Spice Up Your Life

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"Spice Up Your Life"
Single by Spice Girls
from the album Spiceworld
B-side "Spice Invaders"
Released 13 October 1997
Format
Recorded 1997
Genre Latin pop, dance-pop
Length 2:53
Label Virgin
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
  • Matt Rowe
  • Richard Stannard
Spice Girls singles chronology
"Mama" / "Who Do You Think You Are"
(1997)
"Spice Up Your Life"
(1997)
"Too Much"
(1997)
Music video
"Spice Up Your Life" on YouTube

"Spice Up Your Life" is a song by the British pop group Spice Girls. It was written by the group members, with Matt Rowe and Richard Stannard, at the same time as the group was filming scenes for their movie Spice World. The song was produced by Rowe and Stannard for the group's second album Spiceworld, released in November 1997.

"Spice Up Your Life" is a dance-pop song with influences of Latin rhythms such as salsa and samba. The lyrics are inspired by Bollywood films and reflects the group desire to "write a song for the world". The music video, directed by Marcus Nispel, features the Spice Girls in a futuristic setting, inspired by the 1982 film Blade Runner, controlling every aspect of society in a dark futuristic cityscape. The group promoted the song heavily, performing it on many television programmes and award shows.

Despite the lukewarm reception from music critics, it was a commercial success. Released as the album's lead single in October 1997, it topped the UK Singles Chart on 19 October 1997 for one week, becoming the group's fifth consecutive chart-topper. This made the Spice Girls the first act to have its first five singles reach number one in the United Kingdom. It performed almost as well internationally, peaking inside the top five on the majority of the charts that it entered. In the United States, the song did not perform as well as their previous releases, peaking at number eighteen on the Billboard Hot 100.

Background[edit]

In June 1997, the group began filming scenes for their movie Spice World. At the same time, Virgin Records started the first marketing meetings for the promotional campaign for the album Spiceworld, set to be released in November.[1] No song had been written for the album at this point, so the group had to do all the song-writing and recording at the same time as they were filming the movie.[2] Between takes and at the end of each filming day,[3] the group usually went straight into a mobile recording studio set up in a Winnebago, which followed them between film sets.[2] The schedule was physically arduous with logistical difficulties,[1] as Melanie Brown commented on in her autobiography: "doing the two full-time jobs at the same time took its toll and within a couple on weeks, exhaustion set in."[3]

Writing and recording[edit]

A session with the production and songwriting duo Richard Stannard and Matt Rowe was booked to record the group's next single. During the recording of the Spiceworld tracks, the group was so busy with the filming schedule that the quality of their contributions became more erratic and piecemeal. About the writing process during the session Rowe recalls:[4][5]

I remember when they came to record 'Spice Up Your Life'. It was in the middle of the chaos. It had been booked in, that they were coming in to record their next single, and write it, with us. It was at Whitfield Street Studios and there was going to be an MTV crew there filming them as they did this, which there was. Well, how on earth can you possibly do this? You can't write and record a song in half-an-hour with a film crew watching.

The session was interrupted constantly, with people entering the building, phoning them, or throwing things through the window. Eventually, when the filming crew left the room, the group managed to finish the song.[4] Stannards commented about the inspiration behind it to Music Week: "We were talking about Bollywood films, the colours and how the Spice Girls could present themselves. It was a matter of how do we get everything in to one song?"[6] All the writing and the vocal recording was completed in one afternoon,[4] and instead of taking turns, the five members went inside the vocal booths and recorded the chorus together. Brown commented that for this reason the final mix sounds "spontaneous and full of energy".[3]

B-side[edit]

"Spice Up Your Life" was already finished and ready to be released, but nothing was recorded for the B-side. Every other song available had been used in the Spice album, and the group needed a new track for their next single. A session with Paul Wilson and Andy Watkins—the songwriters and production duo known as Absolute—was booked. Because of the limited time and the scarce creative inspiration at that point, Virgin told the duo to make anything they liked.[7]

A 17-second sample of "Spice Invaders", the single's B-side, which features the group in a conversation, humming and talking about random things.

A 20-second sample of the song, featuring the group singing the last part of the chorus, followed by a spoken bridge, in which they mention different dance styles, with a backing track that have influences of Latin rhythms such as salsa and samba.

Problems playing these files? See media help.

