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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Across The Pond and Beyond - Spice Girls

Isn't it amazing how some trends in pop culture seem to explode in popularity, spend a couple of years at the top of the list for trends and fads, and then the following year, it dies a cold and painful death?

A sort of a flash in the pan, so to speak.

We've all seen it happen before loads of times in our lives. Success is something that we all strive for, and if we're lucky enough, we experience it and enjoy it. But, success can be fleeting, and can disappear as quickly as it came. Some people manage to avoid the one-trick-pony aspect of their success, but for every one of those, there seems to be ten flashes in the pan.

For every Madonna and Cher, there's a Jimmy Ray, Macarena, Disco Duck, and Xanadu. Movies, dance crazes and one-hit-wonders that were talked about for six months or so, but after a while were quickly forgotten about.

(Although, I do know quite a few people who have a cult-like interest in Xanadu, so what do I know, right?)

But this blog topic for today isn't about Xanadu. Instead, it's about a group of five British lasses who formed a group in the mid-1990s and took over the world by storm for a few years. With several songs topping the charts in both Britain and the United States, as well as a movie release and several dolls based on the girls, it seemed as though Girl Power had successfully taken over the world.  But just as quickly as it all began, the phenomenon screeched to a halt, and their popularity took a nosedive.

However, if there's one thing that we can take from the case study of this girl group, its that sometimes everything old can become new again. And approximately one decade since they hit it big, they reformed the group and made just as much of an impression the second time around.

Of course, I'm talking about the Spice Girls, the Across The Pond And Beyond for today.

Those of you who grew up during the Spice Girls heyday period between 1996 and 1999 probably know all about the impact the girlish quintet had in the world of pop culture. How could you ignore it? They were everywhere! In CD stores, in movie theaters, on subway posters, in Pepsi commercials, in videos...they wasn't a whole lot of places one could go where they could escape the Spice Girls.

When the Spice Girls were in their heyday, I was in high school. I believe I was in the tenth grade when the Spice Girls made their way into Canada, and for the next two years, it seemed as though everybody had gotten Spice Girls fever. During that whole year of 1997, you couldn't find a radio station on air that DIDN'T play a Spice Girls song unless it was one of those specialty stations. It was absolutely insane just how much this group of five dominated the scene.

And to think that it all started with this song.

ARTIST: Spice Girls
SONG: Wannabe
ALBUM: Spice
DATE RELEASED: June 7, 1996

It was a standard pop hit, written in less than a half hour. A song that somehow managed to make a word out of the nonsense term zigahzig-ha. It was a song that was about a simple subject...friendship between girls. Even the video accompanying the song was simple. It showed the group dancing through a hotel's lobby and banquet hall causing all sorts of commotion, made even more interesting by the fact that the whole video was shot in one take. Timing was EVERYTHING in the video shoot.

And somehow it all worked out. The song ended up becoming a number one hit in thirty-one countries between 1996 and 1997, and won an award for Best Dance Video for the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards. It was also nominated for Best British Video at the 1997 Brit Awards, and as of 2011 holds the record for the best-selling single by a female group, with six million copies of 'Wannabe' sold. That's more records than any single by Bananarama, The Bangles, The Go-Go's, and Destiny's Child.

While I don't doubt the success of the single 'Wannabe' and several other singles that the Spice Girls released between 1996 and 1999, I for one wasn't into the whole Spice Girls scene. I wouldn't go out of my way to say that I hated them, but I think after the overexposure of the group combined with the fact that their songs were played almost ad nauseum over the course of my entire high school life, I grew tired of them fairly quickly. In fact, I'll admit to liking one and only one song of theirs. The rest of them range from mediocre to blah. I'll post the Spice Girls song I like best at the end of this blog entry.

To tell you the truth, while I wasn't a huge fan of the group when they were together, I will say that after the band split up in the early 2000s, they really seemed to shine as solo artists...well, at least some of them did, anyway.

And, just who were the Spice Girls? I'll introduce you to them all. In fact, if you click on the names of each of the girls, it'll take you to a link to one of their solo projects, as at some point, all five Spice Girls released solo albums. I'll let you be the judge as to which ones you like best, but in this case, I'll arrange this list via my own personal preferences from best to worst. Of course, this is merely my opinion, and I'm sure some of you will agree or disagree. But that's cool with me.

So, let's meet the Spice Girls, starting with the Spice Girl who I feel has bar none the best vocal abilities out of the five.

You know, I actually think that it was a shame that Mel C was given such a background role in the group. In most songs, we saw that Geri and Mel B (and to a lesser extent Emma) were the ones who mainly sang on the Spice Girls records, but Mel C mostly ended up singing the background vocals along with Victoria. I personally think that Mel C had the best voice of them all. I think that had she gotten the chance to carry a song on her own, it would have been a hit.

The example that I posted for her was the 1999 duet that she did with Bryan Adams, 'When You're Gone'. But really, you should check out her other solo work on YouTube or other music sites, because she has got one hell of a singing voice. I also think that just based on how she presented herself in interviews, that she would probably be the Spice Girl that I would most likely hang around with in the real world. Certainly her look was unconventional as compared to the more glamourous looking girls, but that's what made her stand out in my opinion.

