Monday, August 29, 2011

Girl Groups, Part 7: Spice Girls



In 1997, I started my college years by enrolling one quarter at Georgia State University, even though I had already gotten accepted at Brigham Young University. It was spring and I heard the most addictive new song on the radio. It screamed out, "I'll tell ya what I want, what I really really want..." The song was an instant hit to my ears. How could I resist the infection of "I really really really wanna ziggazig-ah"? That debut single, "Wannabe" put Britain's Spice Girls on the radar of pop culture. They came on to the scene a year earlier in the United Kingdom and already hit it big across Europe. That spring, the Labour Party came back into power after nearly two decades out of power with the charismatic young Tony Blair, who proved his hip youthfulness by supposedly being able to name each one of the Spice Girls. Well, I guess its like in the United States. The Conservative Party is like the Republican Party: crusty old, rich white people who have no clue what the masses like, while Labour Party (along with the Democratic Party in the United States) is made up of the more common citizen.

Naming the Spice Girls isn't too hard. This was the most fabricated band, ever. Auditions went out and thousands responded. When they whittled it down to five, with one getting replaced after the selection was made, the producers set about creating the perfect pop melodies to ride this Spice wave into reality. The individual personality quirks made them all the more marketable for young girls looking for glamourous role models in the music industry. There's Ginger Spice, the leader of the group. She has what the British call "ginger hair" (when my family vacation in the U.K. in the summer of 1987, I thought it was hilarious when people described someone as having "ginger hair" or "fair hair").

Sporty Spice is the most athletic. She's kind of tomboyish and I don't think she was among the most popular of the girls. Baby Spice can be cute, but almost entirely so. I never found infantilism to be all that attractive, so she comes across as annoying (no woman beyond a certain age in adolescence should wear her hair in pigtails!). My favourite Spice Girl by far was Victoria Adams, also known as Posh Spice, and better known as Victoria Beckham: the lady who landed the most popular athlete in the world: soccer star David Beckham. Posh is gorgeous and knows style like no one's business. Plus, I've always had a thing for women who have the kind of hairstyle that Posh displayed in the early videos. Though I did love Posh at the time, a few years ago when I saw pictures of her in a magazine, I was stunned by how "plastic" she looked. She is probably one of the most shallow people on earth, which is a shame. Just because one is beautiful doesn't mean that they should let their minds go to waste.

My second favourite Spice Girl was Scary Spice, the black lady with attitude and all that hair. When I was in college, one of my roommates (the one who was disfellowshipped from the LDS Church for having "same sex attraction" and who also suffered from manic-depression) really loved The Spice Girls and thought they were the greatest band, ever! Though I liked their first three singles, I never really could get into them because they just seemed so fabricated and their chosen personalities were just bland. I had suggested to my roommate that Japan should create "The Rice Girls." He thought I was being racist, but I think a bunch of Harajuku Girls acting like Asian Spices for their own Rice Girls group would be kind of hilarious.

You know the impact a group has made when the name has entered the American political lexicon. When Sarah Palin gained national attention after John McCain selected her name in his VP lottery, many liberal / progressive bloggers dubbed her "Bible Spice." Yeah, I suppose in some twisted way, Sarah Palin would've made a fine addition to the Spice Girls line-up.

Their first three singles were "Wannabe", "Say You'll Be There", and the ballad "2 Become 1." I lost interest after that. A second album was released shortly on the heels of their debut. The second one was called Spiceworld, with an accompanying movie that I saw once with my sister, but remember nothing about it. I can't believe they got a movie deal but not TLC! I'd rather see the ladies of TLC on the big screen than the silly Spice Girls.

As seems often the case, as soon as the girl group hits it big, the cat fights begin. Ginger got too big for her britches, so she left the group for a solo career. The Spice Girls released their third and final album in 2000, called Forever. Ha! They wish. They all went on to record songs and albums as solo artists, to varying degrees of success. Posh is the only one who really transcended the group, though. She's been in a high profile marriage to the biggest athlete in the world. Through her savvy business and fashion sense, I think she helped create the idea behind "metrosexual." I don't follow the tabloids and know very little about "Posh and Becks" (as the British tabloids refer to them as), but my guess is that Victoria is probably the boss in that marriage. David seems along for the ride.

When the Spice Girls were big on the radio and fans were calling them the greatest band ever, I had to laugh. I knew they wouldn't last. As I've said in previous posts in this series, there seems something about females together that does not lead to longevity. Every single Girl Group seems to suffer from internal cat fights which ultimately break up the group. Sure, a reunion tour with a Greatest Hits album that features a new song or two might always come up every few years, but I think the track record is a given. At most, a Girl Group can expect three or four albums before they're done. Here's a running tally on the studio albums recorded by the Girl Groups I have featured this past week (I'm not including Greatest Hits, remixes, live albums, Christmas or EPs):

The Go-Gos: 3 albums (between 1981 and 1984), plus one in 2001.
Bananarama: 10 albums (between 1983 and 2009)
The Bangles: 3 albums in the 1980s, 2 albums in the 2000s
Expose: 3 albums
Wilson Phillips: 2 albums in the 1990s, 1 album in the 2000s (of cover songs)
TLC: 4 albums
Spice Girls: 3 albums

The clear winner is Bananarama. They've continually recorded music without a decade long gap since 1983. Of course, only two of the three have stuck with the group, which isn't bad. As Meatloaf once sang, "Two out of three ain't bad." However, according to Wikipedia and Billboard magazine, Spice Girls are the best selling female group of all time and their debut album holds the record as the best selling album by a female group (with 23 million sold, 1 million more than TLC's CrazySexyCool album). Despite their success, though, they sure as hell ain't the female Beatles!

Hope you enjoyed my review of the major Girl Groups. Now it's back to my regular random postings!

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