I had the posters, the pencil case, the filofax. I saw the movie at the cinema three times, had every album and studied the lyrics religiously. And, although many no longer want to admit it, I know that I was not the only schoolgirl that was infatuated with Scary, Sporty, Posh, Baby and Ginger. The Spice Girls were a 90s pop sensation and proved to be a global phenomenon almost instantly, with their first single ‘Wannabe’, released in 1996, topping the charts in over 30 different countries. They went on to have 8 more number ones and 3 chart-topping albums, make a movie (the not so critically-acclaimed Spiceworld) and win 5 Brit Awards. They had Britain and beyond hooked on their irresistible pop tunes, mesmerized by their iconic looks (who can forget Geri’s Union Jack dress?) and ready for a bit of ‘Girl Power’.
Manufactured by music mogul Simon Fuller, The Spice Girls were formed in 1994 as a reaction against an influx of syrupy boy bands; the likes of Take That, Boyzone and East 17 were all ruling the charts and teenage girls’ hearts in the early 90s. An all-girl band was a refreshing change, and Emma Bunton (Baby), Melanie Chisholm (Sporty), Melanie Brown (Scary), Geri Halliwell (Ginger) and Victoria Adams (Posh) were definitely doing it for the girls. Although their vocals may not have been all that, they were no mindless pop clones. The Spice Girls had personality, a feisty attitude and something for everyone. Their simple but successful nicknames, originally coined by Top of the Pops magazine in 1996, quickly caught on and placed emphasis on the individuality of the girls’ personalities. Their distinctive styles meant that girls could relate to at least one of the Spice members: for me, a bit of a tomboy, it was Sporty Spice, for many of my girly friends, it was Baby. Everyone had their favourite and many young girls looked up to the band as role models.
In platform boots, cat-suits and bikini tops, their ‘zig-ah-zig-ahh’ look took the media by storm; their sexualised, eye-catching appearances inflated them to iconic status. However, although in miniscule dresses the Spice Girls seemingly embraced their sexiness and used it to their advantage, they weren’t just about showing a bit of leg. With songs such as ‘Stop’ and ‘Wannabe’, which persuaded girls to put friendship first and encouraged female empowerment, the Spice Girls’ lyrics ceaselessly promoted ‘Girl Power’. Whether a clever marketing tool or a real step for feminism, for many, the Spice Girls embodied the various facets of a woman’s identity and had a heck of a good time doing it.
The Spice Girls became and still continue to be the biggest selling female group of all time, not just the 90s. Bands such as Girls Aloud and the Sugababes have the Spice Girls to thank, as they paved the way for successful women that embraced both their sexuality and their female independence, and also produced a catchy pop song or two.