The duo created "Spice Invaders" by placing four microphones and telling the group to just talk about anything they wanted, the conversation was recorded and as Wilson described it, a "hideous bubblegum" backing track was added behind the voices. After the group left, Watkins and the mix engineer finished the track during the night.[7]

Composition[edit]

"Spice Up Your Life" is an uptempo dance-pop song, with influences of Latin rhythms such as salsa and samba.[8][9] It is written in the key of F minor, with a time signature set on common time (4/4), and moves at a fast tempo of 126 beats per minute.[10]

The song is constructed in a verse-pre-chorus-chorus form, with a bridge before the third and fourth chorus, and uses a simple chord progression of Fm–C7.[10] It opens with an introduction, which consists of the repeated use of the word la.[10] The first verse follows, the lyrics are an international rally cry, targeted to a global market,[6] as Melanie Chisholm described it: "We always wanted to do a carnival tune and write a song for the world."[11] After the first verse, the group sings the pre-chorus and the chorus. The same pattern occurs, leading to the second chorus. A spoken bridge, in which the girls mention different dance styles,—flamenco, lambada, hip-hop, foxtrot, polka, salsa and haka—precedes the third chorus. The group closes the song repeating the chorus for a fourth time.[10]

Release[edit]

"Spice Up Your Life" was released in the United Kingdom on 13 October 1997, in two single versions.[12] The first one, released in cassette and maxi single format, included the Mark Stent radio mix, the Morales radio mix, an instrumental version of the song, and the B-side "Spice Invaders". The second version, released on digipak format, contained three tracks: the Stent radio mix, the David Morales carnival club mix, and the Murk Cuba Libre mix.[12] In the United States, Virgin Records sent the song to radios on 1 October 1997, and the single to record stores on 21 October 1997.[13] The American version, released in cassette and maxi single format, featured the same track listing as the first UK version.[14]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

"Spice Up Your Life" received mostly negative reviews from music critics, with many of them criticizing the lyrics and the Latin-inspired music. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly described it as a "ha-cha-cha slice of tropical-boat-cruise frivolity".[15] In a review of Spiceworld, The Miami Herald said that "the busy Latin-styled first single is a condescending dud".[16] George Varga of The San Diego Union-Tribune believed that the song "does for Latin music what Hanson has done for death metal",[17] while Andy Gill of The Independent called it a "pseudo-salsa [...] pop pastiche".[8] However, Scott Schinder of Newsday was pleased with the track, referring to it as a "silly but irresistible uplift".[18] South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Sean Picolli described it as a "salsa-lite hootenanny".[19] Rolling Stone magazine's David Wild called it "a global call to arms and legs with a distinct carnivallike flavor and a message of Up With Spice People positivity".[20] Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic, commented that the song added Latin rhythms that "consolidates and expands the group's style".[21]

The Spice Girls performing "Spice Up Your Life" as the opening number of their Return of the Spice Girls tour, at the Air Canada Centre, in Toronto; wearing tight metallic coloured oufits designed by Roberto Cavalli.

The song drew comparisons to the work of other artists. The Contra Costa Times said that the song have shades of Gloria Estefan.[22] The Daily Mirror went even further, commenting that it was a rehash of Estefan's '80s music, and called it a "throwaway Latinstyle song".[23] Melissa Ruggieri of the Richmond Times-Dispatch believed that the song was a copy of Miami Sound Machine's "Conga", and added that it had a "zingy mariachi-flavored rhythm and infectious chorus chant",[24] while Ann Powers of The New York Times said that it "skates over Latin hip hop from Lisa Lisa to the Lambada."[25] The Dallas Morning News noted influences of ABBA, Bananarama and Bow Wow Wow in the song, and added that it "doesn't quite reach the pop heights of 'Wannabe'".[26]

Some of the reviewers criticized the lyrics. Dele Fadele of the NME called it "the poppermost pop single ever invented", adding that it contained "a brilliant line in nonsense lyrics. As such it is the Spice Girls' message of peace to the world".[27] The Reading Eagle reviewer, David Bauder, said that it "sounds like it was written by a focus group who told them to add a Latin flavor".[28] The Telegram & Gazette commented that its lyrics were "concerned more with shaking hips than moving social consciousness".[29] Larry Flick of Billboard magazine was mixed on the track. Although he described it as "insanely catchy and devilishly fun", he also felt that it was not a real song, saying that it is "just a festive cha-cha groove and a lyrical command to add some 'spice' to your life by way of countless dance moves. A runaway hit."[30] The Hartford Courant music critic Roger Catlin, believed that the song "recognizes and embraces the group's worldwide audience with savvy Latin rhythms and a self-promoting lyric of dizzy Esperanto".[31] Chicago Sun-Times' critic Jim DeRogatis was unimpressed with the lyrics, yet when comparing it to Aqua's "Barbie Girl", he found that its "unifying sentiment is more admirable".[32]

