It’s twenty years this year since the world first succumbed to Girl Power and we all began wondering what ‘zigazig-ah’ actually meant while slamming our bodies down and winding them all around. What the Spice Girls lacked in coherent lyrics though, we all know by now, they made up for in charisma……..helped by a lot of marketing.
When they burst onto the pop landscape in that famous Wannabe video and trashed a London hotel lobby, inexplicably harassing some pensioners along the way, before leaving on a bus (because that’s what real girls did), most of us were probably unaware that we’d been exposed to one of the most inescapable earworms possible. Wannabe would go on to top the Billboard Top 100 for four weeks in a row.
And after Wannabe had seared itself onto our brains, their debut album, Spice also had Say You’ll be There, 2 Become 1 and Who Do You Think You Are? to let loose on us. The Spice Girls made history as the first group to have all four of their first four singles reach number 1 and they’re still the best-selling female group of all time.
So what was their appeal? Well, in the midst of boy band madness, (think Backstreet Boys etc), for the first time here was a group who championed female friendship and fun over men, being tied down to a life you didn’t want……..and possibly but no less importantly, wearing a bra, as their videos will attest. Scary, Sporty, Posh, Baby and Ginger might have been ruthlessly manufactured by Simon Fuller but they were also the embodiment of the best kind of Friday night out with your friends and instantly relatable as a result.
Sadly all the sequin-wearing, flesh-flashing feminism would turn out to last for concerts and on red carpets and cinema screens worldwide for only a couple of years before Geri Halliwell decided to leave the party in 1998 (minus her infamous Union Jack flag dress that got its own Wikipedia page) and the whole thing went a bit sour.
Now, condemned to starring in Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, radio DJ-ing, judging talent shows and doing the school run for their assorted children (admittedly probably in a nicer car than mine) our heroines have quieter lives on the whole and have begun to embrace middle age. However, they’re doing it on their own terms as it’s quite right that female role models should. Undoubtedly Victoria has probably been the most successful in her post-band life as half of Brand Beckham but I doubt the others care really and their band days will guarantee they never have to worry about paying the bills again (or where to find a black latex catsuit at short notice).
There’s constant talk of another reunion. But do we need one? Not really. They’re ingrained in 1990’s pop culture and inspired a generation of girls (including mega-success singer Adele) but the moment’s passed. Despite their show-stopping turn at the London Olympics in 2012, Girl Power seems a bit irrelevant in today’s climate with such huge female stars as Rihanna and Beyonce around to tread the same path.
However, they’re still enough part of our collective youth to make it impossible to avoid a little run down the staircase on a recent night out at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel where the Wannabe video was filmed. Because I tell you what I want, what I really, really want and that’s to run down that staircase and pretend I’m a Spice Girl (for five minutes anyway).