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Say You'll Be There

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"Say You'll Be There"
Single by Spice Girls
from the album Spice
B-side "Take Me Home"
Released 14 October 1996
Recorded 1995
Length 3:56
Label Virgin
Producer(s) Absolute
Spice Girls singles chronology
"Say You'll Be There"
"2 Become 1"
Music video
"Say You'll Be There" on YouTube

"Say You'll Be There" is a song by English girl group Spice Girls. It was co-written by the Spice Girls with Jonathan Buck and Eliot Kennedy, for their debut album Spice (1996). Production duo Absolute incorporated a mix of pop and R&B into the song, which includes a harmonica solo, played by Judd Lander. The lyrics—which described the things the group have been through together and how they always have been there for each other—received mixed reviews from critics, who described them as "confusing" and felt that the R&B-infused production was a "bid for street cred". The song has also been covered by Danish singer-songwriter which also gained popularity.

The music video was inspired by the films Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) and Pulp Fiction (1994), and features the group as a band of female techno-warriors, who use martial arts and high-tech ninja-influenced weapons to capture a hapless male. It includes symbols of male disempowerment, and serves as an example of solidarity and the group's bonding. It received positive reactions from fans and was nominated for numerous awards including the 1996 Smash Hits! Awards, the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, and the 1997 BRIT Awards.

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.


In October 1994, the Spice Girls began touring management agencies in order to present demos and dance routines. They felt insecure about the lack of a contract and were frustrated by the direction in which Heart Management was steering them.[1] In November, the group persuaded their managers—father-and-son team Bob and Chris Herbert—to set up a showcase performance in front of industry writers, producers and A&R men at the Nomis Studios in Shepherd's Bush where they received an "overwhelmingly positive" reaction.[2][3]

Due to the large interest in the group, the Herberts quickly set about creating a binding contract for them.[4] Encouraged by the reaction they had received at the showcase, all five members delayed signing contracts on the legal advice from, amongst others, Victoria Beckham's father, Anthony Adams.[1][2] In 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. In order to ensure they kept control of their own work, the group retrieved the master recordings of their discography from the management offices.[2][5] The next week they were supposed to meet with Sheffield-based producer Eliot Kennedy. The Herberts arranged the session weeks before the group's departure.[6]

Writing and recording[edit]

We recorded it in our trackies and socks in a studio in the producer's house. It was a cool vibe—dead laid back. A lot of the sentiment in the song has got to do with what we've been through together. We've always been there for each other, so we wrote about that.

Melanie Chisholm on the songwriting session.[7]

Without access to Herbert's address book, the group knew nothing of Kennedy's whereabouts other than he lived in Sheffield. Melanie Brown and Geri 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 persuade him to work with them, the rest of the group travelled to Sheffield the next day.[6] 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'. And I'd sing them the chorus and the melody—no lyrics or anything—and straight away five pencils and pads came out and 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. They were confident in what they were doing, throwing it out there.[8]

The group stayed at Kennedy's house for the most part of the week.[8] He named his studio Spice, after the group, because it had never been used before.[7] Together, they composed two songs in the session: "Love Thing" and "Say You'll Be There".[9] Paul Wilson and Andy Watkins—the songwriters and production duo known as Absolute—produced the song and recorded it for the most part at Olympic Studios in Barnes, London.[10] At first, discussions were made about what song the group would release as their second single, originally it was going to be "Love Thing", but in the end they decided to change it for "Say You'll Be There".[11]

In December 1996, while charting across Europe, "Say You'll Be There" became the focus of a controversy when the Israeli soldier Idit Shechtman accused the group of copying her song "Bo Elai" (בוא אלי, "Come to me"), a highly similar song released two years earlier in Israel.[12] Shechtman hired lawyers and threatened to sue. A spokesman of the group later declared: "Where there's a hit, there's a writ. There's always someone who crawls out of the woodwork claiming to have written a hit song. We look forward to seeing her in court."[13]


"Say You'll Be There" is a mid-tempo dance-pop song, with influences from G-funk and R&B.[14][15] It is written in the key of D major, with a time signature set on common time, and moves at a moderate tempo of 108 beats per minute.[16] The song is constructed in a verse-chorus form. It uses the sequence Bm–E–Gm–D as its chord progression during the verses and the chorus.[16] The third verse includes an instrumental solo, that closes with a coda, which consists in the group singing the chorus repeatedly until the song gradually fades out, while Melanie Chisholm adds the high harmony.[16] Absolute played the instruments, except for the harmonica, which was played by Judd Lander, who also played it on Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon".[15]

The lyrics, according to Brown are about relationships, and to be there for each other. That it does not matter to say merely that you love them, the only thing that they care is that their lover give his promise that he will be there for them whenever they need him.[7] In "Say You'll Be There", the group exuded a brash confidence that was attractive to their teenage and young adult fans.[17] The Spice Girls decide to be friends, not lovers, the clear message is that the relationship can be channelled and controlled by the girl, with an emphasis on stating where they come from and what they stand for.[17]


Critical response[edit]

Victoria Beckham performing the song in Las Vegas, during the Return of the Spice Girls tour.

