|Studio album by Spice Girls|
|Released||4 November 1996|
|Spice Girls chronology|
|Singles from Spice|
Spice is the debut album by British girl group the Spice Girls. It was first released by Virgin Records in November 1996 in Europe, then in February 1997 for the rest of the world. The album was recorded at Olympic Studios in Barnes, London between 1995 and 1996, by producers Matt Rowe and Richard Stannard, and the production duo Absolute. The album is a pop record with an inclusion of styles such as dance, R&B and hip hop. It is considered to be the record that brought teen pop back, opening the doors for a wave of teen pop artists. Conceptually, the album centered around the idea of Girl Power, and during that time was compared to Beatlemania.
Spice was a huge worldwide commercial success. The album peaked at number one in more than 17 countries across the world, and was certified multi-platinum in 27 countries, platinum in 14 countries and Gold in 3 countries, including an 10× Platinum certification in the UK and Canada by the British Phonographic Industry, and Canadian Recording Industry Association, 8× Platinum in Europe by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry and 7× Platinum in the US by Recording Industry Association of America. It became the world's top-selling album of 1997 selling 19 million copies in over a year. In total the album sold 28 million copies worldwide, becoming the biggest-selling album in music history by a girl group and one of the most successful albums of all time.
Five singles were released from the album. The first single, "Wannabe", became a worldwide success went to number one in 31 countries, one of the best-selling singles of all time and selling over six million copies worldwide. The next two singles, "Say You'll Be There" and "2 Become 1", reached number one in 53 countries. "Who Do You Think You Are" was released as the official Comic Relief single in the UK as a double A-side with "Mama" and both songs reached the top 20 in charts across Europe, Australia and New Zealand. In the band's native UK, all four singles went to number one on the UK singles chart and, in the Billboard Hot 100, the album produced three top five singles.
In February 1994, Chris and Bob Herbert together with financer Chic Murphy, traded under the business name of Heart Management, placed an advert in The Stage magazine, which asked the question: "Are you street smart, extrovert, ambitious, and able to sing and dance?". The management received hundreds of replies, but eventually reduced their search down to a final group of five girls: Victoria Adams, Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm, Geri Halliwell and Michelle Stephenson. The new band was originally called "Touch" and moved to a house in Maidenhead. Emma Bunton was the last to join after Stephenson dropped out when her mother became ill.
The group felt insecure about the lack of contract and were frustrated by the direction in which Heart Management was steering them. In October 1994, armed with a catalog of demos and dance routines, the group began touring management agencies. They started to meet with producers, musicians and other business executives, among them were composer Tim Hawes, and writers Richard Stannard and Matthew Rowe. Hawes worked with the group and watched the evolution in their singing and writing abilities. Together they composed a song called "Sugar and Spice", which served as the inspiration behind the change of the group's name to "Spice". Eventually the name was changed again to "Spice Girls" due to an American rapper using the name "Spice" at the time. On 3 March 1995, because of the group's frustration at their management's unwillingness to listen to their visions and ideas, they parted from Heart Management. The group stole the master recordings of their discography from the management offices in order to ensure they kept full control of their own work.
Recording and production
The group were supposed to meet with producer Eliot Kennedy the week after they left their former managers, but the meeting was arranged by the Herberts weeks before their departure. But without access to Herbert's address book, they knew nothing of Kennedy's whereabouts other than he lived in Sheffield. Brown and Halliwell drove to Sheffield the day after the departure from Heart Management and looked for the first phone book they came across; Eliot was the third Kennedy that they called. That evening they went to his house and persuaded him to work with them. The rest of the girls travelled to Sheffield the next day. Kennedy commented about the session: "None of them played instruments, so I was left to do the music and get that vibe together. What I said to them was, 'Look, I've got a chorus - check this out'. Then they were throwing lines at us. Ten minutes later the song was written. Then you go through and refine it. Then later, as you were recording it you might change a few thing here and there. But pretty much it was a real quick process." Two tracks of the album were composed in that session: "Love Thing" and "Say You'll Be There". In the following months the group continued to meet with producers, wrote new songs, prepared demos and searched for a new manager. They met again with the writers Stannard and Rowe. They had previously worked with the girls in January 1995 before their departure from Heart Management; that was the group's first professional songwriting session, held at the Strongroom in Curtain Road, east London.
