Album Review: Spice Girls, “Spice” (1996)

Earlier today, I was watching an E! True Hollywood Story on The Spice Girls (don’t judge me- I work part-time and have a lot of free time some days!), which in turn, inspired me to dust off one of my old Spice Girl CDs and give it a listen/review.

Let’s get straight to the point here: The Spice Girls wasn’t a serious band, they didn’t make serious music, and I don’t think they were really supposed to be taken seriously. I was a big fan during their heyday, but I was also ten years old. I don’t really suppose anyone older than 15 would unironically name The Spice Girls as their favourite band, and it’s mostly because they were a manufactured girl group singing obnoxiously cheesy bubblegum pop songs.

Spice was the band’s debut, written mostly by The Spice Girls themselves (which consisted of Melanie Brown (“Scary Spice”), Melanie Chisholm (“Sporty Spice”), Emma Bunton (“Baby Spice”), Geri Halliwell (“Ginger Spice”), and Victoria Beckham (“Posh Spice”)), and a handful of other British songwriters. The album was released 17 years ago, and it shows: the production (mainly handled by European production team, Absolute) is seriously dated, and the songs are cornier than ever, but the one thing that still holds up from 1996 is the undeniably fun spirit of The Spice Girls and their music.

Wannabe is one of those iconic pop songs of the late 90’s; everyone remembers the bouncy background music, that earworm of a chorus, and of course, Mel B’s ridiculous rap (I still don’t know what “zigga-zay-ah” means…). This song doesn’t really hold up now- that backing music sounds even cheesier than it did in 1996 and the whole thing feels a little stale, but the song has some great nostalgic value to it. Every time I hear it, I’m instantly transported back to my living room in ’96, dancing around and pretending that I was one of The Spice Girls.

Most of the songs on the album have the same dated, late 90’s feel to them. Mid-tempo number, Say You’ll Be There, is a lot more mellow, but the sparkly synth and keyboard-heavy backing music definitely has a 1996 time stamp on it. That being said, this song is one that I can actually stomach listening to now; the laid back melody isn’t as over-the-top as the faster-paced songs on the album, and the girls have some nice harmonies during the chorus.

Spice Girls (6 janv) 56

Of course, the big ballad on the album is 2 Become 1, a song I loved at the time of its release, despite naively having no idea that it was about sex. The title doesn’t leave much to the imagination, but when you’re ten, two becoming one could really mean something as simple as two people holding hands. Anyway, The Spice Girls are appropriately sweet-sounding and coy as they sing the slightly risque lyrics in the song (“I need some love like I’ve never need love before/Wanna make love to you, baby…”), and while the song is a bit corny, I’ve always enjoyed the ballad, particularly Mel C’s smooth vocals.

The rest of the album is pretty much what you’d expect from a pop band: cheesy, upbeat tracks that I’m actually embarrassed at having once enjoyed. Love Thing is a whiny, cliché of a 90’s pop track- a definite skip, despite me still knowing all the words. Last Time Lover is The Spice Girls’ attempt at an “urban” song- the slick beat and Mel B’s deep and sultry delivery sound like something you might’ve heard on an R&B station back in the day, but the chorus is still as cheesy as ever (“Do you think I’m really cool and sexy?/And you know you wanna get with me”). Mama is a ballad dedicated to all the girl’s mothers, and while the lyrics are a bit syrupy, the message and the girl’s voices are so sweet that you can’t help but love the song. I could do without the gospel choir towards the end, but that’s just me being picky. Naked is a seductive down tempo ballad, where The Spice Girls defiantly point out that despite their public personas, they were all in their early-20’s when releasing this music. The spoken-word delivery of the choruses is a bit annoying, but the song itself isn’t too bad; the girls sound sexy and the beat is entrancing.

If U Can’t Dance rounds off the album, as a pseudo-techno/pop/dance track. I’ve never been a fan of this song- the backing music is just too loud (the sirens wailing in the background, in particular), and I especially don’t care for Mel B’s rap (seriously, as a side note: why was Mel B always rapping? She wasn’t particularly good at it, and her raps were always lamely written. Is it just because she was the only black Spice Girl? I don’t get it…), nor Halliwell’s Spanish rap.

As I stated above, The Spice Girls aren’t known for releasing revolutionary, thought-provoking music. However, they were one of the most successful bands of the late 90’s and their appeal is still evident on their debut album, Spice. If you’re looking for fun pop music or just a trip down memory lane, this album is absolutely perfect.

Rating: 3_stars.svg

Track List
1. Wannabe
2. Say You’ll Be There
3. 2 Become 1
4. Love Thing
5. Last Time Lover
6. Mama
7. Who Do You Think You Are
8. Something Kinda Funny
9. Naked
10. If U Can’t Dance

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJLIiF15wjQ]
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