It’s hard to believe that it’s been twenty years since Rolling Stone writer David Wild declared: “it’s the Spice Girls’ world now, and aren’t the rest of us really, really lucky to live in it?”
Twenty years ago today (November 3 1997), the Spice Girls released their second studio album “Spiceworld.” For those that would like to take a little trip down memory lane, this album features hits like “Spice Up Your Life,” “Stop,” and “Too Much.” The Spice Girls were already on top of their game, after the global commercial success of their first album “Spice” in 1996. “Spiceworld” just prolonged the reign of “Spicemania” in the 90s.
While they weren’t everyone’s cup of tea, with Rolling Stone’s David Wild stating that this album was “a happy place filled not with music of good taste but with music that tastes good,” it cannot be denied that the Spice Girls were the face of the “Cool Britannia” movement of the 90s. I mean, Ginger Spice’s go-to item was a Union Jack dress! Time also refers to them as the most recognizable faces of “Cool Britannia,” suggesting that Great Britain took full advantage of being “spiced up,” by the Fab Five. By 1997, London was the “cool” place to be.
And let’s not forget the empowering message of “Girl Power,” which really brought feminism into the mainstream conversation. Some have even credited the Spice Girls with reinvigorating feminism in the 90s with their adoption of the phrase. Others have praised the Spice Girls as their “gateway to feminism,” as explored in a 2012 article by The Guardian. Meanwhile, David Wild refers to them as “feminist cheesecake.” Both sound good to me!
All the Spice Girls, but most notably Ginger Spice, regularly used the phrase “Girl Power” (often accompanied by a peace sign). As one of the best-selling female groups of all time, it was easy for young girls to identify with their message of strong female friendship and female solidarity, as demonstrated by the iconic girl power anthem “Wannabe” from their first album.
“Girl Power” still dominates their second album “Spiceworld,” with singles like “Stop” begging for a “human touch,” and “Spice Up Your Life” as the call to action to young fans to live their best spice life. Yet, there is a lot of experimentation with other genres, as seen on the slow ballad “Viva Forever.” There are hints of R&B and hip-hop, but at the core, the songs remain true to their light-hearted manufactured dance pop. “Spiceworld” largely received positive reviews from critics; Stephen Thomas Erlewine praised it as “a pure, unadulterated guilty pleasure and some of the best manufactured mainstream dance-pop of the late ’90s.”
If we rewind the clock twenty years, we would also see the Spice Girls preparing for the release of their first film “Spice World,” the ridiculously fun and quirky musical comedy released on December 15, 1997. With the Spice Girls starring as themselves, the plot takes on a super meta-narrative as they are going to be the subject of a film on the Spice Girls, all the while racing to their final tour stop in London’s Royal Albert Hall. In between there are crazy stalker paparazzi popping out of toilets and visits from aliens, who are really just big Spice Girl fans.
Clearly, 1997 was the year that proved that it was a Spice World, and we were all just living in it. Now, let’s all go through our old Spice Girl cassettes and CDs to celebrate the twenty year mile stone of this iconic girl group. Girl Power!