Christmas 1997 was a special time. I'm sure there were the highlights of spending time with family and rejoicing the gift of giving and celebrating Jesus and all the usual crap, but it blends together about a week afterward and is suddenly no longer distinguishable from Christmases past. While enjoyable at the time, those family memories are not what make that Christmas so unforgettable. Instead, it was the gifts. Oh man, the gifts. My father purchased a Playstation 1 for my brothers and I to share, and we each got individually wrapped accessories for the gaming system ' a controller here, a memory card there, and I received the Holy Grail: NHL 1998 (with Peter Forsberg on the cover!). I never imagined those gifts could possibly be bested by anything ' until I got to the next round of presents. For what did unwrapping unveil but a Spice Girls diary, a collection of Spice Girls fake tattoos and stickers, lollipops and bubblegum, and a shrink-wrapped copy of Spiceworld
The Spice Girls were one of the first groups I ever loved. Likely the first instant where I felt the band was mine, and not something I was listening to because of my older brother (like Oasis), or my parents (the Tragically Hip, John Mellencamp and so on). While it's easy to laugh about now, at the time my friends and I were seriously obsessed. My little brother and I shared a room, and Spice Girls posters ripped from teenybopper magazines plastered the walls. We saw the Spice Girls movie five times in the theatres, purchased the video on the first day of release, performed dance routines to 'Wannabe' at school talent shows, the list goes on. Looking back 10 years after the Spice Girls first took the world by storm, it's hard to see what the big deal was. But man was there ever a big deal.
I've spent the last couple of days listening to their sophomore record Spiceworld
over and over, trying to recapture that reverence I initially felt for the girls. While it hasn't inspired me to return to fandom and purchase Mel B's newest solo album or follow the course of Posh Spice's 9th pregnancy, there is some gloriously cheesy, substanceless pop here. I'd say the charm is hidden under the surface, but the music is so one-dimensional and shallow that the surface is all there is too it. All the better. The Spice Girls music isn't meant to be analysed or interpreted for deeper meaning. If anything, the music is just a corollary for their merchandise and image, which is what they were really
selling. But if you ignore artistic integrity (or lack thereof), there are capable pop songs here which fulfil their function of supplying a fun, cheesy time for all.
To dwell in the negative for a while, there are many weaknesses which weigh this album down from its bubbly highs. Firstly, there are some ghastly bad songs on this album, especially distressing since there are only 10 tracks here, and one of them is a commercial. The lead single 'Spice Up Your Life' is actually one of the least entertaining songs on the album. The song sounds rather cacophonous and attempts to combine too many layers and the whole thing ends up sounding overblown. In order to not be forever irritated by this song, try not to pay attention to the background or you will
want to throw your CD player out the window every time the referee whistle comes in. 'Do It' reminds me of Nsync's similarly-themed lame-fest 'Do Your Thing' and their own pseudo-motivational 'Never Give Up on the Good Times'. People may complain about them being unfit role models for children, but frankly I prefer them singing about sex. Of course the Tipper Gores among us might claim it is about sex anyway. I mean, would you look at that title! Either way the song sucks. And at least 'Never Give Up on the Good Times' has a likable neo-disco backing.
Drawing a card from the mass pile of Spiceworld
's flaws, next comes the lyrics. This album would be well served by consisting of instrumental tracks; we wouldn't have to hear juvenile lyrics, and we wouldn't have to hear these girls sing. Win-win. Then again the background whistle will become more prominent' it's not worth it. My point: the lyrics are bad. Take 'Spice Up Your Life' for example, where they sing, 'yellow men in Timbucktu, colour for both me and you. Kung-fu fighting, dancing queen. Tribal spaceman, and all that's in between'. I prefer the 'la, la, la' refrain, myself. This is outdone by 'Denying' and the line, 'check yourself, but don't forget yourself. Haha, check yourself!'. And then there is the genius 'Move Over', where they manage to bouncily shout 'good vibration! Motivation! Domination! Baby nation! Recreation! Imagination! Crazy Nation!' without breaking out in laughter. Personally I lose it at recreation. But no one is listening to this music for the lyrics ' though I will give them one of concession on this point. They do try to include some positive 'girl power' messages in most of their songs, and while it is outweighed by all their outlandishness, at least they're trying. Something their contemporaries never did (see: Britney Spears).
There is also too much reliance on a couple of the girls to handle the majority of the singing duties. Mel C is the most notable, as she is the only one who seems to handle the more difficult parts. Geri has the most personality and sultriness in her voice, and while she doesn't get many lead parts, she uses her moments in the spotlight well. Mel B isn't a great vocalist but she also has a fair bit of personality and stands out. Victoria and Emma may well not have been present during recording, that's how noticeable their parts are.
As for positives, they're aren't many, other than the music being fun and entertaining in its vacuousness. 'Stop' is a thoroughly enjoyable upbeat song, completely carefree and lively. 'Denying' is slinky and almost sexy. The two ballads 'Too Much' and 'Viva Forever' are genuinely great songs. The girls have obviously improved as singers on this record, and can finally pull off more difficult passages with at least an iota of conviction. Still, they'll never win any singing awards and most of the more complex lines are handled by Mel C (Sporty Spice), which can get grating in its invariability. But even with these limitations, they both stand out, particularly 'Viva Forever', which is sincerely a moving song I never would have imagined the Spice Girls could pull off. The album closer 'Lady is a Vamp' is approached playfully and the girls seem to play it lightheartedly, and it works to their benefit. The song is amusing and entertaining. Geri (Sexy/Ginger Spice) especially shines in the song.
isn't a great record, but it is amusing and awash with personality and flair. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone now or twenty years down the road, since the hoopla surrounding the group played such a large role in the enjoyment of the album, and it can't be replicated. But for those of us who were around and participated in the rise of the Spice Girls, it will forever serve as a nostalgic, albeit embarrassing, reminder of our musical growth and development. And some of us are just lame enough to still listen to it ten years later. At least it beats the solo records.