Note: Quentin Harrison is one of the world’s foremost experts on the musical legacy of the Spice Girls. The newly updated second edition of his acclaimed book ‘Record Redux: Spice Girls’ was recently published and is available to order here or here.
At the end of 2016, Geri Horner (formerly Geri Halliwell) discussed the enduring appeal of the Spice Girls’ musical legacy with the British publication Attitude Magazine, explaining, “We believe the whole world has its population of Spice Girls. It’s a spirit—bigger than one, two, three, four or five. It’s a movement. A generation that belongs to us all.”
Hindsight has been (mostly) kind to the Spice Girls, the British phenomenon that rose out of the United Kingdom 21 years ago to beguile the globe. Though there are some cynics who will readily acknowledge their brilliant marketing strategies and pop culture impact, they begrudgingly credit the Spice Girls for the music that brought them to the world stage.
Impressively, since their debut album Spice (1996) landed in the United Kingdom—America received it in February 1997—the Spice Girls have collectively and individually released 19 albums over two decades. The albums hold some of the most ambitious, stylistically boundless pop music one can encounter, the majority of it written by the Spice Girls themselves.
Horner, Melanie Brown, Victoria Beckham, Melanie Chisholm, and Emma Bunton’s initial grip on pop, albeit with a noticeable urban slant, sold itself due to its execution via the Girls’ peppery harmonies (and pretty fantastic personalities). This formula made Spice irresistible, but it also forecasted the broader usage of R&B within their sound structure, specifically with their cool, if misunderstood third (and final) group effort, Forever (2000).
But it was Spiceworld (1997), released at the height of the group’s popularity, that confirmed that the Girls had found their voice. The R&B touch remained, this time drawing from disco, doo-wop and Motown versus hip-hop, but it was the fuss they kicked up with Latin influences (“Spice Up Your Life,” “Viva Forever”), arena rock (“Move Over”), and several other sonic textures that upped the artistic ante for the quintet. It remains their definitive work.
Individually, the group continued onto interesting avenues too. Geri’s way with a lyric and melody let her dispense some of the most playful, but no less intelligent tunes across three studio albums. Her sophomore LP Scream If You Wanna Go Faster (2001) is her best moment, surpassing the cheek of her first LP Schizö-phonic (1999) with ease.
Melanie C’s Northern Star (1999) was the obvious critical darling—a first for a Spice Girl at the time of its release. It neatly tapped into the burgeoning post-Britpop, post-Ray of Light (1998) vibes that made the tail end of 1990s pop so compelling. As she moved further into her solo career—her seventh LP Version of Me arrived this past fall—Melanie made MOR rock and adult contemporary her touchstones.
Emma became a “Swinging Sixties” revivalist (think Swing Out Sister) with her second and third albums Free Me (2004) and Life in Mono (2006) respectively. These records advanced the critical thaw toward the Spice Girls.
Melanie B recorded two long players that were accomplished, if uneven. Yet, her steady stream of fantastic R&B singles from 1998 through 2001 still transfix effortlessly; the bulk of them can be found on her debut, Hot (2000).
When Victoria Beckham took up with U.K. garage music in 2000 with the True Steppers and Dane Bowers collaboration “Out of Your Mind,” it became one of three Spice Girls related singles to suggest a bolder creative pivot point in their canon alongside the group’s single “Holler” and Melanie C’s “Never Be the Same Again.” Her eponymous record a year later was safer in its urban-pop execution, but showcased Victoria’s sleek vocal approach impeccably nevertheless.
In all, the collection of 25 songs I’ve compiled below represents a compelling, aural and visual snapshot of the Spice Girls’ 20-year run of pop music. There is something to be discovered with the music of the Spice Girls, something more than mere hooks or nostalgic “bops” for ‘90s kids. This video playlist succinctly demonstrates why they’re one of the most indispensable girl groups of all time. Like Mrs. Horner said, “it’s a movement.”
SPICE GIRLS | “Too Much” | From Spiceworld (1997)
GERI HALLIWELL | “Calling” | From Scream If You Wanna Go Faster (2001)
SPICE GIRLS | “Goodbye” | From Forever (2000)
SPICE GIRLS | “Viva Forever” | From Spiceworld (1997)
EMMA BUNTON | “What Took You So Long?” | From A Girl Like Me (2001)
SPICE GIRLS | “Spice Up Your Life” | From Spiceworld (1997)
EMMA BUNTON | “Maybe” | From Free Me (2004)
MELANIE C | “Here It Comes Again” | From Reason (2003)
GERI HALLIWELL | “Scream If You Wanna Go Faster” | From Scream If You Wanna Go Faster (2001)
MELANIE B | “Feels So Good” | From Hot (2000)
SPICE GIRLS | “Say You’ll Be There” | From Spice (1996)
TRUE STEPPERS & DANE BOWERS FEAT. VICTORIA BECKHAM | “Out of Your Mind” | From True Stepping (2000)
MELANIE C | “Never Be the Same Again” | From Northern Star (1999)
SPICE GIRLS | “Holler” | From Forever (2000)
GERI HALLIWELL | “Look at Me” | From Schizö-phonic (1999)
EMMA BUNTON | “Free Me” | From Free Me (2004)
MELANIE C | “Goin’ Down” | From Northern Star (1999)
SPICE GIRLS | “2 Become 1” | From Spice (1996)
SPICE GIRLS | “Who Do You Think You Are” | From Spice (1996)
VICTORIA BECKHAM | “Not Such an Innocent Girl” | From Victoria Beckham (2001)
MELANIE B | “Word Up!” | From Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me Soundtrack (1999)
MELANIE B | “I Want You Back” | From Hot (2000)
MELANIE C | “Anymore” | From Version of Me (2016)
SPICE GIRLS | “Wannabe” | From Spice (1996)
VICTORIA BECKHAM | “A Mind of Its Own” | From Victoria Beckham (2001)