Song for the day

Song for the day 25/06/21: Spice Girls, “Wannabe”

Almost 25 years since the Spice Girls were unleashed onto an unsuspecting planet. Bloody hell.

It may be true that I never forgave the Spice Girls for nicking ‘girl power’ from Shampoo. Still, that doesn’t mean that I ever thought the Spice Girls were anything less than utterly fab. Being as I am very much the same age as the five girls – slightly younger than Geri, Mel C and Victoria, and a shade older than Mel B and Emma – I was of course not part of their target audience, which was the school-age girls and young teens of the mid-90s. But how could I fail to be dazzled by such an explosive pop force as this?

And so here we are very nearly at the 25th anniversary of “Wannabe”, the song that sparked the glittering storm of Spice domination that enveloped the pop scene for a few years to come. However, my introduction to the girls was a lot more sudden than it was for UK music fans, for whom Wikipedia tells me that the video had been on UK TV for many weeks prior to the song’s release. No wonder the UK kids were so eager to get their hands on the song, but down in darkest Australia, I had no knowledge of them before they hit the charts. I first heard of the Spice Girls during one of my 2am sessions listening to the UK chart rundown on BBC world service, the week that this song had crashed into the number one spot. I was surprised that such a bubblegum, pure pop tune had hit number one in this era of achingly hip R&B numbers, but it was certainly a welcome, refreshing addition to the pop world.

Then, a few weeks later, I started up a chart commentary website, which I archly named ‘Straight In At Number One… Again’, after the mid-90s tendency for a new number one every week. This tendency was however very much not in evidence with “Wannabe”, which was on its third week at number one, and so I have my early thoughts about the song on record.

It seems that in my first chart rundown on the 4th of August, when it made its third week at number one but also keeping both Suede and Robbie Williams from the top spot, I was losing my patience with the song a little:

‘Utterly unwelcome ability to stay at number one for three weeks. It’s a cross between Shampoo and Eternal and a fab little pop tune, making this weeks top three one of the best in living memory, but in THE WRONG ORDER! And what the bloody hell is ‘zigazigaaaaah’ meant to mean anyway? Ah well. There’s always next week…’

By its fourth week at top on the 11th of August, I had lost even more patience with the track: ‘This is beginning to get highly annoying…‘ However, celebrating its fifth week at number one on the 18th of August, and keeping a track by 3T – ‘the dullest of ballads‘ off the top spot, I was back on Team Spice again. Though I couldn’t resist throwing a little shade their way for Not Being Shampoo.

The Spice Girls’ previous sins are forgiven this week for their heroic resilience to the 3T track. It’s hard to fathom just how they are maintaining the pole position, seeing as ‘Wannabe’ is a song with one of the highest annoyance factors of recent memory. Still it’s nice for a real POP song to reign for a change, and seeing as Shampoo are currently unable to grace the no.1 spot with their presence, the Spice Girls are a perfectly adequate (though nowhere near as awesome) substitute.’

Week six of Spice Domination saw me give up the plot entirely – ‘A highly uninspiring chart this week, so forgive me for not bothering to try and be witty and interesting about it‘ – and in week seven I had to resort to bizarre nautical metaphors:

The seemingly indestructible Spice Girls hold back yet another tidal wave of high new entries without even getting splashed. Which may be a highly dodgy metaphor but it’s as good a way of ending this week’s commentary as any, I suppose.

Finally, on the 8th of September the girls were tumbled from the top spot by none other than Australia’s own Peter Andre, or, as I referred to him in my chart rundown, ‘the 90’s answer to Jason Donovan, except with fewer good tunes‘ who offered us ‘a flimsy and tuneless bit of background fluff with no distinguishing features whatsoever’. Certainly “Flava” left so little a mark on me that I currently have absolutely no recollection of how it sounds. It seems that, despite my general air of annoyance at “Wannabe” over the course of my commentaries, I would probably have preferred it to stay on for an eighth week.

Despite my grumpy music-journo persona on my ancient site, I genuinely did think the Spice Girls were a fantastic thing for the girls of the day. They were a truly thrilling pop phenomenon, and their brief spin in the spotlight of intergalactic superstardom was a fantastically fun time to live through as a music obsessive. And I would definitely have gone to one of their reunion shows in 2019, had they not coincided with a spell in hospital for me.

So to the Spice Girls I say, Happy 25th Anniversary, and here’s to the next 25. Though you’re still not forgiven for stealing “Girl Power”.

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