The song received mixed reviews, some critics praised "Say You'll Be There" as a catchy song, others dubbed it as merely a bid for credibility. Dele Fadele of the NME said that it is "another monstrously catchy tune from the fledging pop starlets", and called it "state-of-the-art pop music for '96".[18] Time magazine's Christopher John Farley commented that the song's "groove is penetrating, but the whole thing sounds suspiciously like an Earth, Wind and Fire song that's just on the tip of one's tongue".[19] Melissa Ruggieri of the Richmond Times-Dispatch commented that the song "is a harmless, mid-tempo foot-tapper that will work just fine on Top 40 radio".[20] Edna Gundersen of the USA Today said that Spice "is assembly-line dance-pop", adding that "only the funky 'Say You'll Be There' and touchingly cornball 'Mama' hint at depth".[21] Steve Dollar of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said of the song "it's all pure confection more sugar really than spice", adding that it "even includes a Wonderesque harmonica solo among other obvious sources".[22]

Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune said that their first album "is a compendium of slick secondhand urban pop encompassing [...] G-funk synths on 'Say You'll Be There' [...] and Babyface's guitar and strings balladry on '2 Become 1'".[23] Larry Flick of Billboard magazine compared it to "Wannabe" saying that it "is as immediately infectious, though it's not nearly as silly and novelty-driven".[14] Ken Tucker from Entertainment Weekly called the song "a bid for street cred",[24] while David Browne from the same magazine commented about the confusing lyrics, "let's see: She wants to be friends, he wants more, and yet she croons, 'I'm giving you everything/All that joy can bring'? She's as confused as I am. Better to revel in the delectably frothy girl-group melody".[25] Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic, in a review of their debut album Spice, said that "what is surprising is how the sultry soul of 'Say You'll Be There' is more than just a guilty pleasure".[26] In a review of the group's 2007 compilation album Greatest Hits, NME said that it is a "fine song in any age".[27]

Chart performance[edit]

Geri Halliwell performing the song at the Air Canada Centre.

"Say You'll Be There" was released in the UK on 14 October 1996 once the popularity of "Wannabe" began to fade.[28] The high anticipation for their second single assured its commercial success.[29] A week before the release, reports gave the single advanced sales of 334,000 copies,—the highest Virgin Records had ever recorded for a single—while the song jumped eleven positions to number eight on the UK Airplay Chart.[30][31] It debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number one,[32] selling 350,000 copies.[30] It was the group's first single to debut at number one, staying at the top position for two weeks, twelve weeks inside the top forty, and seventeen weeks inside the top seventy-five.[32] It sold 750,000 copies by the end of October,[33] and 940,000 copies in total,[34] receiving a platinum certification by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) in October 1996.[35]

"Say You'll Be There" was commercially successful in Europe. On 16 November 1996 it reached the top of Eurochart Hot 100 for two weeks,[36] and had a similar performance across the continent, topping the singles chart in Finland,[37] and peaking inside the top ten in Austria, Belgium (both the Flemish and French charts), Denmark, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.[36][38][39][40] In New Zealand, it debuted on 10 November 1996 at number two, stayed ten weeks inside the top ten, and twenty-three weeks in total.[41] In Australia, the single debuted in January 1997 on the ARIA Charts at number twenty-three, peaked at number twelve thirteen weeks later, remained on the chart for over five months,[42] and was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).[43]

In March 1997, "Say You'll Be There" debuted on the Canadian RPM singles chart at number ninety,[44] reaching a peak of number five in its twelfth week.[45] It ended at the thirty-fifth position on the year-end chart.[46] In the United States, it was released on 6 May 1997. The song set a record on the Billboard Hot 100, when it debuted on 24 May 1997 at number five,[47] with sales of 60,000 copies.[48] At the time this was the highest-entry by a British act in the US.[49] "Say You'll Be There" peaked at number six on the Hot 100 Airplay and at four on the Hot Singles Sales,[50][51] peaking at number three on the Hot 100 for three consecutive weeks.[52] It sold over 900,000 copies by December 1997,[53] and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[54] It peaked at two on the Mainstream Top 40, and had crossover success, peaking at three on the Rhythmic Top 40 and at nine on the Hot Dance Singles Sales chart.[55]

Music video[edit]

The Spice Girls featured as a band of female techno-warriors, with the Mojave Desert as a background.

