The Spice Girls were a British vocal girl band. They enjoyed substantial commercial success through the mid to late 1990s and are currently the biggest selling girl group of all time, having sold in excess of 80 million albums and singles. They are also famous for popularizing the term "Girl Power".
The group was formed in 1994 when Bob Herbert and his son advertised through The Stage newspaper. Of those who responded to the advertisement five girls were picked: Geri Halliwell, Victoria Adams (later to become Victoria Beckham), Melanie Chisholm, Melanie Brown, and Michelle Stephenson. They formed a group called Touch. Later, Michelle Stephenson left to pursue her education and was replaced by Emma Bunton.
In 1996 they changed both their name to Spice Girls and their manager to Simon Fuller. Success soon followed, with their catchy debut single, "Wannabe" (which contained the memorable hook "I wanna really, really, really, wanna Zig-A-Zig Ah") becoming a number one hit later that year in Britain, and early the following year in the United States.
A factor in the group's success was the ability of individual members to appeal to different types of teenage fans. The five members were dubbed "Ginger", "Baby", "Scary", "Posh", and "Sporty" Spice (originally by a British pop music magazine aimed at teenage girls, though the nicknames soon became universal). Their diverse appearance and class/cultural backgrounds ensured broad demographic appeal.
A cleverly constructed image combined sex appeal with post-feminist self-confidence ("girl power", as they labelled it), and their eponymous first album followed, selling many millions of copies, including seven million in America alone. They had several number one hits in the UK, mainly (like "Wannabe") the work of songwriters Richard Stannard and Matt Rowe, including "Say You'll Be There" (Oct 1996), "2 Become 1" (Dec 1996), and "Mama"/"Who Do You Think You Are" (released as a double A-sided single in Mar 1997). "Say You'll Be There" and "2 Become 1" were also released in America, in mid-1997 after "Wannabe" had run its course, and also became top five hits there. "Mama" and "Who Do You Think You Are", however, had no American release because, according to the Spice Girls, the American singles market is slower moving than most other nations' singles markets and songs remain popular in America longer than they do in other countries. Nevertheless, the Spice Girls were so huge in 1997 and 1998 that American MTV and MTV2 played the "Who Do You Think You Are" video occasionally. While "2 Become 1" was big in America during the summer and early fall of 1997, it (as well as "Mama" and "Who Do You Think You Are") had long run its course in Europe.
In the fall of 1997, "Spice Up Your Life" was released internationally and was hailed as the "return" of the Spice Girls, since it marked the debut single from their to-be-released second album. With this single, the Spice Girls corrected the lag that had existed between European and American singles from their previous album. Americans did not understand why the music industry was toting "Spice Up Your Life" as the group's "return", since it hit the airwaves as "2 Become 1" was still quite popular there. However, internationally, the single marked the Spice Girls' first since March.
"Spice Up Your Life" was an international hit, but peaking quickly in the top twenty (#13) of the Hot 100, it did not succeed in America on the massive level that its three predecessors had. The group's second album, Spiceworld was released towards the end of 1997. Featuring ten new songs, it was also the soundtrack of the group's popular movie of the same name, which was released in January of 1998. The film was in the same vein as some of the Beatles' films, a factor deliberately played on by director Bob Spiers (the director of The Goodies, Absolutely Fabulous, and Press Gang among other, notable British comedy successes) and was a commercial success. The critics hated it, however, and the girls won a Golden Raspberry Award each for their efforts. They actually hold a world record documented in the Guinness Book of Records for receiving the most Razzies (five) at one time.
As the movie was running its course, Spiceworld's second single, "Too Much" was released. It continued the Spice Girls' streak of number one singles (their sixth since "Wannabe") in their home country, but, like "Spice Up Your Life" peaked rather rapidly in America, at #8, without the massive radio airplay that Spice's singles had received. The next single, "Stop" was even less successful in America, topping out in the top forty with very minimal radio airplay and was also their first single to fail to top the UK charts. "Viva Forever" was released as the fourth single, only in Britain, though its animated music video received some limited airplay on American VH1, as part of a special on Ginger Spice's departure from the group.
In 1998, Geri Halliwell left the group to pursue solo projects, starting in 1999, with a more sophisticated image, a new video and single ("Look At Me"), and her debut solo album (Schizophonic). "Look At Me" and the album's later singles all became huge in Europe; however "Look At Me" was the only song to become popular, and only marginally so, in America; it was also the only of the album's several music videos to be released in America, where it performed moderately on MTV's TRL, and garnered minor airplay on MTV and VH1's rotations.
In 2001, Halliwell covered the Weather Girls' 1983 song "It's Raining Men", whose video was seen in America only on VH1 as part of a special dedicated to the film adaptation of Bridget Jones's Diary, the song appearing on the film's soundtrack. It was a huge success throughout Europe, as was its follow-up, "Scream If You Wanna Go Faster", but neither of the songs or videos received rotational airplay in America.
The remaining members continued as a foursome, releasing "Goodbye", the first single from their third album, Forever, in late 1998. The song's lyrics paid tribute to Halliwell and talked about how the rest of them would persevere. The video went on to become a TRL regular, though it received no other video or radio play. It seemed the Spice Girls' career as a group was over. However, they made one last attempt at ressurecting their career with the single "Holler" in 2000, a more urban and soulful offering than any of their previous songs.
Though the group is technically still together, they are currently (as of 2005) in the middle of a long hiatus from recording and touring as a group, and each has released solo albums (with respectable commercial success, though generally not in the same class as their group efforts, in Europe). Though formerly successful internationally, each of the girls' solo popularity has waned over the past four years In America, the biggest solo Spice Girl hit is Mel C's Northern Star album, for which several singles and music videos were released in America. The most commercially successful single off the album was "I Turn To You", which became a respectable pop, rhythmic, and club hit in America in late 1999 and early 2000, having charted on the Hot 100.
Mel B's first solo single and video, "I Think I Want You Back", was also released in America in 1999. She enlisted the help of American rap superstar, Missy Elliott, for the song. The song flopped, though it did manage to reach #1 in the UK (in 1998) and receive very short-lived and minor MTV airplay on Direct Effect. That same year, Mel B released a remake of Cameo's "Word Up" from the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack. Though a European hit and despite the movie's American success, it also failed in America; neither the video nor song received airplay.
To date, Emma and Victoria -- though also still somewhat successful in Europe -- because they released their first solo projects later than the other three, have never received any solo American radio or video airplay.
As their layoff extends, speculation grows that the group will not perform or record again. In January 2003, a meeting between all five members spawned rumours of a reunion, but no announcements have been made. To date, such rumors still circulate, as well as, more recently, speculation about a possible Spice Girls greatest hits album and/or reuinion tour. Towards the end of 2003, the Spice Girls were featured on an episode of VH1's Behind The Music, and implied that such rumors might end up coming true sometime in the future.
The platform shoes brand Buffalo Boots model 1310-2 was made popular by the band wearing it in lots of different colour combinations.
Members of the group:
- 1996: "Wannabe" #1 UK, #1 US (1997 release)
- 1996: "Say You'll Be There" #1 UK, #3 US (1997 release)
- 1996: "2 Become 1" #1 UK, #4 US (1997 release)
- 1997: "Mama/Who Do You Think You Are" #1 UK
- 1997: "Spice Up Your Life" #1 UK, #13 US
- 1997: "Too Much" #1 UK, #9 US
- 1998: "Stop" #2 UK, #16 US
- 1998: "Viva Forever" #1 UK
- 1998: "Goodbye" #1 UK, #11 US
- 2000: "Holler/Let Love Lead the Way" #1 UK
• Spice World (game) • Girl Heroes