20 years after its initial release, Suraj Hallan tells us why the Spice Girls’ multi-platinum album is still just as relevant and empowering today
After their debut album, Spice, became the best-selling album of all time by a girl-group, with sales of 31 million, the pressure was on for the Spice Girls to deliver with their follow-up. In late 1997, the group gifted pop music with their second album, Spiceworld. The album became a global success, shifting a smooth 20 million worldwide, becoming one of the best-selling albums of all time. However, despite its success in the 90s, is the message and influence of this album still relevant 20 years on? Of course it is!
The opening to the album, ‘Spice Up Your Life’, is filled with crazy nonsense lyrics which make no sense whatsoever, showing just how crazy, fun and outlandish the Spice Girls were. The song is clearly one which aims to uplift fans, with its motivational lyrics and up-tempo Latin flair and salsa feel. It is a powerful start to the album which instantly hooks in the listener. The highlight of the song is where each member of the group has a spoken bridge: ‘flamenco, lambada, but hip-hop is harder, we moonwalk the foxtrot, then polka the salsa’. This further emphasises the dance feel of the song and shows how the Spice Girls appealed to the masses due to the Latin influences used in the song. ‘Spice Up Your Life’ has inspired a new generation of stars, with the song having been covered by the likes of Adele, and Emma Stone often citing the single as a personal favourite too. Furthermore, groups like Girls Aloud, The Pussycat Dolls, Little Mix and Fifth Harmony often cite the Spice Girls as one of their biggest inspirations.
After a powerful and brash opening, Spiceworld moves on at a gentler pace. The second track, ‘Stop’, is pure Motown perfection, which follows on well from the previous track. Like ‘Spice Up Your Life’, it is a dance song, but slower. The song aims to show how, despite their commercial success and wide appeal, the group seem to want to take it slowly and have had enough of the constant press invasion and spotlight. This can be seen in lyrics like ‘I need somebody with a human touch’ and ‘gotta slow it down baby, gotta have some fun’.
This same feeling of discontent is also mirrored in Track 3, ‘Too Much’, one of two ballads on the album. Despite serving as the opening track to their film, Spiceworld: The Movie, and becoming one of the most iconic movie openings ever, again, the group is showing how too much success is not necessarily a good thing and that it’s sometimes good to take a step back. An important life lesson which is even more relevant today, in a time where many are suffering from mental health issues. What comes after Track 4 is nothing short of a disco and dance masterpiece, ‘Never Give Up On the Good Times’. Its instantly funky intro with piano/drum features and infectious lyrics make it a pure shame that this song was never a single from the album; it would’ve been a hit. The song speaks of a pregnant woman who refuses to give up on her life and the good times, despite what society expects of her. This is a highly powerful message even 20 years on in advancing the cause and status of women.
Later in the album, the listeners and fans are given an even deeper feeling of empowerment. The song ‘Do It’ addresses confidence issues. Lyrics like ‘don’t care how you look, it’s just how you feel…’ aim to show people with low self-esteem that they should not dwell at all on how society sees them, it’s only the way people see themselves that matters. ‘Do It’ is one of the stand-out tracks as its message still has relevance today; many young people and teens are feeling the pressure of social acceptance.
At Track 9, we come onto the second and final ballad on the album, ‘Viva Forever’, a beautiful symphony which signifies the importance of friendship. The use of the Spanish guitar gives the listener chills, the harmonies in the chorus, low singing key of Mel B and solo by Victoria Beckham add to the song’s charm. With its important message and pleasantly chilled-out sound, this is the best of the two ballads on the album and, as the type of song to give you goose bumps and make you feel all warm inside simultaneously, probably the best song on the album too. The final track, ‘The Lady Is a Vamp’ has a very cabaret, burlesque and theatrical sound, with the vocals of Geri Halliwell and Victoria Beckham standing out in particular. The track lists icons of the past, including Elvis Presley, Bob Marley and The Supremes. Towards the end of the song the Spice Girls then add their own names to the list. It’s almost as if they are adding themselves to the list of legends. Well, they weren’t wrong.
The Spice Girls are the epitome of a girl group. They are the best-selling girl group of all time, with 85 million records sold. No girl group, not even Destiny’s Child, TLC, Fifth Harmony or Little Mix, have managed to outsell The Spice girls, and I cannot see any girl group in the future surpassing the success of the Spice Girls. This legendary status is clearly heightened by Spiceworld, the thing is loaded with hits. The album has influenced new artists and entertainers with its messages of empowerment, female unity, self-confidence, friendship, fun and taking the time out to work on yourself, messages that are still important messages 20 years on. Spiceworld may have been released 20 years ago, but it is an album of the present and future and will continue to inspire. It is an outstanding contribution to music and receives my critical acclaim. Go download it, you will not regret it!