Last month, the Spice Girls reunited for a new tour. Well, four of them got back together. Victoria chose to sit out this leg and focus on her fashion empire. The absence of Posh has not deterred fans of the girl group that defined the ’90s, as this unabashed nostalgia trip and only semi-shameless cash grab has had people swarming to stadiums and concert halls nationwide. Reviews have been warm, although critical word was hardly going to matter for something that was practically grown in a lab to pander to our rose-tinted memories of Girl Power and childhood sing-alongs of ‘Two Become One’ long before we knew that song was about f*cking.
It’s tough to oversell just how big a deal the Spice Girls were for that brief period in the mid to late ’90s, although my biases may be hindering my objectivity on that front since I was one of those fans, completely and unabashedly devoted. They only lasted a few years and released a grand total of three albums (two if you don’t count the one made after Geri left). This wasn’t Beatlemania or the first burst of a true artistic phenomenon. Even people who love the band admit that they were always just a great pop act with catchy tunes (and there’s nothing wrong with that). What the Spice Girls truly represented was the genius of branding at a time when Cool Britannia dominated pop culture at large. The band were just one of many British acts or personalities who helped to cultivate this image of suave worldwide dominance, from the Britpop rivalry of Oasis and Blur to the rise of indie film via Trainspotting to the divisive chic of Damien Hirst.
Girl Power, which was so energizing to us young things who had no idea such a concept existed, cannot help but seem blatantly orchestrated for maximum marketing efficiency when looked back upon with the benefit of hindsight. But it worked, as did the Barbie-like strategy of divvying up the women themselves by easy to remember characteristics: Posh, Sporty, Ginger, Baby, Scary. There was someone for everyone and every girl in my school was quick to align themselves with one of the five. I was Sporty, despite my hyper-aversion to all things sports.
You can still start a solid millennial argument by asking which Spice Girl is the best one. This is what we did before we had Chrises to squabble over. All five women have remained steady media presences in the UK as well as around the world in various capacities as presenters, reality show judges, radio hosts, and even occasionally as singers. Their rises and falls and resilient comebacks have fascinated us for over two decades, and even now, we still cling to the ones we adored so much in our youths. So let’s get this fight going. Who is objectively - and by that I obviously mean who specifically panders to my interests and demands - the best Spice Girl?
GERI HALLIWELL/HORNER, A.K.A. GINGER SPICE
Geri was and remains The Most. In a group where, let’s be honest, vocal range was not a speciality, Geri at least had the strength of personality to help compensate for said limitations. Who could forget that head of brassy red hair or THAT Union Jack dress? Geri always seemed to be the one pushing the Girl Power message the most, although that also led to her making claims that Margaret Thatcher could have been the sixth Spice Girl, and we simply cannot allow Tory sympathizers to claim the title of Top Spice. Her solo career started when she left the band, much to the horror of seven year old girls everywhere, and was built mostly on that vampy persona she’d built up that didn’t require her to do a whole lot of singing. Although that did make them a hell of a lot easier to sing along to as a kid. Nowadays, Geri Horner (she married a super-rich guy who works in Formula One) and dabbles in everything, from co-judging Australia’s Got Talent to writing children’s books to appearing in illustrious films like Fat Slags. She remains attention grabbing and a lover of playing it up for the camera, but she still endorsed Thatcher, so…
EMMA BUNTON, A.K.A. BABY SPICE
Bunton is frequently slept on as a Spice Girl, in part because her image was so heavily built on infantilizing her in mega creepy ways that never really did her justice. Emma was cute and blonde and bubbly and generally agreeable, the wallflower of the group often overshadowed by brassier personalities. In the long term, that’s probably greatly helped her, as Bunton has remained a British radio and TV mainstay with her appealing warmth and non-combative style. She’s also got one of the best solo albums in terms of post-Spice music. Her third studio album Life in Mono was a fun ’60s French pop inspired record that never truly got its dues, even though it played to all of Bunton’s breathy strengths as a singer. She’s now a host of the American version of Bake Off, apparently, which feels like a sweet fit. Also she may have had flings with Justin Timberlake and Leonardo DiCaprio so don’t misjudge Baby Spice!
MELANIE ‘C’ CHISHOLM, A.K.A. SPORTY SPICE
You always need the tomboy and Mel C was that for many a Spice fan. I’m practically allergic to sports and an active lifestyle but she was still my childhood favourite. Why? Two main reasons: One, she seemed like the most fun to be around out of the five members, and two, she’s the one who can actually sing. And I don’t just mean that she has a distinctive voice. They all do. I mean that Mel C was the one who could hit higher notes and keep everyone on melody. Listen to those songs and tell me she isn’t the one doing all the hard work. That was also evident in her solo career, and cards on the table now, I think Mel C had the best solo music. Northern Star holds up, even as it sounds so distinctly 1999 in many ways, from the club beats to the Left Eye Lopez cameo. The Ray of Light inspirations are evident, especially in the William Orbit produced numbers, but boy does it work.
MELANIE ‘B’ BROWN, A.K.A. SCARY SPICE
Mel B’s solo career doesn’t get talked about much, which is a shame because she had some solid hits to her name, including a great number she did with Missy Elliott. Nowadays, Mel B is probably better known for her work as a reality TV judge in shows like The X Factor and America’s Got Talent, all of which play well to her blunt but charming personality, a glorious take-no-sh*t approach that made her seem downright revolutionary to so many young girls in the ’90s. her personal life has created a lot of headlines - seriously, f*ck her ex-husband - but women in particular remain drawn to her resilience. She’s the one you’d want in your corner when drama goes down. Also she and Geri did it. Just thought you needed a reminder.
VICTORIA BECKHAM, A.K.A. POSH SPICE
Oh Posh, how I love you. Victoria was the one who you probably wrote off the most as a kid because she seemed so aloof and above all the drama of being in a girl band. She was always so stern faced and seemingly unconcerned with the fun of being a Spice Girl. Some fans still seem annoyed that she decided to sit out this new reunion tour but I heartily support her doing her own thing. She’s built a major business post-Spice and she’s also shown herself to be a self-aware figure who is and always was in on the joke of being Posh Spice. Her dry sense of humour and refusal to smile for cameras remains appealing to a lot of women for a reason. Sure, her solo music was… Well, let’s not go there. She doesn’t need to go there, not with a mega rich and successful husband with whom she has built an empire. Her clothing line is gorgeous, albeit way too expensive for me and also about eight sizes too small. Plus she has four super cool kids and Anna Wintour’s approval. That makes it a whole lot easier to forget the bad solo tunes.
So, who is your favourite Spice Girl and who is objectively the best one? Make sure you vote! What’s your favourite Spice Girls song and who had the best solo hit? I’m expecting a full Spice-palooza in these here comments!
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