Real pop stars are more than just popular; they are barometers for an era, providing the images for the world’s memories of a particular time. Look back to the 1960s and we see those Beatles smiles and monochrome suits. Cast you mind back to the late 1990s and it is those Girls, those songs, that dress.
Music snobs might sniff at the comparison to the Fab Four but all those Beatles dolls, Beatles annuals and movies that made John, Paul, George and Ringo such omnipotent beings in the 1960s were re-created in the 1990s with just as much fervour around Emma, Geri, Mel B, Melanie C and Victoria.
Real pop stars can do their stuff on stage and on record, but they are also unique, entertaining, fun and hold the attention of the whole world just by being themselves.
There have not been many, but the The Spice Girls qualify with ease.
They were draped in the Union Jack colours as much as the Swinging Sixties (literally in Geri’s case at the 1997 BRIT Awards) and what made the Spice experience so special was that this was a British all-female group who had moulded themselves into a phenomenon through talent, single-minded determination and the force of five personalities moulding into one irresistible package. The girls loved them as role models, but Spice even converted the boys to the pop cause.
Spice Girls were so good, they named them all twice. Grandmothers, even teenagers who missed them the first time round, can still name Baby, Ginger, Scary, Sporty and Posh.
In July 1996, it was all just beginning for us, startled into taking notice by the arresting video to Wannabe, bringing the phrase Zig-a-zig-ah into the English language. For the Girls, it was just their explosion into the public eye after two years of hard work, holed up together working on songs with producers, on dance routines, honing their natural instinct for stardom.
Suddenly, Wannabe had shone the spotlight on them and they were not about to let it go. That song went to Number 1 in the UK and 30 other countries. It broke America, where it became the highest debut ever in the Hot 100 chart by a British band, beating the Beatles’ I Want To Hold Your Hand. The next two singles, Say You’ll Be There and 2 Become 1 made Number 1 in 53 countries.
They were the fastest selling British band since the Beatles when debut album Spice was released in November 1996 and comparisons were made to the Fab Four in terms of British balance of trade as much as musical impact.
Second album Spiceworld sold over ten million copies, spawning massive hit singles Spice Up Your Life, Too Much, Stop and Viva Forever and of course Spiceworld: The Movie. It followed the Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night into the pantheon of self-deprecating studies on the pop phenomenon. The film grossed in excess of $100 million in cinema ticket and DVD sales.
The Girls toured the world, silencing cynical critics by receiving hefty acclaim for their stage spectacle.
Of course, Geri left to pursue her own destiny and the Fab Five became four. But they carried on, as popular as ever and released third album Forever in 2000 before going their separate ways.
Their record of 9 UK Number 1 singles and 55 million records sold is breathtaking by the standards of this new millennium.
Their solo careers collectively posted almost as impressive numbers. Over the course of the last 7 years, the world’s media has followed every detail of the Girls’ lives and that hunger for extra Spice was graphically displayed on June 28, 2007 when the Emma, Geri, Mel B, Melanie C and Victoria came together at London’s O2 Arena to announce their reunion tour.
The global media welcomed them back with obvious affection as the group seemed as fresh and fun as they did in that 1996 Wannabe video. The global public were even more enthusiastic, registering for the ticket ballot at www.thespicegirls.com in droves. 3 million registered within a month, extra dates were announced and masses of media attention ensued.