Sometime in 1994, the Herbert brothers and financier Chic Murphy, under the name Heart Management, put out a call via Stage Magazine calling for “street smart, extroverted, ambitious” girls who are also “able to sing and dance”. This recipe, which with the addition of sugar, spice, and everything nice, was the perfect combination of ingredients to produce the next big thing: a new teen pop girl group. The search garnered hundreds of responses but this group was eventually cut down to 5: Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm, Emma Bunton, Geri Halliwell, and Victoria Beckham who would later adopt stage names of Scary Spice, Sporty Spice, Baby Spice, Ginger Spice, and Posh Spice, respectively. Together, with their combined talents and the help of a few producers and songwriters they would become a group known and beloved around the world and known simply as the Spice Girls.
Their first album, and most successful, Spice, is the topic of today’s blog and I must admit, I didn’t have any clue how huge this album was. In the 90’s this album was responsible for the rebirth of teen pop and was the subject of near unprecedented levels of success, garnering comparison to Beatlemania (an apt comparison considering the British boy band/girl group commonality). One thing that stuck out to me in my research of this album is that the Spice Girls themselves are the first name listed among the writers on every single one of the album’s 10 tracks. When dealing with this kind of group, the actual band members rarely do anything in the way of writing and producing (take yesterday’s One Direction for example), but it seems that the girls themselves had an active hand in the creation of every song on this album. And that, my friends, is awesome.
Musically and compositionally, Spice is pretty much exactly what most would want out of a pop album. It’s just short of 40 minutes (4 seconds short to be exact), doesn’t contain a single bad song, is never overly deep or philosophical despite revolving around the rock solid theme of girl power, has easy to sing along to hooks, dance-able beats, and always maintains a positive mood. This album works like a charm when used as background noise, but holds up under devoted attention wonderfully, partially thanks to the nice variety in the music. They never step away from being primarily pop, but incorporate aspects of dance, R&B, hip-hop, soul, rap, and funk throughout the songs, and explore the bounds of their central theme as well. My favorite instance of tackling the girl power theme at a different angle is the song “Mama” which, as you can guess, is all about the sacred love and relationship between mother and daughter, and an excellent R&B track to boot. Do the Spice Girls ever reach for being especially thoughtful and artistic? No they do not. Do I want them to? Not at all. Is the album the worse for it? Absolutely not, in fact the inverse might be true.
I’m not above saying that I really enjoy this album, and you shouldn’t be either. It’s deliciously fun, dripping with style, radiates positive energy and vibes, and bumps just as hard when given a spin today as it did when it was released in 1996. If you’re listening along, I really hope that you enjoy this album. My sense, though, is that it won’t be too hard with this one.