Run “sales, rich profit re-emerging” through any good anagram website, and you’ll come up with the much more exciting phrase “the Spice Girls are reforming”. Pulp investigates whether there’s any truth to the rumours, and why the hell you should care about a cheesy manufactured band (that changed the face of pop music forever).
5 become 1
It?s been ten years since Chris Herbert first ran an ad asking “R. U. 18-23 with the ability to sing/dance? R.U. streetwise, outgoing, ambitious, and dedicated?”. He and his father Bob planned to put together the female equivalent of Take That. This wasn?t the Herberts’ first time attempt at a pop group ? they had brought the boy band Bros together in the late 1980s but missed out on signing them.
The girls who answered Chris’s advertisement were a mix of singers, dancers and attention seekers. Five girls were chosen – Melanie Chisholm, Melanie Brown, Geri Halliwell, Victoria Adams, and Michelle Stephenson, and they were given a weekly stipend as well as signing onto the dole, and placed in a house together where they were meant to bond, learn to sing and dance together. Most of the girls got along, swapping eating disorder tips, and according to some tabloids becoming rather special friends, but Michelle was altogether too serious. She was fired and replaced by Emma Bunton.
The Herberts hadn’t learnt their lesson from Bros about contracts, so the girls took their demos and scampered off to the welcoming arms of Simon Fuller and 19 Management instead. After a battle between labels they signed to Virgin for a rumoured ?2 million. Don’t feel too bad for the Herberts though, because they took their payoff from legal action and went on to inflict 5ive and Hear’Say on the world.
Spice Up Your Life,
The girls renamed themselves the ‘The Spice Girls’ and in a move straight out of The Smurfs, the girls adopted the personalities that a teen magazine had assigned to them. Mel C as Sporty Spice only ever wore trainers and tracksuits, Victoria as Posh Spice stopped smiling, Emma as Baby Spice grew pigtails, Scary Spice Mel B got louder, and Ginger Spice Geri’s shoes got taller and her makeup thicker. The resulting caricatures allowed young fans a range of personalities to identify with (everyone’s thought about which Spice Girl they are, right?), while men could chose their favourite fantasy ? a winning combination.
Their first single ‘Wannabe’, was released in July 1996, and it shot to #1 in the UK, as did eight more of their singles. The album Spice sold 23 million copies around the world, driven by the phenomenon of kids pestering their parents to buy the records. Tying in to the new ‘tweenies’ market, as pre-teens are called, by the end of 1996 the Spice Girls were endorsing over 35 products and had eight sponsorship deals – totally over ?5.5 million, including Asda, Sony Playstation (the Spice Girls game is, very amusingly, a dancing variation on ‘Simon Says’), Walkers Crisps and Pepsi each signing them for ?1 million.
Of course along with their saturation of airwaves and magazines came the backlash. Some critics carried on as if a prefabricated pop group achieving success was the first sign of the apocalypse, instead of something that had been happening ever since The Monkees had been on TV in the ’60s. It is probably worth pointing out here that along with the swags of Teen Choice & Smash Hits awards it won, Spice was also nominated for the very prestigious Mercury Music Prize in 1997, alongside OK Computer and Roni Size’s New Forms.
Music snobs aside, the Spice Girls could do no wrong. Their second album Spiceworld sold a cool 18 million copies, and their movie of the same name, written by Simon Fuller’s brother Kim with tongue firmly in cheek, had moderate success at the box office, despite receiving a record five Golden Raspberry awards for ‘Worst Film’.
In a case of real life imitating art, just as in the movie they’d fought to free themselves of their manager, the Spice Girls decided that they?d had enough of Simon Fuller and took over management of themselves. As one of the few British bands to truly crack America, they off on a stadium tour. But then Geri announced she?d had enough.
In her biography, If Only, Geri says that she always knew that the Spice Girls would have a short life. Although she?d originally intended to stay until the end of the tour, she skipped out early. The remaining Spice Girls released ‘Goodbye’ ostensibly as a tribute to her, but handily just in time to catch the coveted Christmas #1 for the third year in a row. Everyone then went off to side projects for a while.
