Too Much (Spice Girls song)

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"Too Much"
Single by Spice Girls
from the album Spiceworld
B-side
  • "Outer Space Girls"
  • "Walk of Life"
Released 15 December 1997
Format
Recorded 1997
Genre
Length 4:31
Label Virgin
Writer(s)
  • Spice Girls
  • Andy Watkins
  • Paul Wilson
Producer(s) Absolute
Spice Girls singles chronology
"Spice Up Your Life"
(1997)
"Too Much"
(1997)
"Stop"
(1998)
Music video
"Too Much" on YouTube

"Too Much" is a song by the British pop group Spice Girls. Written by the group members with Paul Wilson and Andy Watkins—the songwriters and production duo known as Absolute—at the same time as the group was filming scenes for their movie Spice World, it was produced by Wilson and Watkins for the group's second album Spiceworld, released in November 1997.

"Too Much" is a pop ballad with influences of R&B. It features instrumentation from a guitar, brass and string instruments, and is structured using doo-wop records as a template. The music video, directed by Howard Greenhalgh, features each Spice Girl in their own individual scene playing different characters, inspired by their own movie fantasies. The song received mixed reviews from music critics, with many of them criticising the R&B-infused production.

Released as the album's second single in December 1997, it topped the UK Singles Chart for two weeks, becoming the group's second consecutive Christmas number-one single, and their sixth consecutive chart-topper, which made them the first act to have its first six singles reach number one in the United Kingdom. It was moderately successful internationally, peaking inside the top twenty on the majority of the charts that it entered. Although in the United States "Too Much" did better than its predecessor, "Spice Up Your Life"; peaking nine places higher on the Billboard Hot 100 and becoming their fourth top ten single on the chart; it failed to match the success of the group's previous singles from the Spice album.

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 Spiceworld album's promotional campaign, set to be released in November.[1] No songs 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 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]

The concept of "Too Much" was mainly penned by Geri Halliwell while the group was filming Spiceworld in a closed set besieged by fans and the media, in London's Docklands.[4] While Halliwell left the set, sitting in the backseat of a car, she started scribbling a few lines in a notebook about "love being blind and how words that appear deep may be meaningless". The other members then helped to complete the song. Halliwell, inspired by a T-shirt that said "What part of no don't you understand?",[5] wrote the song's middle eight with Melanie Chisholm at Paul Wilson and Andy Watkins'—the songwriters and production duo known as Absolute—studio in Richmond, London.[6] Wilson commented about the song:[4]

Geri came in and sang: 'Too much of something/Da-da-da-da-da...Right. OK. You got that?' We started working on it and we wanted to do some sort of doo-wop vocal thing. So we constructed this backing track and then more of the girls started to come in—this was quite a good day—and gradually they started to add on their little bits.

Absolute structured the song using doo-wop records as a template. The format was for Emma Bunton to sing the high part, Melanie Brown, Victoria Beckham, and Halliwell singing the lower and middle parts, and Chisholm adding the ad-libs.[5] The song was recorded in a caravan in the middle of mayhem. Wilson and Watkins doggedly worked on it with whichever of the group's members were available from the filming set at any given point. A considerable amount of production work was required afterward before the track reached its final form.[4]

Composition[edit]

A 26-second sample of the song, featuring the group during the second chorus. Bunton sings the high part; Brown, Beckham and Halliwell the lower and middle parts, while Chisholm adds the ad-libs.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Too Much" is a pop ballad, with influences of R&B music and doo-wop sounds.[7] It is written in the key of F♯ minor, with a time signature set in compound quadruple meter, commonly used in doo-wop, and moves at a slow tempo of 80 beats per minute.[8]

The song is constructed in a verse-chorus form, with a bridge before the third chorus,[8] and its instrumentation comes from a guitar, brass and string instruments.[9] It starts with an instrumental introduction, with a chord progression of A–Faug–Dmaj7–G7 that is also used during the first part of the verses and the chorus. Brown and Bunton sing the first lines of the first verse; the progression then changes to Bm7–E–Dmaj7–C♯7 during the last part of the verse, which is sung by Chisholm. After the chorus, the same pattern occurs leading to the second chorus, with Halliwell, Beckham, and Chisholm singing the second verse. The progression changes to Bm7–C♯m7–Gmaj9–F♯7(♯9) as Chisholm sings the bridge, while the rest of the group adds the high harmony. The group sing the chorus twice, and repeats the ad-lib as the song fades out.[8] The album version, which is forty seconds longer than the radio edit, features an instrumental section at the end of the track.

