Classics Revisited: Spice Girls - 'Spice'

“Tell me what you want, what you really, really want” might not seem like a pioneering or innovative lyric on the surface, however when Melanie Brown shouted it down the camera in St Pancras hotel, it sent shockwaves through pop music, British culture, and girl’s consciousness’ everywhere. Their one-shot video for their debut album Spice’s opening track Wannabe signalled the arrival of a new brand of girl power, trying to break the glass ceiling of the male-dominated music industry in platform shoes and Reebok trainers. Maia Gibbs looks back on the album a quarter of a century after its release for The Mic's Classics Revisited.

The Spice Girls broke in and held the door open for female pop-groups for the last 25 years. They’re noted as the first music obsessions of most women over the age of 30. This generation of ‘girl-power’ loving mega-fans allowed Spice to become the third biggest selling records of the decade. And they certainly have taught us a few things about life, music, and friendship since the beginning of their reign as the biggest girl band of all time, a quarter of a century ago. The 90s were a time of social change, the main cultural drive-in pop-culture-feminism being that of the ‘Ladette’. It was empowering to keep up with the boys, drink beer, swear and wear dirty trainers (you get the gist). It was backlit by the largely macho Britpop scene, of infighting greasy fringes, and the NME awards. Now imagine the entrance of five loud, confident, and sometimes outrageous girls in their teens and early twenties, proclaiming that Girl Power was cool. Women should be themselves whether that’s in a tracksuit, leopard print, high heels, pigtails, or a Union Jack mini dress.

Speaking about the anniversary, Mel B told NME: “All I ever wanted was to be accepted and to make everyone around me – gay, straight, brown, black, shy or loud like me – to feel they can celebrate who they are and to be free to be themselves. All I hope – 25 years on – is that message has been heard loud and clear. It’s true that in the end love IS all you need so I thank everyone who has ever bought a Spice Girls record or stood in the rain to greet us […]”. To celebrate 25 years since the release of their debut album, Spice Girls will be releasing a deluxe edition featuring bonus tracks, B-sides, and previously unheard recordings. Curated by the band, Spice25 was released 29th October 2021 as a two-CD set inside an A5 hardback book. There’s also set to be a variety of vinyl and cassette versions alongside an Apple exclusive remastered edition of the original album using Dolby Atmos. It’s definitely a Christmas gift for your nineties-baby older sister or prosecco-loving auntie.

"The album carries you through the years of your life, providing solace for your first fight with your best friend, first boyfriend, a break-up, a lapse in self-confidence - a song is always there"

My personal favourites have always been (and will stand to be) the funky disco track Say You’ll Be There and the smooth R&B classic 2 Become 1 (which I found out the real meaning behind embarrassingly too late). Admittedly, there is some sub-par song writing on the B-side of Spice, which is thankfully forgotten about with the vocal and five-part harmonies of the girls. The album carries you through the years of your life, providing solace for your first fight with your best friend, first boyfriend, a break-up, a lapse in self-confidence - a song is always there. As Geri Halliwell said: “From the first wannabe baby steps to conquering the whole world with a team of Spices, thank you doesn’t seem enough to all of you who have supported us, followed in our footsteps, walked in our great big shoes and who have shared our dreams."

There are songs also grow with you, as you discover their sexually overt meanings (again, no-one told me), some hot mentions being Love Thing, Last Time Lover and Naked. You may now cringe thinking about how you once sang these at a primary school disco, wearing jelly shoes and rainbow hair clips. You may also spend a little too long wondering why a primary school DJ would even play these songs and evaluate how this may have subconsciously affected you as a child. One thing I know they did was encourage me to embrace Girl Power. I see them much more than female ‘stereotypes’, they’re paths I can take, personalities that I can show, friends I can have. The Spices aren't restrictive boxes, they’re a unit – us girls against the world. And if the message isn’t clear enough: girls can rock just as much as the boys.

I hope we take this anniversary to look back on what Spice started – generations of women who knew that:

- You that you can get wherever you want to be if you work hard enough.

- You can get through the darkest times of your life.

- You can fight the pressures that society brings you.

- You can do it all with best friends and Girl Power.

Written by: Maia Gibbs

Edited by: Gemma Cockrell

In-article image courtesy of Spice Girls via Facebook.