• Old 'Stache

Feminism, with a Side of Spice

written by: on April 29, 2011

Scary, Sporty, Baby, Ginger and Posh. Saying those words sequentially can mean only one thing: the Spice Girls.

In the mid-1990s a familial management company lead by Bob and Chris Herbert were seeking to break the monotony of pop music in a world saturated with all-male groups like Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync and 98 Degrees. Yet, there was no strong female group.

In 1994 Heart Management, which included the Herberts, published an ad seeking females aged 18-23 to audition for a new pop group. After various auditions the final five were chosen: Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham, Melanie “Scary Spice” Brown, Emma “Baby Spice” Bunton, Melanie “Sporty Spice” Chisholm and Geri “Ginger Spice” Halliwell. They would become the Spice Girls.

1996 was a big year for the group. Top of the Pops magazine deemed the women with their iconic aliases. Beckham—then Victoria Adams—had an upper-middle class upbringing and fashion-forward style. Brown had an outrageous attitude and loud appearance. Bunton was the youngest of the group and was known for dressing effeminately. Chisholm was naturally athletic and frequently wore tracksuits. Halliwell was bestowed to Ginger for her vibrant red hair.

1996 also marked the year for the Spice Girls’ first single “Wannabe.” It was released in the U.S. a year later, but was already an international success. Spice was successful too, having sold 23 million copies worldwide. Spice was a global sensation that featured a phenomenal string of chart-topping hits. Spice went eight-times platinum in the U.S. and became one of the best-selling albums by a girl group of all time.

Spice opens with “Wannabe,” the triumphant girl power anthem about loyalty in friendship. The single gave the pop world that infamous chorus “If you wanna be my lover/You gotta get with my friends.” The second track “Say You’ll Be There” is another gem from the Spice Girls repertoire. Here the girls sing with a trace of synth in the background to an upbeat song about—what else—relationships.

They say they’ll give us everything if we promise to be there. Fair enough Spice Girls, fair enough.

Spice features a variety song styles. The group experiments with ballads, R&B and finds themselves at home with up-tempo pop songs. The third track on Spice, “2 Become 1,” is a ballad that shows the softer side of the Spice Girls. Here the group has a breathy songstress feel while singing about making love. It’s soft, subtle and honestly, a great song. “Last Time Lover” features deep bass chords and low, gritty vocals that sound reminiscent of TLC. The track still shows off the fun side of the Spice Girls when the chorus asks ,“Do you think I’m really cool and sexy?” “Mama” is another ballad about unknowingly becoming best friends with your mom. All together now: Aww. Not only is the song adorable, but also it has some interesting keyboard work and who doesn’t love a gospel choir at the end of a song?

During the final tracks of the album, the Spice Girls showcase their abilities to do soft and calm pop songs but with moments of their upbeat and jazzy style. “Who Do You Think You Are” showcases Halliwell doing some raspy vocals on top of a disco-like beat. Bright horns backlight the flashing chorus of the track.

Spice offered some hypnotizing pop songs that were catchy and PG for the kids, but provocative enough for the older listeners. It was the album that launched the girl group into pop stardom.

This was the jumping point for the “girl power” movement. While “girl power” was not a new saying, the Spice Girls really brought it back to life in the 1990s as a branch of third-wave feminism, which is about identity as a woman and bringing one’s own values into the feminist culture.

The Spice Girls were teaching young girls about loyalty and strength in womanhood. “Girl Power” became a mantra among Spice Girls fans and empowered young women to be proud of their gender.

Following Spice, the group released Spice World, which was also the title of the feature film staring the quintet and featured the infamous single “Spice Up Your Life.” While the song and album became best sellers, good things can’t last forever.

In 1998 Halliwell left the group from differences among the members. Halliwell began a solo career and the four remaining spices trudged on. Most of the group’s efforts to continue were stunted because of Halliwell’s departure. Two years after losing Ginger Spice the group released Forever. The album was nowhere near as successful as their past work. Eventually the girls abandoned the album and began solo work.

Not only did the women achieve success as a group, their solo careers faired pretty well too. Halliwell went to write a best-selling children’s book series called Ugenia Lavender. Chisholm is working on her 5th studio album set to be released later in 2011. Bunton is the host of a UK talent show, “Don’t Stop Believing.” Brown went on to release her own fitness DVDs and even had her own reality show on the Style network. Beckham has her own fashion line.

If one thought the spice from their life was gone, they were wrong. The Spice Girls reunited in 2007 for a world tour. The London date sold out in 38 seconds and yes, all five members were there. The comeback was strong, and all dates of the tour sold out.