The album's lead single is a dance-pop song about union and solidarity between friends.
The album's second single, is a mix of pop and R&B, that describes how the girls have been there for each other.
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Having completed that one, the girls wanted to write something more uptempo, so they started to write the song that would be the lead of the album: "Wannabe", which was recorded in under an hour - mainly because they had already written parts of the songs beforehand. The next song they recorded was a slow ballad and the third track on and single from the album, "2 Become 1". The song was inspired by the special relationship which had developed between Halliwell and Rowe during the session. In May 1995, the group was introduced to Paul Wilson and Andy Watkins, the songwriters and production duo known as Absolute. Watkins commented about their first meeting, "They played us a few tracks, which we didn't particularly like. So we thought, this is OK. We can work with this." A songwriting session was booked within the next few days, but the musical association between them didn't seem to go well at the beginning. Wilson remembered, "When they started to sing it was never quite right: from our point of view. It was very poptastic." Watkins recalled, "After two sessions we phoned our managers and said 'This just ain't happening'." It was at this point that Watkins and Wilson heard "Wannabe" for the first time. When speaking about the song, Wilson said "We listened to it and we didn't get it at all. It was so different to what we were doing. We thought is this going to work?".
The next session was the definite one; either they would continue to work with the group or break up their relationship. Wilson recalled, "Every previous time we'd met up with the girls we had prepared a backing track. This time we had nothing." Watkins also said, "They said they wanted to do something up and a bit of fun, so we just off the top of our heads started to come up with a full-on disco backing track, which became 'Who Do You Think You Are'." Wilson said of the song, "The thing is when they wrote it, they were also writing the dance routine, constructing the video, all at the same time as writing the song. And that's when the penny dropped." The girls went on to write "Something Kinda Funny", "Last Time Lover" and "Naked" with Watkins and Wilson, none of them singles, but all of them tracks which lent a touch of classy R&B feeling to the Spice album. Absolute also produced all of these songs as well as the two tracks penned with Eliot Kennedy: "Say You'll Be There" and "Love Thing" giving the duo a guiding hand in six of the ten tracks that eventually ended up on Spice. The tracks that Absolute produced were recorded for the most part at Olympic Studios in Barnes. At this time, 1995, the Auto-Tune facility had yet to come to the market and most of the vocals were recorded with few adjustments made afterwards. Absolute told Simon Fuller about the group they had worked with and asked whether he would consider managing them. Fuller received a demo of "Something Kinda Funny", one of the songs the group wrote with Absolute. He showed interest in the group, began a relationship and decided to sign them at 19 Management in March 1995. In September 1995 the group signed a deal with Virgin Records, and continued to write and record tracks for their debut album while touring the west coast of the United States, where they signed a publishing deal with Windswept Pacific in November.
The Spice Girls were fully involved in the writing of all the songs. Halliwell in particular was clearly a fund of ideas for songs, arriving at sessions with her book of jottings, notes and miscellaneous scribblings which often produced the starting point of a lyric or a song title or just an agenda for the day's work. Watkins commented: "Geri (Halliwell) would come up with the concept for a song. Typically, she'd sing one line and the girls would pick up on it or we'd pick up on it and construct around it and then Mel C (Chisholm) and Emma (Bunton) would be very active. They'd really like to sit and sing melodies and go off and come up with little sections." They "conceptualised" and sang bits of melody and wrote the lyrics. But in musical terms it was not a partnership of equals. Rowe commented: "We had to kind of steer it. It was very different for different tracks really. Some of them were when we were all jamming in the room. We'd just put up some drum sounds and start making things up. On other tracks me and Richard (Stannard) would prepare something beforehand and play it to them. We'd have some lyrics and make them write the second verse." The Spice Girls introduced two key innovations that have had a lasting impact on the way which modern pop acts go about their creative business. Firstly they introduced the idea of songwriting identity. This was a familiar concept in rock bands like Queen or the Sex Pistols, but not in the world of "manufactured pop", where the credits of songwriting would be divided out strictly in accordance with whoever had written the song. The Spice Girls recognised their solidarity as a group, which depended on maintaining parity in all departments, including the songwriting credits and the resulting royalties. They share the songwriting royalties on all the songs irrespective of what any member of the group had or had not contributed to any particular song. The second thing the Spice Girls established from the outset was a straight 50 – 50 split between them and their various songwriting collaborators. Here they anticipated one of the key developments in the pop industry since the 1990s, namely the increasing importance of publishing royalties as opposed to royalties payments made for the performance of the song on the record.