Release[edit]

"Too Much" was released in the United Kingdom on 15 December 1997, in two single versions.[10] The first, released on cassette and in a standard CD single format, included an exclusive PlayStation postcard from the group's upcoming video game Spice World. The track listing contained the radio edit of the track, a Soulshock & Karlin remix, and the B-side "Outer Space Girls"—written by the group with Matt Rowe and Richard Stannard. The second version, released on a standard CD single, contained the radio edit, an orchestral version, and "Walk of Life", a different B-side, written by the group with Absolute.[10] The images on the single's cover were taken from a photoshoot the group did for the October 1997 issue of Elle magazine.[11]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Emma Bunton performing "Too Much" during the Return of the Spice Girls tour in Las Vegas, Nevada.

"Too Much" received mixed reviews from critics. Sylvia Patterson of the NME characterised the song as a "lavish, harmonised spree of New Orleans loveliness with strings and Spanish guitar", adding that it is "the absolute tops!".[12] Ian Hyland of The Daily Mirror enjoyed the track, but felt that Chisholm sounded "daft", and added that she needs to "calm down on the scouse front".[13] David Browne of Entertainment Weekly called it a "sultry slow jam",[14] while The Miami Herald described it as a "silky pop ode", and called it "irresistible".[15] The Virginian-Pilot said that the strings on the song are "classic soul with a 90s tweak".[16] Larry Flick of Billboard magazine praised the song, describing it as a "swishy classic-pop ballad that tickles the ear with tasty doo-wop flavors", and added that the arrangement and the group's harmonies "work extremely well together".[7] Sputnikmusic's Amanda Murray also complimented the track, calling it a "genuinely great song".[17] Murray also felt that the group's voices had improved so that they could "pull off more difficult passages with at least an iota of conviction".[17]

Some reviewers criticised the R&B-infused production. In a review of Spiceworld, the Contra Costa Times said that the album's ballads such as "Too Much" and "Viva Forever" are "both treacly and deadly dull".[18] Conversely, Gina Arnold of Salon.com said that the ballads are "blander but still appealing".[19] South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Sean Picolli said that the song is "a sincere stab at instructional R&B".[20] Richard Harrington of The Washington Post described it as a "lugubrious ballad",[21] while Scott Schinder of Newsday said that "the contempo-R&B schmaltz of 'Too Much' [...] mires the group in middle-of-the-road mediocrity".[22] J.D. Considine of The Baltimore Sun was not convinced by the song's "attempts at deep emotional expression",[23] and Anthony Violenti of The Buffalo News said that it is "supposed to be a heart tugging ballad that may even make the Spice Girls fan base of 10-year olds overdose on sugar".[24]

Chart performance[edit]

The group performing the song behind neon pink-colored, heart-shaped doors in Las Vegas.

"Too Much" was released in the UK in December 1997. It debuted at the top of the UK Singles Chart,[25] becoming the Spice Girls' second consecutive Christmas number-one single.[26] It made the group the first act to reach number one with their first six singles, and the first to debut at the top of the chart five times in a row.[27] It stayed at number one for two weeks, remaining inside the top forty for seven weeks and the top seventy-five for fifteen weeks,[25] and was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) in December 1997.[28]

"Too Much" was moderately successful in Europe. It reached number three on the Eurochart Hot 100,[29] peaked inside the top ten in Denmark, Finland, Ireland, and Spain,[29][30][31] and inside the top twenty in Austria, Belgium (both the Flemish and French charts), France, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland.[29][32][33] The song was also a moderate success in Oceania. In New Zealand, it debuted on 21 December 1997 at number twenty, peaked at number nine for two weeks, and stayed on the chart for twelve weeks.[34] In Australia, it debuted on the ARIA Charts at number twenty-nine, peaking at number nine in its sixth week. It remained on the chart for fifteen weeks,[35] and was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).[36]