Chart performance[edit]

"Spice Up Your Life" was originally going to be released in the UK on 6 October 1997, but the release date was delayed in an attempt to displace Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997"—a tribute to Princess Diana, who had died two months before—from the top position.[33] The single was released the next week, debuting at the top of the UK Singles Chart on 19 October 1997,[34] making the Spice Girls the first group to reach number one with their first five singles, and the first to debut at the top of the chart four times in a row.[35] It stayed one week at number one, twelve weeks inside the top forty, fifteen inside the top seventy-five,[34] and was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) in October 1997.[36]

"Spice Up Your Life" was commercially successful also in the rest of Europe. On 1 November 1997 it peaked at number three on the Eurochart Hot 100,[37] and performed similarly across the continent, peaking inside the top five in Belgium (both the Flemish and French charts), Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland;[37][38][39][40][41] and inside the top fifteen in Austria and Germany.[42][43] The song was released in Oceania on 6 October 1997. In New Zealand, it debuted at number two, where it stayed for four consecutive weeks, blocked by "Candle in the Wind 1997".[44] In Australia, it debuted at number seventeen, peaking at number eight two weeks later. It remained twenty weeks on the chart,[45] and was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).[46]

The group performing a remix version of the song during the show's encore, at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

"Spice Up Your Life" had mediocre success in North America. In the US, the single debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on 8 November 1997 at number thirty-two;[47] at the time it was the group's lowest debut in the country. It peaked at eighteen in its fourth week, becoming their fourth consecutive top twenty on the chart.[48] The song barely broke the Hot 100 Airplay, peaking at number seventy-two,[49] but despite the track's weak airplay, the CD single sold well, peaking at number eleven on the Hot 100 Singles Sales chart.[50] It received a gold certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in January 1998.[51] The song reached number four on the Hot Dance Club Play chart, but only had moderate success on other formats, peaking at twenty-two on the Hot Dance Singles Sales chart, at thirty-seven on the Mainstream Top 40, and at twenty-seven on the Rhythmic Top 40.[52] "Spice Up Your Life" was more successful on the Canadian Singles Chart, where it peaked at number two on 15 November 1997.[40] New remixes by Ralphi Rosario were produced in 2007 in conjunction with the release of their Greatest Hits CD and these rose to number seventeen on the Billboard Dance Charts.

Music video[edit]

A scene from the Blade Runner-inspired music video for "Spice Up Your Life", featuring the group as global masters, inside a spaceship going through a dark city, controlling every aspect of society.

The music video for "Spice Up Your Life" was directed on 6 September 1997, by Marcus Nispel in a two-day shoot located in New York City.[53][54] The video features the group in a futuristic setting, inspired by the 1982 film Blade Runner, controlling every aspect of society in a dark futuristic cityscape.[55] Nispel came up with the concept based on a sketch that was faxed to him signed "Ginger Spice". He recalls: "I looked at what Disney did to Times Square in NYC and tried to imagine how the Spice Girls would transform it, as their career seemed to have no limits—at the time."[56] The group was not consulted about the concept. According to Brown's autobiography, they wanted a carnival party theme, but were too tired to fight about it with the label, and ended up with a concept linked to the theme of world domination. Brown commented: "It wasn't right. I don't think any of us liked it much, even though we enjoyed making it. I still can't understand what's going on in it half the time."[57] The video exclusively premiered on MTV in September 1997.[58]

The video featured the group as globalising masters, in a spaceship going through a dark city, looking at themselves on various billboards, while shoots of rooms and bars with televisions plays the videos for "Say You'll Be There" and "Wannabe", live footage of the girls inside the spaceship is also broadcast. The group then zoom aimlessly around the city on flying surfboards. The scenes are interspersed with shoots of the girls doing different things, such as Brown at a turntable with bright flashing lights and a large rotating fan, Beckham posing on top of a platform while photographers takes pictures of her, Bunton in a room surrounded with neon-blue balloons, Chisholm winning a boxing match and Halliwell giving a speech at a press conference to a crowd of journalists. The video won the award for Best Video at the 1998 Edison Music Awards,[59] and was nominated for Best Video at the 1998 BRIT Awards.[60]

Live performances[edit]

The group performing the song at the Air Canada Centre, dressed in tight metallic outfits designed by Roberto Cavalli.

