe” the most upbeat song on the album is “Who Do You Think You Are”. This track is a Disco/Pop dance track with Mel C again stealing the show with her vocals. It’s a brash, meaningless, stupid song but disgustingly catchy and one of the best pop songs of the 90’s in my opinion.

What I found odd about this album (which I had never listened to until doing this review) is just how much it veered towards the R&B/Pop sound. The base is again giving the next track “Something Kinda Funny” its funkiness. The lyrics again fit to the image the Spice Girls were trying to establish which was “Girl Power” and that essentially being a woman was the new man. The girl would have as much power in a relationship regarding sex than the man.

“Happiness is just a state of your mind
Keep searching, who knows what you may find?
Rules are for fools, and fool’s paradise is hard to find
Play my game or get left behind”

“Naked” is quite awful it could make your ears bleed. The verses are spoken word by Geri Halliwell. It’s arguably the cringest thing I’ve heard on a song. I would tell you to all go and have a listen and let me know how you felt when listening to it. Abysmal.

“If You Can’t Dance” is the the album’s closing track. It’s not much better than the previous track because of the insistent of using no singing in the verses but regional accents talking – in this case it’s Mel B. The use of this tactic degrades what the Spice Girls were trying to achieve which was being as good if not better than men. Instead they are talking as if they are Beer swilling slags on a boozy night out in town. This contradicts what they have been trying to say on other tracks and to me sets them back. The message should have been the opposite to this terrible terrible track.

I wanted to review an album that was totally out of my comfort zone in an attempt to find some musical worthiness and in some ways I have. Pop musics in the charts has been there for many many years and it will continue to be there for many more. There will always be throwaway tracks which are designed to simply sing a long to but whilst Spice Girls will generally fall into this category the image they attempted (and succeeded) in achieving reflects in their music which of course is what they were meant to be famous for.

“Spice” has no cohesion and no real theme other than the first two tracks talking about friendship. There perhaps is a loose subject of being in unison and sticking together throughout many of the songs but it does seem to me that the album’s non-single tracks were not meant to garner any attention and simply filler around the multi million selling hits.



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