Monday, March 1, 2010

Spice Girls


If I were to ask you to tell me what you want, what you really really want, I have a feeling most of you would instinctively issue the same reply. What more could we possibly really really want than the elusive and suspiciously made-up sounding zig-a-zig-ah? The best part is, we had no idea of the zig-a-zig-ah shaped void in our respective lives until the Spice Girls handily brought it to our attention. When you think about it, it was really a pretty thoughtful gesture.


Spice Girls - Wannabe
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The Spice Girls didn't need meaningfully discernible lyrics or a roster of musically significant songs: they built their empire largely on image and public persona. What they needed, it seemed, was a healthy dose of Girl Power, some sparkly Union Jack dresses, and a line of delicious ice-cream flavored licensed Chupa Chup lollipops. The group was a marketing phenomenon. Each member was so well branded and commidified. Young boys found them appealing, young girls wanted to be them, and everybody loved those lollipops. No, really. They were completely delicious. I could really go for one right about now.

Aside from their marketing prowess, the girls had a fair amount of talent. As with most burgeoning pop groups of the time, they were chosen not only for their looks but for their vocal ability. The Spice Girls were far from an organically formed musical group. Their path to fame was tightly managed and preconceived by a team of industry professionals. If you're questioning my sources on that one, look no further than the handy timeline on the Spice Girls' still-active homepage. That thing is a gold mine. Just look at all I learned:

1) Heart Management LTD (which is apparently a music management team and not a cardiac coaching facility as I'd originally theorized) held an open audition in London in 1993 for their newly-conceived girl group. The magazine ad they ran began with, "R U 18-23 with the ability to sing and dance? Are you streetwise, outgoing, ambitious, and dedicated?" For some reason, I just love that they threw "streetwise" in there. It really conjures an effective visual of a line of girls at the audition each armed with a switchblade.


2) For their audition numbers, Mel C sang I'm So Excited, Mel B sang The Greatest Love of All, and Victoria sang Mein Herr. Now that they mention it, I'd love to see Posh in her current severe unsmiling state break out into a showstopping rendition of the Cabaret classic. She'd have to let her hair down, if she still had any remaining length on it.

3) The site does a great manager-approved job of glossing over the booting of an earlier group member, slickly stating, "It soon became clear that Michelle doesn't fit in, so she leaves to care for her sick mum and then to go on to university. She is replaced by Emma Bunton." Don't you just love that? Because she didn't fit in, she had to run off and care for her ailing mother. Somehow, I don't think the exchange went quite like that.

4) In 1994 the girls eventually take charge of the project, citing Chris Herbert's terrible, god-awful ideas as reasoning. This guy thought they should wear matching outfits and sing cover songs. What is this, Labelle does karaoke? Well done, girls.

The gripping fact list goes on and on, I seriously recommend you check it out. Until you've completed you solo assignment, though, let's get back to basics. The girls each assumed an alter-ego performance persona, giving girls everywhere a questionable "type" to aspire to depending on their penchant for sneakers or 7-inch platform heels:



Ginger


Thusly named because of her flaming red hair, Geri Haliwell was Ginger Spice. It's rumored that she was originally christened "Sexy Spice" but the music managers were afraid it wasn't kid-friendly. You know, like micro-mini dresses and exposed knickers. Thank goodness for the swap.


Posh


You've got to wonder how many Americans were familiar with the word "posh" before Victoria Beckham (then Adams) assumed the title in her Spice Girl role. It's a pretty distinctly British concept of upper class, usually having something to do with accents and manners, though I'm sure her designer clothes helped pave the way for her title.


Baby


Emma Bunton was the youngest of the group, so she assumed the role of "Baby Spice". She was the baby-faced girly-girl of the group and because of her, I wore my hair in sky-high pigtails for years. She was the one I most aspired to be, even though the press gave her some flack for not being model thin.

Sporty



Apparently wearing a sportsbra or a track suit with an athletic-style ponytail is grounds for dubbing yourself "the sporty one". To be fair, Mel C was actually fairly athletic. She always threw in some fun gymnast moves at the shows.