"Wannabe", the most emblematic song of the Girl Power philosophy, was chosen as the first track and lead single of the album. It highlights the slogans the group tend to cite like the union and solidarity between friends and the power exercised by women over men. Despite negative reviews from critics who found the track as "more a compendium of music styles than an actual song", and the group's image as a "pro-woman posing that project[s] lots of false confidence", it was commercially successful, topping the charts in 31 countries, and selling over six million copies worldwide. The second single "Say You'll Be There" described the things the group had been through together and how they had always been there for each other. It received mixed reviews; some critics praised it as a catchy song, others dubbed it as merely a bid for credibility, while others described the lyrics as "confusing". The single was successful, debuting at number-one in the United Kingdom, and peaking at number three in the United States. The third single "2 Become 1" focused upon the bonding of lovers, and how the bond can become so strong that they practically become one entity, through the act of sex; in addition, the lyrics address the importance of contraception. The single received positive reviews from critics, it became the third number-one from the album in the United Kingdom, and peaked at four in the United States.
"Love Thing" is the fourth track; it focuses on relationships and how after many disappointments the girls do not want to know anything about love. The song symbolizes the Girl Power philosophy by showing the support between each other and finding the strength to continue. The fifth track, "Last Time Lover", was originally called "First Time Lover" and was about the loss of virginity, but was discarded and changed to a song full of provocations, where sex is the main issue. The sixth track, "Mama", was dedicated to the group's mothers, and deals with the difficulties in the relationships between mothers and teenagers that appear during adolescence. Reviewers described the ballad as "glossy" and "corny". The seventh track, "Who Do You Think You Are" is about the presumptuous superstar life and how someone can get trapped in the world of fame. The inspiration for this song came from some of the people the group met in the music industry. It was well received by critics, who thought that the song was one of the group's "strongest and underrated songs" and that it (still) "feels relevant today". The two songs were released as a double A-side single, the fourth and last one released from the album, becoming the fourth consecutive number-one of the group in the United Kingdom, and reaching the top ten across Continental Europe. "Something Kinda Funny", the eighth track of the album, is about the "fun" the group experienced together, and how it was fate that they came to know each other. The ninth track, "Naked" deals with vulnerability and the step from girls to women and how this process made the group stronger, something they were experiencing at that moment. It received mixed reviews from critics; some described it as "soulful and funky as anything by TLC or Brand New Heavies", while others considered the song as a "bit of a let down". The last track of the album, "If U Can't Dance", deals with preconceived ideas about people and how sometimes they are totally different from what they appear.
Style and themes
Spice is basically a pop album with a diverse inclusion of musical styles such as dance, R&B, hip hop, soul, rap and funk, which lead some reviewers to call it a pop collection. The lead single, "Wannabe" is an uptempo pop song with elements of white hip–hop, rap and dance music. Two of the three ballads of the album, "2 Become 1" and "Mama", were co–written and produced by Stannard and Rowe, and both feature the use of keyboards, guitars, string arrangements and backing vocals.
Production duo Absolute incorporated a mix of pop and R&B in "Say You'll Be There", which includes an harmonica solo, played by Judd Lander, who also played the harmonica on Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon". The other songs produced by Absolute feature different music genres: "Naked" and "Something Kinda Funny" include pop elements with influences of soul music and funk respectively. "Who Do You Think You Are" is very influenced by early 1990s Europop, and incorporates a disco–style beat that resembles the music of the late 1970s. "If U Can't Dance", another heavily dance–oriented song, features a rap section performed by Halliwell in Spanish and contains a sample of Digital Underground's song "The Humpty Dance".