Like Mel C, I also felt that Emma got somewhat of a raw deal in the group. And like Mel C, I think Emma also had a fantastic singing voice. The example I posted in Emma's profile was her 2001 hit 'What Took You So Long', but she's had quite a few singles to her credit as a solo artist, and now makes her living as a radio presenter in England. The youngest member of the Spice Girls, Emma often used to dress in babydoll dresses and would put her hair in Angelica Pickles style pigtails, especially in the earliest stages of the group. But as time passed, Baby grew up, and ended up becoming one stunning lady.

You know, I don't doubt that Posh Spice was good-looking. She was a fox. And, I don't doubt her power of celebrity (likely inherited from the fact that she married international soccer star David Beckham several years ago). And you know what, her solo songs while hit or miss with me do have a good beat, and in the case of the example I posted with her 2003 hit 'Let Your Head Go', a funny video.

But as successful as Victoria Beckham has been, she seemed to me at least to be a little on the cool side. Not quite as personable as Mel C or Emma. So, that's why she's in the middle of the pack.  I'm sure that if I ever met her in person, she would end up being very nice...but the odds of that happening are slim to nil, so let's not go there.  :D

Geri Halliwell...the Union Jack dress wearing red-head who ended up being one of the most heard vocalists on the various singles that the Spice Girls released.  She was also the one who ended up ditching the band first, resigning from the band in a well publicized press conference on May 31, 1998. That move would be the beginning of the end for the Spice Girls, as the band would end up going their separate ways after a lukewarm response to the band's first album as a quartet just two and a half years later.

Now, you'd think that because of the fact that Geri's leaving the band was the first nail in the Spice Girls coffin, I'd rank her higher. But, I can't. If you click on the solo example that I posted for Geri's profile (1999's 'Look At Me'), it's not exactly a song that I particularly like. I hate saying this, but a lot of Geri's songs were mostly forgettable. With cover versions of 'It's Raining Men', and original songs with some rather questionable and juvenile lyrics, Geri should have gotten (and deserved) much better.

I know that I have Mel B as the Spice Girl I like the least, and honestly I don't really think that's fair, as I'd probably have a tie between Geri and Mel B. To be fair, she was the first one that had a solo release, with a 1998 duet she did with Missy 'Misdemeanor' Elliot (which is the example I've provided up above). And, I will say that while Cameo's version of 'Word Up' was far superior, Mel B did a surprisingly good job with it.

Really, the main problem that I had with Mel B was the fact that she was a bit too in-your-face, and I felt that especially during the band's hey day, she acted in interviews as if she was constantly on all the time, almost making a point to out-speak and out-talk the other band members. It was even reported that Mel B. and Geri used to do a lot of feuding when the band was touring together. But, I don't dislike her. With recent stints on Dancing With The Stars, and her hosting the television program 'Dance Your Ass Off', her star may end up on the rise again.

So, as you can see, all five members of the Spice Girls had their own successes as solo artists (and some missteps over the years). But when the band reunited for a brief period in 2007 and 2008, the response was overwhelmingly positive, with some of their scheduled shows selling out in less than forty seconds, and had another hit single in late 2007 with 'Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)'.

Proof positive that one should never say never when it comes to making career choices.

Now, here's a little bit of trivia that you might not know about the Spice Girls.

Did you know that the Spice Girls were originally named 'Touch'? That was the name that was given to the group when it was formed in 1994.

Did you know that the group was managed by Simon Fuller, the man behind reality television juggernauts American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance?

Did you know that of the five members that would make up the Spice Girls, only three of them were around from the very beginning? When auditions went on, Mel B, Mel C, and Victoria were some of the first people to audition. Geri missed the first round of tryouts, but was included in the second, and Emma was brought on board to replace another member of the band who was let go from the band due to her not having the drive or motivation to be there.

Did you know that when Geri left the band, she still made an appearance in a single released after the fact? It's true. Although to be fair, the Spice Girls appeared in the form of claymation like fairies in the single 'Viva Forever'.

Did you know that Geri's Union Jack dress was sold at auction to the tune of £41,320? It was sold to the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas, Nevada, and ended up netting Geri a world record by Guinness for the most expensive piece of pop star clothing.

Did you know that the Spice Girls made a movie called 'Spice World', released in 1997? Although the film did well at the box office, it was a critical disaster, and the Spice Girls ended up winning a Golden Raspberry Award in 1999 for Worst Actresses (an award well deserved as far as I'm concerned, as I couldn't even sit through the movie without changing the channel when it aired recently).

Did you know that there are plans in the works to come up with a Spice Girls musical? If all goes to plan, the musical (tentatively titled 'Viva Forever') could open in London sometime in 2012. Let's hope that the musical is received better than the film was.

And, well, there's more information about the Spice Girls that I could talk about, but I think I'll let you look around yourselves.

In the meantime, I promised you that I would post a video of a Spice Girls song that I actually like, and I'm a man of my word. This song (from the movie Spice World) is one that I can actually tolerate, and showcases Mel C's wonderful voice quite nicely.

From early 1998, here's the Spice Girls video for 'Too Much'.

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