G roup formed in London in 1994; membersinclude Victoria Beckham (born Victoria Adams, April 17, 1974; Posh Spice); Melanie Brown (born May 29, 1975; Scary Spice); Emma Bunton (born January 21, 1976; Baby Spice); Melanie Chisholm (born January 12, 1974; Sporty Spice); Geri Hal-liwell (born Geraldine Halliwell, August 6, 1972; Ginger Spice; left group May 31, 1998); group separated in 2001, and reunited in 2007.
G roup formed in London, 1994; signed to Virginand released first album,Spice, 1996; released Spiceworld, 1997; released movie Spiceworld, 1997; disbanded, 2001; reunited for tour in 2007.
Awards: Best new act, best British group, and best pop video, for “Say You’ll Be There,” Smash Hits!, 1996; platinum status for Spice, British Phonographic Industry Sales award, 1997; international hit of the year and best British-written single, both for “Wan-nabe,” British Academy of Composers and Song-writers, 1997; London’s Favorite Female Group, Capital FM Awards, 1997; album of the year for Spice, Billboard Music Awards, 1997; new artist, Billboard Music Awards, 1997; best dance video for “Wannabe,” MTV Video Music Awards, 1997; favorite band, duet, or group, favorite new artist, and favorite album, for Spice, American Music Awards, 1998; platinum status for Spiceworld, British Phono-graphic Industry Sales award, 1998; outstanding contribution to the British music industry, Brit Awards, 2000.
T heir name was synonymous with girl power.When the Spice Girls exploded onto the popscene, their dance-pop base shook up an independent pop-driven music scene. The Spice Girls demanded attention, and, according to a contributor for the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, “left a noticeable crater in the pop culture landscape that was still evident by the turn of the century. [T]he Spice Girls made being shallow and fun cool again.” Stephen Thomas Erlewine described the group’s appeal in a biography for AllMusic.com: “Spice Girls use dance-pop as a musical base, but they infused the music with a fiercely independent, feminist stance that was equal parts Madonna, post-riot grrrl alternative rock feminism, and a co-opting of the good-times-all-the-time stance of England’s new lad culture.” From 1996 to 1998, the Spice Girls were a force in the music scene; their presence slowed through 2000, after which the members produced various solo albums.They announced a reunion tour in 2007—the first time all five Spice Girls would be on stage together in nine years.
The brainchild of manager Chris Herbert, the Spice Girls was a “manufactured” group in the vein of the British boy-band Take That. Herbert thought if the concept worked for men, it might work for women, and so he held auditions in 1993 for “street-wise, outgoing, ambitious, and dedicated” young women. Four hundred girls showed up, and each was given one minute to sing and dance. Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm, and Victoria Beckham (then Adams) attended the auditions, all three passing onto the second and final audition. Geri Halli-well missed the first audition, but begged Herbert for a shot; she, along with the other three girls and Michelle Stephenson, were selected to be the five girls for a band called Touch. The five met in June of 1993, and it became clear early on that Stephenson did not gel with the other girls; she left, and Emma Bunton took her place, becoming the fifth and final member of the band that would become the Spice Girls. The name Touch only lasted until August, when Halliwell came up with the name Spice, based on the song “Sugar and Spice” that they had already recorded.
Despite Herbert’s early control and his funding of the work, the girls had different ideas of how the group should go. Given their differing personalities, they wanted to emphasize those differences rather than dress in identical clothing as Herbert suggested. Determined to strike off on their own, in 1994 they took their recordings and headed out, looking for a new manager. They did not find one until 1995, when they signed with Simon Fuller, who helped them get in touch with songwriters and start planning their debut album. Fuller also arranged a number of media interviews for the girls. During a meeting with British teen magazine editor for Top of the Pops, the girls acquired nicknames that would define their role in the group. Halliwell became Sexy Spice, due to her history having done work as a nude model. She later changed to Ginger Spice, for her red hair. Beckham, who had grown up in an affluent family, became Posh Spice. Chisholm was known as both Melanie C and Sporty Spice due to her interest in athletics. Brown, or Mel B, was dubbed Scary Spice due to her tongue ring and interest in hip-hop music. Bunton, the youngest of the group and the latecomer, became Baby Spice. With both a manager and a contract with Virgin Records, the girls launched into the pop scene with their single “Wannabe.” According to Erlewine, “[I]t became the first debut single by an all-female band to enter the charts at number one in England.”