The music video for "Say You'll Be There" was directed by Vaughan Arnell, produced by Adam Saward and filmed on 7–8 September 1996, in the Mojave Desert, located in California.[56] It was inspired by the films Pulp Fiction and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!,[15] the latter in which led the girls to adopt fictional identities, an idea that Halliwell came up with.[57]

The video features the group as a band of female techno-warriors, who use martial arts and high-tech ninja influenced weapons to capture a hapless male, played by American model Tony Ward,[58] who happens to appear in a Petty blue Dodge Charger Daytona. The clip is presented as a narrative, with movie credits at the start introducing the Spice Girls as fantastic characters.[59]

Melanie Chisholm played "Katrina Highkick", Geri Halliwell's alter-ego was "Trixie Firecracker", Emma Bunton took on the role of "Kung Fu Candy", Victoria Beckham played "Midnight Miss Suki", and "Blazin' Bad Zula" was Melanie Brown's alter-ego.[57] The shots of male bondage are unexplained, and function as symbols of male disempowerment, just as the rest of the clip serves to assert the power and fighting abilities of the women. At the end the group captures a confused icecream man who appears in his pick-up truck. He is carried off on the roof of the car as a trophy.[59] Another man with a cowboy hat is also captured and tied to his car. An alternate version of the video exists that removes the male bondage shots and replaces them with unseen shots of the girls. This version was never given an official release.

The video won for Best Pop Video at the 1996 Smash Hits! Awards,[60] for Best Video at the 1997 BRIT Awards,[61] and was nominated for the Viewer's Choice at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.[62] It won the FAN.tastic Video honour—given by online Billboard readers—at the 1997 Billboard Music Video Awards,[63] and was also nominated for Best New Artist in a Video and Best Pop/Rock Clip.[64]

Live performances[edit]

The group during the Return of the Spice Girls tour, dressed in Roberto Cavalli's bronze and copper coloured outfits.

The song was performed many times on television, in both Europe and the US, including An Audience with..., Live & Kicking, Top of the Pops, the Bravo Supershow, Much Music, the Late Show with David Letterman, and Saturday Night Live.[65][66][67][68] The performance at Saturday Night Live on 12 April 1997 was the first time "Say You'll Be There" was performed with a live band—their previous performances have all been either lip-synched or sung to a recorded backing track.[69] The group performed the song at the 1996 Smash Hits! Awards, the 1997 Prince's Trust Gala, the 1997 San Remo Festival, and the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards.[60][62][70][71] In October 1997, the group performed it as the fifth 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!,[72] and was later included in the VHS and DVD release Girl Power! Live in Istanbul.[73]

The Spice Girls have performed the song on their three tours, the Spiceworld Tour, the Christmas in Spiceworld Tour, and the Return of the Spice Girls.[74][75][76][77] 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.[78] It remained in the group's live set after Halliwell's departure. The second verse had originally been sung by Halliwell with Chisholm adding the harmonies. After Halliwell's departure, Chisholm sang the lead and Bunton added the high harmony. For the Return of the Spice Girls Tour, it was performed as the third song from the show's opening segment. The group dressed in tight bronze and copper coloured outfits made by Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli.[79][80]

Formats and track listings[edit]

These are the formats and track listings of major single releases of "Say You'll Be There":

Credits and personnel[edit]

Published by Windswept Pacific Music Ltd/Sony ATV Music Publishing.[81]


Preceded by
"Words" by Boyzone
UK Singles Chart number-one single
20 October 1996 – 27 October 1996
Succeeded by
"What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" / "Saturday Night at the Movies" / "You'll Never Walk Alone" by Robson & Jerome
Preceded by
"Insomnia" by Faithless
Finnish Singles Chart number-one single
2 November 1996
Succeeded by
"Insomnia" by Faithless
Preceded by
"Wannabe" by Spice Girls
Eurochart Hot 100 number-one single
16 November 1996 – 23 November 1996
Succeeded by
"Quit Playing Games (with My Heart)" by Backstreet Boys


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External links[edit]