Scary



Mel B was Scary Spice on account of her leopard print wardrobe, pierced tongue, and unruly hair. She was supposed to be the crazy one of the group, speaking her mind and getting in people's faces. Mel certainly proved herself as outspoken and headline-grabbing with the Maury-style paternity suit she launched on Eddie Murphy. Looks like she's still got it.


Spice Girls - Two Become One
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Catchy, isn't it? You know you want to sing along...

The Spice Girls emitted an aura of Girl Power, launching the concept into one of the most major catch phrase-inspired ideological mindsets of the decade. The concept stressed female solidarity and embracing empowerment. There arguable wasn't much substance behind the phrase, though it did give us a great sparkly slogan to pin to our backpacks.

Whatever the strength of their alleged message, the Spice Girls were irrefutably a cultural phenomenon. They quickly became the best-selling girl group of all time, moving over 40 million albums over the years. They held major influence over fashion choices for young girls, leaving many of us to classify ourselves by our wardrobes as a Sporty or a Posh. The Spice Girls also had oodles of lucrative marketing deals, including a Pepsi spokes-group gig and a host of officially licensed merchandise. If memory serves correctly, Target once had an all-Spice Girls aisle. Not too shabby.



Spice Girls - Spice Up Your Life
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Their success wasn't limited to music, though it's disputable whether they should have ventured into the feature film arena. Regardless of your feelings on Spice World, you must admit it was a spectacular financial success. For years Spice World boasted the highest-grossing debut on Super Bowl weekend. In the movie, the girls play themselves in a light comedy modeled off of the Beatles' successful films. It had all sorts of cutesy cameos and zany madcap scenarios. It's delightfully fluffy and cheesy and precisely what you'd expect from a Spice Girls movie.




Love them or hate them, there's no denying their enduring influence over a generation of young girls. Once upon a time, they were the reigning queens of Brit pop. Their recent reunion tour showcased their staying power, selling out shows all over the world. The verdict is in: we just can't get enough. So don't be embarrassed. Slip in the earbuds and blast Wannabe. You know you want to.Oh, and if you happen to know what a zig-a-zig-ah is, please enlighten me. I've been agonizing over that one for years.

27 comments:

Shannon said...

I have a very embarrassing home video of myself and a friend dressed in skorts and matching shirts, high socks, and tennis shoes. Our hair is in high pig tails and we are singing and choreographed dancing to every.song.on.the.cd. Why did I just admit that?

Lil' Woman said...

I think a couple of have a vhs floating around to that affect..lol
:)

perfectionishuman said...

I was so gutted when they split up.. I had just finally gotten my official Spice Girls merchandise pencil case after begging my mum for months for it.. and two days later, the split up :(

Melanie's Randomness said...

Best girl band ever!!!!!! I had the lollipops, the hair bands, the dolls, the cds, the acessories. You name it. I get so sad when I see Spice World at EVERY tag sale!! I loved them too cuz there was two Melanie's, hehe!!

Kristen said...

I remember the first time I heard "wannabe"...life changing! :-)

Cee said...

Everytime I was with my friends we would get on Spice Girl outfits (I was always Ginger for some reason) and make up dances. Lucky for me I don't think any were filmed!

Melissa said...

I still love the Spice Girls, haha! Growing up my friends and I were obsessed... we would actually PLAY Spice Girls, and I was always Posh. I had the CDs, the videos, the dolls, the lollipops (!!!), the gum, the costumes... it was ridiculous, and I miss it all!

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, I was the biggest Spice Girls fan EVER! I was famous around my middle school for it. One time my dad bought me the concert on pay-per-view, I thought I was going to die! By the way, I was watching the Olympics and decided that Baby Spice got really old and joined the Swedish women's curling team. :)

Little Mrs Domestic said...

OH wow. Yeah my friends and I were big fans. I think I most liked Posh spice... but there were things about each of them that I wanted to be like or copy. Oh the power of marketing! And yes... if you were to start playing their CD I could probably still sing every word.