The main concept of the album centred around the idea of Girl Power, embodying a feminist image, as both Madonna and Bananarama had employed before. Every track of the album deals with different aspects of this notion: The lead single "Wannabe" makes demands of sincerity and is a feminist message of choosing friends over relationships; "Say You'll Be There" motivates girls to stand up for themselves as individuals, while the focus of "Love Thing" is the symbolic expression of unity as a group; "Something Kinda Funny" deals with the identification of goals in life and "Last Time Lover" encourages the use of sexual charm as a weapon to be deployed along with any other skills that would help to get a result.
The album received generally mixed reviews from pop music critics. Allmusic's reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine called the album "immaculately crafted pop" that is "infectious" and "irresistible", adding that "Spice doesn't need to be original to be entertaining" and that "none of the girls have great voices, but they do exude personality and charisma". Ken Tucker from Entertainment Weekly called the album a "devilishly good pop collection", and said that the lead single "Wannabe" is "perky yet tough, catchy yet melodically surprising". Lois Alter Mark from the same magazine called the Spice Girls "Go-Gos with attitude" and described the content of the album as "PG-rated fantasies and come-ons", adding that "the girls may not be ideal role models". LAUNCHcast's Dev Sherlock called the album "pure upbeat ear candy" and that it was "one of the most fun and exciting pop releases of the year", adding that their Girl Power philosophy is "a well-balanced manifesto for young women everywhere that is neither twee nor riot grrrl-angry". Spice was nominated for the 1997 Mercury Prize. However it lost to New Forms by Roni Size and Reprazent. Christina Kelly from Rolling Stone called the group "another bubblegum pop group" that "offer a watered-down mix of hip-hop and cheesy pop balladry", adding that the Girl Power concept is just a "pro-woman posing", and that "the girls don't get bogged down by anything deeper than mugging for promo shots and giving out tips on getting boys in bed".
In November 1996, the Spice Girls released Spice in Europe. Despite negative reviews from others, it became an enormous success globally. The success was unprecedented and drew comparisons to Beatlemania (it was dubbed "Spicemania") due to the sheer volume of interest in the group. The album debut at number one in the UK Charts with sales of 114,000 copies peaked at number one for 15 non-consecutive weeks. In just seven weeks Spice had sold 1,8 million copies in Britain alone, making the Spice Girls the fastest selling British act since The Beatles. In total, the album sold 3 million copies and certified 10× Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). In Europe the album became the biggest-selling album of 1997 and was certified 8× Platinum by the IFPI for sales in excess of 8 million copies. The album reached number two in France and was certified Diamond by the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique, triple Gold in Germany by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, and 10× Platinum in Spain for sold one million copies, the biggest-selling album non-Spanish language in that country. The album it also made a huge impact in Asian countries, peaking at number one in Japan and certified 4× Platinum with sales of 718,432 in March 1997. Was four-times platinum in Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, and three-times Platinum in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia.
In the United States, Spice peaked at number one in the Billboard 200 for five weeks and sold 1,46 million in the first 12 weeks. The album became the biggest-selling album of 1997, with 5,3 million copies by the end of the year. As of October 2013, the album has sold 7,453,000 copies according to Nielsen SoundScan, and was certified 7× Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In Canada, the album peaked at number one in the Canadian Albums Chart. It was certified 10× Platinum (Diamond) by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) for shipments of one million copies. Worldwide Spice was enormous success in every country, the album sold 10 million copies in the first seven months, 19 million copies in over a year and peaked at number one in more than 17 countries across the world. Was certified multi-platinum in 27 countries, platinum in 14 countries and Gold in 3 countries. In total the album sold 28 million copies worldwide becoming the biggest-selling album by a girl group in music history and one of the most successful albums of all time.