In the US, "Too Much" did better than its predecessor, "Spice Up Your Life", but was not as successful as Spice's singles had been. It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on 14 February 1998, at number twenty-two,[37] selling 30,000 copies.[38] The next week, "Too Much" peaked at number nine, becoming the group's fourth and final top ten hit.[39] It peaked at thirty-six on the Hot 100 Airplay, at eleven on the Hot 100 Singles Sales chart,[40] and sold 600,000 copies by January 1999.[41] It had moderate success in other formats, peaking at twenty-one on the Mainstream Top 40, and at twenty-three on the Rhythmic Top 40 and the Adult Contemporary chart.[42] "Too Much" peaked at nine on the Canadian Singles Chart.[43]

Music video[edit]

A scene from the music video, featuring Chisholm dressed in a red cheongsam, in a segment based on the film Year of the Dragon.

The music video was filmed and directed by Howard Greenhalgh on 10 November 1997 in a studio located in London.[44][45] The video features each Spice Girl in their own individual scene, inspired by their own movie fantasies.[46] Melanie Brown is shown singing on top of a tank strapped with ammunition in an industrial post-apocalyptic war scene in a segment based on the film Mad Max. Emma Bunton is shown in a bedroom dressed in white pyjamas while objects float around her on their own; her scene is based on Poltergeist. Melanie Chisholm is shown in a Chinatown, dressed in a red cheongsam and black pants with her hair in a long ponytail with red streaks; her scene is based upon Year of the Dragon. Geri Halliwell is featured in a black-and-white scene based on Rita Hayworth's performance in Gilda. She is shown performing on a smoky stage in a long, white sequined gown with a group of sailors dancing around her. Victoria Beckham is shown in a missile silo next to a smoking rocket, clad in a black catsuit and with a long ponytail; she is portraying Catwoman from Batman Returns.[44][46]

The "Too Much" music video premiered on 2 December 1997, on the American television network UPN, in a special titled "Too Much Is Never Enough".[47] Two versions of the music video exist: the original one, and a version that include scenes from the group's 1997 film Spice World; the latter was included on the DVD release of their greatest hits album.[48]

Live performances[edit]

The Spice Girls performing "Too Much" in front of neon pink-colored, heart-shaped doors at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada, during the 2007–2008 Return of the Spice Girls tour.

The song was performed many times on television, including An Audience with..., Top of the Pops, and the 1997 Royal Variety Performance.[49][50][51] The group also performed it at the 1997 Smash Hits! Awards,[52] and at the 25th Annual American Music Awards.[53] The Spice Girls debut film, Spice World, features "Too Much". During the opening credits, the group performs "Too Much" on Top of the Pops, surrounded by media and photographers from various television programmes and magazines. Also present are hundreds of fans. When the performance is complete, the audience applauds and cheers the girls, and the film progresses into the first official scene.[54] In October 1997, the group performed it as the tenth song of their first live concert at the Abdi Ipekçi Arena in Istanbul, Turkey. The performance was broadcast on Showtime in a pay-per-view event titled Spice Girls In Concert Wild![55] However, the VHS and DVD release of the concert, Girl Power! Live in Istanbul, does not include the "Too Much" performance.[56]

The group have performed the song on their three tours, the Spiceworld Tour, the Christmas in Spiceworld Tour, and the Return of the Spice Girls.[57][58][59][60] It remained in the group's live set after Halliwell's departure at the end of the European leg of the Spiceworld Tour; her parts were taken by Bunton. The performance at the tour's final concert can be found on the video: Spice Girls Live at Wembley Stadium, filmed in London, on 20 September 1998.[61] During the Return of the Spice Girls tour, the group dressed in tuxedos and performed an up-tempo jazzy version of the song, while doing a striptease behind neon pink-coloured, heart-shaped doors.[62][63]

Formats and track listings[edit]

These are the formats and track listings of major single releases of "Too Much":

Credits and personnel[edit]

Published by Windswept Pacific Music Ltd/19 Music/BMG Music Publishing Ltd.[64]

Charts[edit]