BY Eric Rezsnyak
Girl groups have existed in pop music going since at least the 1940s. But no girl group brought Girl POWER to the masses like the Spice Girls, who exploded onto the international pop scene in the mid-90s and, in a brief 5-year career as an original act, achieved a level of pop-culture domination not scene since, arguably, The Beatles. Since the group dissolved post-2000, Scary (Mel B), Ginger (Geri), Baby (Emma), Posh (Victoria), and Sporty (Mel C) have all gone to significant solo careers in music, fashion, television, and more. The Girl Power Revolution never ended.
Now, as the Great Pop Culture Debate podcast debates the Best Girl Group of all time as part of Season 7, we also wanted to put forward our picks for the Top 10 Spice Girls songs. Read on, and zigazagAH!
10. “The Lady is a Vamp” (Spiceworld, 1997)
A novelty song with a 40s girl-group vibe, it’s cute, it’s fun, and it speaks to the whole Spice Girls aesthetic while referencing iconic women from throughout the 20th Century. “She’s a power girl in a 90s world/and she knows just what to do.” And these girls did! All five Spices feature pretty evenly on this track, which is somewhat rare.
9. “Too Much” (Spiceworld, 1997)
“Too Much” is a solid mid-tempo ballad with a catchy chorus. Mel C shines in this one (let’s be honest, Mel C shines in pretty much every Spice Girls song, but especially here), although Mel B also gets in some solid bars. For me, the song is best at its climax, as the Girls chant in their lower register.
8. “Goodbye” (Forever, 2000)
The very literal “Goodbye” marks the end of the Spice Era. The last track on their third and final album, the ballad has a bittersweet, wistful quality to it. It’s not clear if the Girls themselves knew that this was likely the end of the road for them as a group. Geri had already left to pursue her solo career, Victoria had married David Beckham and was immediately enshrined as a Brit celeb separate from the group, etc. It’s probably the best song on “Forever,” which may be damning with faint praise, but in terms of Spice Girl ballads, it is solid.
7. “2 Become 1” (Spice, 1996)
Arguably the prettiest of the Spice Girls ballads, which is ironic, because it’s totally about people banging. Yes, it’s a very “making love” approach to sex. But there’s no missing the point that this is about fucking. “Be a little bit wiser, baby/Put it on, put it on” is literally talking about condoms. While coo-ing in your ear. They own their power, they own their sexuality, and they are all about good sexual health. Icons!
6. “Spice Up Your Life” (Spiceworld, 1997)
After making a spectacular first impression with 1996’s Spice album, the Spice Girls returned just a year later with their sophomore album — and accompanying feature film! — Spiceworld. This was the lead single, and a strong mission statement for what was to come in their second, arguably biggest chapter. “Colors of the world [Spice Up Your Life]/Every boy and every girl [Spice Up Your Life].” Basically, it was the Spice Girls’ world, and we were all living in it. And frankly, it was a great place to be. Musically, “Spice Up Your Life” is repetitive, loud, and chaotic. The chorus is really more shouting than singing. And yet, we all loved it.
5. “Stop” (Spiceworld, 1997)
A stripped-down, 60s influenced bop, “Stop” is probably the Spice Girls came to giving us old-school girl group action. While it’s not their most remembered song, once it’s on, it’s among their catchiest.
4. “Never Give Up on the Good Times” (Spiceworld, 1997)
Unreleased as a single, this neo-disco track is undeniable, and true Spice Girls fans understand that. It is infectious, it is joyful, it is Girl Power mixed with a driving beat and some serious joie de vivre. Each Girl gets her own verse, and these moments in the spotlight seem more balanced than many of their other songs.
3. “Wannabe” (Spice, 1996)
The clomping boots running down the hallway. Mel B cackling. You know this song before a single note plays. The Spice Girls hooked us all from the very beginning, and “Wannabe” may be one of the most effective debut of any musical act, ever. In 2 minutes and 53 seconds, you know EXACTLY what the Spice Girls are trying to do: bring back 60s girl-group harmonies amped up with 90s feminism. Resistance was futile! But who would want to?
2. “Say You’ll Be There” (Spice, 1996)
I will argue that “Say You’ll Be There” is peak Spice Girls in multiple ways. The Girls all function brilliantly as a unit here. They also all — even Victoria! — get a great solo moment. The song is terrifically produced. The video is iconic. I don’t know if they ever looked or sounded better. This was when the Mels started to break out as the powerhouse voices of the group, while Ginger served up cheeky sass. And that euphoric ending! It doesn’t get much better than this.
1. “Who Do You Think You Are” (Spice, 1996)
…except here. “Who Do You Think You Are” was never released as a single in the United States, but was a chart topper in the UK and a Top 10 song in numerous other countries. It was the final single off of the debut album, before focus shifted to Spiceworld. And honestly, the machine behind the group moved on too quickly. “Who Do You Think You Are” should have been pushed more because it truly is the beset Spice Girls. It is dizzying, bombastic, relentless in the best way and just a power-packed delivery of everything that made the Spice Girls great.
Do you agree with our picks? Which Spice Girls songs did we forget? Drop your comments below, and don’t forget to listen to our Best Girl Group episode from Season 7 of the podcast to see how the Spice Girls stacked up against the other all-female musical acts throughout pop-culture history!