Released as the group's debut single in July 1996, "Wannabe" topped the UK Singles Chart for seven weeks and received a platinum certification by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). In January 1997 it was released in the United States, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. It was the group's only number-one single in that country. By the end of 1996, "Wannabe" had topped the charts in twenty-two nations, and by March 1997 this number had climbed to thirty-one. It became the best-selling single by a female group, selling over six million copies worldwide. "Say You'll Be There", released as the album's second single on 14 October 1996, it became their second number-one single in the United Kingdom, and was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). It was a commercial success across Europe, reaching the top ten in most of the charts that it entered. As a result of its popularity, the song was released in 1997 in Australia, receiving a gold certification by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), and in North America, entering the top five in both, Canada and the United States.
"2 Become 1", released as the group's third single on 16 December 1996, it was generally well received by music critics and was a commercial success. It topped the UK Singles Chart for three weeks, becoming the group's third consecutive chart-topper, their second million-selling single, and their first Christmas number-one single in the United Kingdom. In July 1997, the song was released in the United States, peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100, and receiving a gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It performed similarly internationally, peaking inside the top ten on the majority of the charts that it entered. "Mama" and Who Do You Think You Are was released as a double A-side single in March 1997 as the group's fourth single, it became the group's fourth consecutive number-one single in the United Kingdom, making them the first act in UK chart history to have its first four singles reach number one. Additionally, it was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), and performed well internationally, reaching the top ten in many European countries and New Zealand, and the top twenty in Australia, France, and Norway.
Credits adapted from the liner notes of Spice.
|2.||"Say You'll Be There"||
|3.||"2 Become 1"||
|5.||"Last Time Lover"||Absolute||4:11|
|7.||"Who Do You Think You Are"||
|8.||"Something Kinda Funny"||
|10.||"If U Can't Dance"||
|Spanish and Mexican bonus track|
|11.||"Seremos Uno Los Dos" (Spanish version of "2 Become 1")||4:05|
|Australia (ARIA)||6× Platinum||420,000^|
|Austria (IFPI Austria)||Platinum||50,000x|
|Belgium (BEA)||3× Platinum||150,000*|
|Brazil (ABPD)||2× Platinum||500,000*|
|Canada (Music Canada)||Diamond||1,000,000^|
|Denmark (IFPI Denmark)||3× Platinum||150,000^|
|Germany (BVMI)||3× Gold||750,000^|
|Ireland (IRMA)||9× Platinum||135,000x|
|Italy (FIMI)||5× Platinum||500,000*|
|Japan (RIAJ)||4× Platinum||718,432|
|Netherlands (NVPI)||3× Platinum||300,000^|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||7× Platinum||105,000^|
|Norway (IFPI Norway)||2× Platinum||100,000*|
|Poland (ZPAV)||2× Platinum||200,000*|
|Spain (PROMUSICAE)||10× Platinum||1,000,000|
|Sweden (GLF)||2× Platinum||200,000^|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||2× Platinum||100,000x|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||10× Platinum||3,000,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||7× Platinum||7,453,000|
|Europe (IFPI)||8× Platinum||8,000,000*|
*sales figures based on certification alone
- List of best-selling albums worldwide
- List of best-selling albums in the United Kingdom
- List of best-selling albums in Spain
- List of best-selling albums in France
- List of best-selling albums in Brazil
- List of diamond-certified albums in Canada
- Best-selling albums by year in the United States
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A Different Beat by Boyzone
Take Two by Robson & Jerome
Attack of the Grey Lantern by Mansun
Pop by U2
Tellin' Stories by The Charlatans
|UK Albums Chart number-one album
16 November 1996 – for one week
7 December 1996 – 25 January 1997
8 March 1997 – for one week
22 March 1997 – 12 April 1997
17 May 1997 – for one week
Take Two by Robson & Jerome
Evita (soundtrack) by Madonna
Pop by U2
Dig Your Own Hole by The Chemical Brothers
Blood on the Dance Floor by Michael Jackson
Carrying Your Love with Me by George Strait
Butterfly Kisses (Shades of Grace) by Bob Carlisle
|Billboard 200 number-one album
24 May – 14 June 1997
12–19 July 1997
Wu-Tang Forever by Wu-Tang Clan
The Fat of the Land by The Prodigy