The Geri-less Spice Girls released their much delayed third album in 2000, but by then the market had changed a great deal. When the Spice Girls had first started out, the only girl groups around were slick R&B ones like Eternal and En Vogue, the members of whom appeared to be sophisticated but homogenous. The Spice Girls seemed younger, louder and more approachable, wearing high street fashion and cheekily acting up. Their success paved the way for similar bands like B*witched, S Club 7 (put together by Simon Fuller), bands for the TV show Popstars, and even younger female singers like Billie and Britney Spears. But by 2000, pop records had become increasingly layered and overproduced. The sheer glee of Spice sounded tinny in comparison to Destiny’s Child, so the Spice Girls tried to catch up. The result, the bland Forever meant that the joy and enthusiasm that had made the Spice Girls so catchy was missing. While the first single, ‘Holler’ went to #1, the record “only” sold 4 million copies. Although there was no official announcement, it was generally accepted that the Spice Girls were dead.
Say they?ll be there?
Of course, no band who has sold 45 million albums and 30 million singles can ever really be thought of as finished. Rumours of a reunification tour have grabbed headlines ever since Geri left. Given the mixed levels of success that each Spice has had in their solo careers (see sidebar), and the reported ?10 million each Simon Fuller, who has kept himself busy (and rich) with the Pop Idol franchise, has offered for a final tour, the urge to strap on the platform boots must be pretty strong.
It was widely believed that the Spice Girls would reform for the recent Live 8 series of concerts, but according to Bob Geldof, Mel B, now living in L.A, was the only holdout. Meanwhile plenty of other media outlets have quoted her as saying that the Spice Girls will tour in July 2006, just in time for their ten year anniversary and no doubt a Greatest Hits album. Although Mel C has been heard to say that they?re too old now, their ages will offer one advantage ? they?ll be able to play in licensed venues since the main body of their fans will have finally reached the drinking age.
Who Do You Think You Are? – Life Post Spice
Emma?s first single ‘What I am’ famously battled for the #1 position (and lost) with Geri?s second, ‘Lift Me Up’, but she got her #1 in 2001 with “What took you so long?”. After being dropped by her record company, she signed with 19 Management, dropped her last name and picked up some TV work. She still hangs out with her mum a lot.
Star rating: 2/5
At their wedding, Mel B?s husband Jimmy Gulzar allegedly sung “I will always love you” to the best man. Their marriage didn?t last long, but at least it gave Mel B a daughter, Phoenix Chi to go along side her one #1 hit with Missy Elliot on ‘I want you back’. She can also be proud that nu metallers Korn’s cover of Cameo?s ‘Word Up’ sounds eerily identical to hers. No wonder she’s trying to make a life for herself acting in L.A now.
Everyone always said Mel C was the best singer in the Spice Girls and was most likely to have a successful solo career. Whether that proved to be the case is fairly subjective. She got #1s with duets with Bryan Adams and Lisa Lopez, and a dance remix, but her second album sold abysmally, and after she was dropped by Virgin she started up her own record label to release her third album. She maintains a fairly low profile when she doesn?t have an album to promote.
Star rating: 3.5/5
With four solo #1s under her belt, as well as two best selling autobiographies Geri could be considered the most successful post-Spice Girl. She attracts more column inches chronicling her struggles with eating disorders than for her work as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN, but at least she?ll never have to worry about anyone coming up with topless pictures of her because the world has seen that all before.
Star rating: 4/5
Victoria is the only Spice Girl who can claim to have her own football chant ? though it’s unlikely that she lists “Posh Spice takes it up the ass” on her CV. She hasn?t had her own #1 hit, but she?s the only one married to David Beckham. She gathers the most attention these days, mostly for her skeletal frame and her bad choice in nannies. Many ears were glad to hear she?s giving up music to pursue a career in fashion instead.
Star rating: 3/5
Please note, this is the FULL text of the story that was cut down and published in the last issue of Pulp