“We’re as shocked as everyone else by the success of ‘Wannabe,’” Beckham was quoted on the Spice Girls Web site as having said in July of 1996. “It doesn’t put us under any pressure to follow it up. If it’s the only number one we have, at least it proves what we’re capable of.” But “Wannabe” was not their only hit on their first album. The girls recorded Spice, which released at the end of that year, and featured “Say You’ll Be There,” and the ballad “2 Become 1,” both of which also entered the charts at number one. Two million copies of the album sold in the first two weeks and, as sales continued, the album became the biggest album of the year in both the United Kingdom and the United States. The sales continued, climbing to nearly 20 million worldwide. Fuller arranged sponsorships for the group, and products including Pepsi, Polaroid, and the Sony Playstation received the “spice seal of approval.” According to a contributor for Contemporary Musicians, “The extremely lucrative marketing franchise known as the Spice Girls showed no signs of slowing the rather frenetic pace of goods and services” they sponsored.
The phenomenal successes encouraged the girls to move to the big screen. Fuller planned their second album, Spiceworld, to release alongside a feature film bearing the same name, in 1997. In the meantime, the girls launched a book and manifesto, Girl Power!, which sold 200,000 copies its first day on the market. Between filming and recording, the girls attended a number of public events, including a Chelsea vs. Manchester United soccer game where Beckham met her future husband, soccer star David Beck-ham, and a concert for the Prince’s Trust, where Halliwell famously pinched Prince Charles’s bottom. Their first live concert did not happen until October of 1997, when the girls sang for 40,000 fans in Istanbul, Turkey. Their international appearances continued with a South African appearance where they met Nelson Mandela, then-president of South Africa.
Neither Spiceworld the album nor the movie lived up to the expectations set by their initial album. Though the album entered the British charts at number one, the contributor to Contemporary Musicians wrote, it “was viewed as a disappointment in light of its predecessor’s phenomenal sales record.” Some critics saw this as backlash against the too-present appearance the Spice Girls had in the media. The movie, which featured cameos from Roger Moore and Sir Elton John, also had disappointing sales. According to Contemporary Authors, “The biggest impact of the movie was that it managed to somewhat bolster the rather lackluster sales of Spiceworld, the album, which helped to keep the group firmly in the eye of the media and the public.” Shortly after Beckham announced her engagement to soccer player David Beckham, the girls began the Spice-world tour.
Despite healthy tour sales, not all was happy behind the scenes. The girls fired Fuller, and the media published several alternating reasons why. Some reported that he and Bunton had had an affair that ended badly. Others blamed money problems, claiming he took a larger cut of merchandising than was his due. Halliwell took over managerial duties throughout their sold-out world tour. But in May of 1998, when the girls appeared in Norway, Halliwell missed two concerts, and the group publicly announced that the five Spice Girls were down to four. “Sadly I would like to confirm that I have left the Spice Girls,” Halliwell announced, as quoted on the Spice Girls Web site. “This is because of differences between us. I’m sure the group will continue to be successful and I wish them all the best. PS, I’ll be back.” The tour continued, though the shift was hard on the remaining Spice Girls. “The first few times on stage without Geri were strange,” Brown said on the Spice Girls Web site. “Obviously we had to share out the lines she sang between us and sometimes I’d forget to sing her lines.” Chisholm commented, “[I]t really hit home when we had a few days off. We were just gutted, we couldn’t even get out of bed. You know, when you feel just so de-flated, absolutely deflated.”
But like the girl power they advertised, the Spice Girls persevered. “The departure of Halliwell at the beginning of the American leg of their world tour did not keep the group down and certainly did not discourage Spice Girls fans from attending their concerts,” wrote a contributor to the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. After the end of the tour, Brown recorded a duet single with Missy Elliot, and the girls together recorded a Christmas single, “Goodbye,” which hit number one. Their personal lives also moved in a positive direction, with both Brown and Beckham getting married and having children. They maintained an aura of celebrity but cut back on their group work, taking some time off from the music scene. Chisholm and Halliwell both released solo albums in 1999 and, in 2000, Chisholm headed back to the studio with the remaining Spice Girls to record Forever. The album had more of a rhythm and blues sound than their previous hits, and only one single from the album topped the British charts.