Meghan said...

Oh my, I LOVED the Spice Girls. Ginger was my fave - loved her sassy red haird:) My friends and I used to dress up like them all of the freaking time!

Marci Darling said...

They.Are.Goddesses.

Sadako said...

Great post. Love the manager approved way of getting rid of Michelle. And I can't imagine Posh singing anything from Cabaret today...I can't imagine her not perpetually scowling!

Karen said...

Speaking of the 90's - exactly how long has that voiceover guy been doing movie trailers? :)

Thanks for this post...my best friend and I each picked which Spice Girl "we" were and watched the movie religiously - almost daily - to memorize lines and dance routines. Yes, we memorized the routines and put on performances. I still quote lines from the movie all the time.

RAY J said...

Ah The Spice Girls... Ginger and Posh were my favorites.

I remember we met up with my grandparents and a few cousins in Myrtle Beach that summer, and that song came on the radio and I was singing it along with my cousin (I was in Jr. High). Our parents were a bit concerned, because they weren't sure what zig a zig ah meant, lol...

My friend had the first CD, I bought the 2nd... I remember watching the movie with my cousin when it came out on VHS...

and OMG THOSE LOLLIPOPS!!! Those things were like crack! Very few places sold them around here, making them hard to find, including a store in a mall in one of the Chicago suburbs, so everytime we went to that mall I had to stop in there and pick up a tin of em! lol...

Hala Pickford said...

Ziga zig ah was basically well 'sex' or whatever vulgar slang you can insert there.

I love the Spices. I own a pair of huge hooker Union Jack platforms...AND occasionally wear them :D

LAK said...

I still have some of the songs on my ipod. And still really like some of their videos-they were good!

If I could have seen them live, I totally would have gone Just for the experience! But alas, they never came to the middle of Canada.

Kate Gabrielle said...

Oh gosh, when I saw this post I went and broke out the old cds and have been listening ever since! I can't believe I still remember all of the lyrics (and still like the songs actually!)

Now if only they still had the gum and lollipops I'd really feel like I was nine again! ;-D

Cory said...

I loved them so much, and was capital O OBSESSED. I was fairly certain that Emma was my soul mate, and I still think of her as my favorite. I remember seeing Spice World in theaters; at the time, I thought everyone was just as excited to be there as I was, but now I realize that half the audience consisted of irritated mothers and embarrassed father.

I'm sort of ashamed to admit that I own Spice World of DVD and that I received it, at my request, as a Christmas gift two years ago...when I was 20.

Cory said...

Also, my cousins and I used to pretend we were in the Spice Girls (though we called ourselves the "Spice People," since one cousin and I aren't girls), and we all conformed to a type. Typically, my sister was Scary, my cousin Gina was Posh, another was a male version of Ginger (yeah, that didn't make anymore sense back then), I was a male version of Baby, and our two youngest cousins shared the role of the undesirable Sporty. I'm not sure why I'm admitting this right now.

Seattle Kim D said...

This post made me so happy, thank you! I was baby spice for halloween one year in college, so fun.

renata said...

i loved the spice girls so much i even went to their reunion show a while back... i still have my lollipop sticker collection somewhere too....

EmD said...

The nickneames weren't actually made up by the Spices or their management; one of the English tabloid papers gave them the names and they were so popular that they were utilised as a marketing tool.

Veronica Montebellucci said...

omg the lollypops!! They were amazing.

Sadly, I too owned Spice World on VHS and would always rewind the part where they sang in the fish and chip shop "before they were famous".

Anonymous said...

I was obsessed with the Spice Girls too... I remember the gum with the stickers because I still have the stickers around somewhere. Also, I remember them having chocolate bars cuz I collected everything Spice Girls so I saved the wrappers, LOL! My favorite Spice Girl item I had was the photo album with the photos that you'd buy separately in random sets and collect them. I have them all, my album is complete and I still have it.

Unknown said...

I have the DVD, two first edition books and the dolls. I am not ashamed. it goes with my star wars/star trek collection. Hoping they will go up in price later.

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