"Spice Up Your Life" had its premiere in the UK on 27 September 1997, on the BBC's National Lottery programme, which attracted more than nine million viewers.[61][62] The song was subsequently performed many times on television, in both Europe and the US, including An Audience with..., Top of the Pops, All That, The Jay Leno Show, the Late Show with David Letterman, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.[63][64][65][66][67] "Spice Up Your Life" was also performed in many award ceremonies such as the 1997 Smash Hits! Awards, the 1997 MTV Europe Music Awards, the 1997 Billboard Music Awards, the 1997 Premios Ondas, the 1997 Channel V Music Awards, and the 2000 BRIT Awards.[68][69][70][71][72][73] In October 1997, the group performed "Spice Up Your Life" as the eleventh song of their first live concert at the Abdi İpekçi Arena in Istanbul, Turkey. The performance was broadcast on Showtime in a pay-per-view event titled Spice Girls In Concert Wild!,[74] and was later included in the VHS and DVD release Girl Power! Live in Istanbul.[75] The song was also used during the climax of their 1997 film, Spice World.[76] In the scene, the group performs "Spice Up Your Life" at London's Royal Albert Hall, surrounded by the media and thousands of fans, while the rest of the supporting cast can be seen dancing and singing during the performance.[77]

The group surrounded by dancers performing the song during the encore.

The Spice Girls have performed the song on three of their tours: the Spiceworld Tour, the Christmas In Spiceworld Tour, and the Return of the Spice Girls.[78][79][80][81] The performance at the Spiceworld Tour's final concert can be found on the video Spice Girls Live at Wembley Stadium, filmed in London on 20 September 1998.[82] After Halliwell left the group, Melanie C took over her solo line in the song in every live performance until their reunion. The group performed "Spice Up Your Life" as the opening song of their 2007–2008 Return of the Spice Girls tour. The show started with the screens above the stage displaying an introductory film, which featured five little girls—Spice Girls' look-alikes—opening a magic box, dancing in their bedroom and talking about their wish to be world famous. Old headlines about the Spice Girls flash up—the last one announcing the end of the band. Then the group appeared standing motionless in five ascending platforms, dressed in tight bronze and copper coloured outfits made by Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli.[83][84]

During the encore, the group closed the show performing a remix version of the song, each dressed in a glittery outfit of a different bright colour. At the end, a cannon exploded showering the stage with pieces of gold, white and black paper strips, while flags from different countries flashed across the backdrop screens. As they left the stage, the words "Mission accomplished" appeared on the screens.[83][84]

The Spice Girls performed the song on 12 August 2012 at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in London as part of a medley with the group's debut single, "Wannabe".[85]

Formats and track listings[edit]

These are the formats and track listings of major single releases of "Spice Up Your Life":

Credits and personnel[edit]

Published by Windswept Pacific Music Ltd/PolyGram Music Publishing Ltd.[86]

Charts[edit]

Preceded by
"Candle in the Wind 1997" / "Something About the Way You Look Tonight" by Elton John
UK Singles Chart number-one single
19 October 1997
Succeeded by
"Barbie Girl" by Aqua

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Sinclair, 2004. pp. 113–114.
  2. ^ a b Halliwell, 1999. p. 286.
  3. ^ a b c Brown, 2002. pp. 273–274.
  4. ^ a b c Sinclair, 2004. p. 55.
  5. ^ Kutner, Leigh, 2005. pp. 369–370.
  6. ^ a b "Spice Girls: The singers' songwriters". Music Week (United Business Media). 10 November 2007. 
  7. ^ a b Sinclair, 2004. p. 56.
  8. ^ a b Gill, Andy (7 November 1997). "Pop Albums: The Spice Girls Spiceworld (Virgin CDV 2850)". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2 December 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2010. 
  9. ^ "I really wannabe noticed!". Sunday Mirror. 5 October 1997. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
  10. ^ a b c d Spice Girls, 2008. pp. 23–27.
  11. ^ Cripps, Peachey, Spice Girls, 1997. p. 132
  12. ^ a b Sinclair, 2004. p. 298.
  13. ^ "Spice Girls Set Dates For Album, Movie, Mandela". MTV (MTV Networks). 25 September 1997. Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  14. ^ (1997) CD Single notes for "Spice Up Your Life" US CD by Spice Girls, Back cover [CD liner notes]. London: Virgin Records (7243 8 38620 2 3).
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