Whether motivated by disappointing sales for their third album or because the Spice Girls had moved on to other pursuits in their personal lives, the group announced their separation in 2001, three months after Forever was released. Despite the split, all of the members stayed active in the media spotlight, and stayed friends. Bunton told an interviewer for People magazine, “We are always on the phone, checking everyone’s all right. We talk about boys and what we’re wearing. Girly stuff.” Bunton, like Halliwell and Chisholm, released a solo album, A Girl Like Me in 2001, which featured a more acoustic sound than anything the Spice Girls had done together. She released two subsequent albums, joined BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing television program and, in 2007, she and boyfriend Jade Jones had a child. Beckham released an album, Victoria Beckham, and an autobiography, Learning to Fly. She also had her second son and started working in fashion, developing the VBRocks line for Rock and Republic, and her own independent label, dVb. Chisholm released several solo albums, forming her own independent music label. She loved performing live, so Chisholm toured internationally, playing at 200 live shows throughout her career. Halliwell began raising funds for cancer charities, and she took a position as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund, raising awareness about reproductive health. She published an autobiography, If Only, in 1999, and has written a series of children’s books to be published in 2008. She gave birth to a daughter in 2006. Brown became involved in a difficult custody battle when she divorced, then had a relationship with actor Eddie Murphy, which resulted in a second child. Later, she married movie producer Stephen Belafonte. She acted on several British television programs, played the role of Mimi in the musical Rent, and released several solo albums. Brown performed on Dancing with the Stars in the fall 2007 season.
In 2007, the Spice Girls announced their reunion tour, which would begin on the second of December and coincide with the release of their Greatest Hits album. “We’re kind of the same, except we’re 10 years older,” Brown told Ramin Setoodeh of Newsweek. “We’re more classy. Between the five of us, we’ve got seven kids.” Brown revealed in the same interview that all of the children were expected to come on tour with their mothers. The response to the news of the reunion tour was mixed. Jude Rogers wrote in the New Statesman that critics had labeled the Spice Girls as “washed-up old crones, backbiting bitches, merciless money-grubbers, Top 40 turkeys and a short-frocked, slo-ganeering riot squad who destroyed feminism forever.” Rogers was inclined to buy into the negative image, but after he saw the show he changed his mind. “You were reminded of what was good about the Spice Girls,” he wrote. “While other mid-Nineties pop girls were like processed meat, plastic-wrapped and sealed, the Spice Girls came across as individuals with a real, tangible sense of humour.” Concerts sold out in the United States and United Kingdom. Reviewer Brian Mccollum of the Detroit Free Press wrote of the concert, “The show was a reminder of a gentler age, before the squiggly sounds of pitch-corrected voices filled the radio, before the gossip exploits at PerezHilton.com got more attention than the music that’s supposed to make any of it matter in the first place.” Despite the tour’s success, the last leg was cancelled, ending the tour before the Spice Girls were to perform in China, South Africa, Australia, and Argentina. Some critics believed that Beckham was the source of the split, given her comments to the World Entertainment News Network: “I’m not in the music industry any more. I’m in the fashion industry.”
Assessing the Spice Girls’ career in the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, the contributor wrote, “[A]t their best, they provided a self-esteem boost for thousands of young girls and, at their worst, may have only been ‘mere’ entertainment.” Paul Conroy, head of Virgin Records, told Music Week, “I have never known an act that had to work as hard as those girls did for everything that they got and have always thought they deserved every bit of their success because of it.” In the same article, Alan Edwards, who worked public relations for the band in the 1990s, said, “Although [the media] might knock them, the Spice Girls are very loveable and British. Like anything from the Beatles, Carry On Films and the Queen Mother to Michael Caine, they have become part of our culture.”
As the Spice Girls
Spice Girls, Virgin, 1996.
Spiceworld, Virgin, 1997.
(Without Geri Halliwell) Forever, Virgin, 2000.
Greatest Hits, Virgin, 2007.
Hot, Virgin, 2000.
L.A. State of Mind, Amber Cafe´, 2005.
A Girl Like Me, Virgin, 2001.
Free Me, 19 Recordings/Universal, 2004.
Life in Mono, Universal, 2006.
Northern Star, Virgin, 1999.
Reason, EMI, 2003. This Time, 2007.
Schizophrenic, EMI, 1999.
Scream If You Wanna Go Faster, EMI, 2001.
Contemporary Musicians, Gale (Farmington Hills, MI), vol. 22, 1998; vol. 54, 2005.
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press (Farmington Hills, MI), 2000.
Detroit Free Press, February 17, 2008.
Music Week, November 10, 2007, p. 13.
New Statesman, January 7, 2008, p. 40.
Newsweek, November 12, 2007, p. 89.
People, February 7, 2005; February 14, 2005, p. 56.
World Entertainment News Network, February 1, 2008; February 3, 2008.
Biography Resource Center Online, Thomson Gale, 1999, 2003.
Contemporary Authors Online, Thomson Gale, 2005.
“Spice Girls: Biography,” AllMusic.com, http://www.allmusic.com/ (February 22, 2008).
“Timeline,” Spice Girls, http://www.thespicegirls.com/facts/timeline/ (February 22, 2008).
—Alana Joli Abbott