The Spice Girls performing during their penultimate reunion concert in Toronto, Ontario, in February 2008. (L–R) Melanie Chisholm, Victoria Beckham, Geri Halliwell, Melanie Brown, and Emma Bunton.
The Spice Girls are an English pop girl group formed in 1994. The group originally consisted of Melanie Brown ("Scary Spice"), Melanie Chisholm ("Sporty Spice"), Emma Bunton ("Baby Spice"), Geri Halliwell ("Ginger Spice"), and Victoria Beckham, née Adams ("Posh Spice"). They were signed to Virgin Records and released their debut single "Wannabe" in 1996, which hit number one in 37 countries and established them as a global phenomenon. Their debut album Spice sold more than 31 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling album by a female group in history. Their follow-up album Spiceworld sold over 20 million copies worldwide. The Spice Girls have sold over 80 million records worldwide, making them the best-selling female group of all time, one of the best-selling pop groups of all time, and the biggest British pop phenomenon since Beatlemania.
Measures of their success include international record sales, a 2007–2008 reunion tour, merchandising, record-breaking achievements, iconic symbolism such as Halliwell's Union Jack dress representing "girl power", and a film, Spice World. The group became one of the most successful marketing engines ever, earning up to $75 million per year, with their global grosses estimated at $500–800 million between 1996 and 1998. Under the guidance of their mentor and manager Simon Fuller, the Spice Girls embraced merchandising and became a regular feature of the British and global press. In 1996, Top of the Pops magazine gave each member of the group aliases, which were adopted by the group and media. According to Rolling Stone journalist and biographer David Sinclair, "Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh and Sporty were the most widely recognised group of individuals since John, Paul, George, and Ringo". With the "girl power" phenomenon, the Spice Girls were popular cultural icons of the 1990s. They are cited as part of the 'second wave' 1990s British Invasion of the US.
- 1 Band history
- 1.1 1994–96: Formation and early years
- 1.2 1996–97: Spice and breakthrough
- 1.3 1997–98: Groundbreaking success, Spiceworld and Halliwell's departure
- 1.4 1998–2000: Forever and indefinite hiatus
- 1.5 2007–08: Return of the Spice Girls and Greatest Hits
- 1.6 2010–12: Viva Forever musical and London Olympics
- 1.7 2016: Spice Girls - GEM
- 2 Cultural impact and legacy
- 3 Portrayal in the media
- 4 Other brand ventures
- 5 Career records and achievements
- 6 Discography
- 7 Concert tours
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
1994–96: Formation and early years
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In the mid-1990s, family management team Bob Herbert and Chris Herbert of Heart Management decided to create a girl group to compete with popular boy bands, such as Take That and East 17, which dominated the pop music scene at the time. In February 1994, together with financier Chic Murphy, they placed an advertisement in the trade magazine The Stage asking for singers to audition for an all-female pop band at Danceworks studios. Approximately 400 women attended the audition, during which they were placed in groups of ten and danced a routine to "Stay" by Eternal, followed by solo auditions in which they were asked to perform songs of their own choosing. After several weeks of deliberation, Victoria Adams, Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm and Michelle Stephenson were among twelve women chosen to a second round of auditions in April; Geri Halliwell also attended the second audition, despite missing the first one due to work.
A week after the second audition, the women were asked to attend a recall at Nomis Studios in Shepherds Bush, performing "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" on their own and in a group. During the session, Adams, Brown, Chisholm, Halliwell and Stephenson were selected to the band, initially named Touch. The group moved to a house in Maidenhead, Berkshire, and spent most of 1994 training. During the first two months, they worked on demos at South Hill Park Recording Studios in Bracknell with producer/studio owner Michael Sparkes and songwriter/arranger Tim Hawes. According to Stephenson, the material the group was given was "very, very young pop"; one of the songs they recorded, "Sugar and Spice", would be the source of their final band name. They also worked on various dance routines at the Trinity Studios in Knaphill, near Woking, Surrey. During the training period, Stephenson was fired from the group and replaced with Emma Bunton, who came up with the band name Spice.
The group felt insecure about the lack of a contract and was frustrated by the direction in which Heart Management was steering them. In October 1994, armed with a catalogue of demos and dance routines, they began touring management agencies. They persuaded Bob Herbert to set up a showcase performance for the group in front of industry writers, producers and A&R men in December 1994 at the Nomis Studios, where they received an "overwhelmingly positive" reaction. Due to the large interest in the group, the Herberts quickly set about creating a binding contract for them. Encouraged by the reaction they had received at the Nomis showcase, all five members delayed signing contracts on the legal advice from, among others, Adams's father.
In March 1995, the group parted from Heart Management due to their frustration with the company's unwillingness to listen to their visions and ideas. To ensure they kept control of their own work, they allegedly stole the master recordings of their discography from the management offices. That same day, the group tracked down Sheffield-based producer Eliot Kennedy, who had been present at the showcase, and persuaded him to work with them. They were introduced to record producers Absolute, who in turn brought them to the attention of Simon Fuller of 19 Entertainment, who signed them to his company in March 1995. During the summer of that year, the group toured record labels in London and Los Angeles with Fuller, signing a deal with Virgin Records in September 1995. Their name was changed to Spice Girls, as a rapper was already using the name "Spice". From this point on until the summer of 1996, the group continued to write and record tracks for their debut album while extensively touring the west coast of the United States, where they signed a publishing deal with Windswept Pacific.
1996–97: Spice and breakthrough
On 7 July 1996, the Spice Girls released their debut single "Wannabe" in the United Kingdom. In the weeks leading up to the release, the video for "Wannabe" (directed by Swedish commercials director Johan Camitz and shot in April at St Pancras Chambers in London), got a trial airing on music channel The Box. The video was an instant hit, and was aired up to seventy times a week at its peak. After the video was released, the Spice Girls had their first live TV slot on broadcast on LWT's Surprise Surprise. The first music press interview appears in Music Week. In July 1996, the group conducted their first interview with Paul Gorman, the contributing editor of music paper Music Week, at Virgin Records' Paris headquarters. His piece recognised that the Spice Girls were about to institute a change in the charts away from Britpop and towards out-and-out pop. He wrote: "JUST WHEN BOYS with guitars threaten to rule pop life – Damon's all over Smash Hits, Ash are big in Big! and Liam can't move for tabloid frenzy – an all-girl, in-yer-face pop group have arrived with enough sass to burst that rockist bubble." The song entered the charts at number 3 before moving up to number 1 the following week and staying there for seven weeks. The song proved to be a global hit, hitting number one in 37 countries and becoming not only the biggest selling debut single by an all-female group but also the biggest-selling single by an all-female group of all time.
Riding a wave of publicity and hype, the group released their next singles in the UK and Europe; in October "Say You'll Be There" was released topping the charts at number one for two weeks. In December "2 Become 1" was released, becoming their first Christmas number one and selling 430,000 copies in its first week, making it the fastest selling single of the year. The two tracks continued the group's remarkable sales by topping the charts in over fifty-three countries and cementing the group's reputation as the biggest pop act in the world. In November 1996, the Spice Girls released their debut album Spice in Europe. The success was unprecedented and drew comparisons to Beatlemania. In 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 over 3 million copies in Britain, the biggest-selling album of all time in the UK by a female group, certified 10× Platinum, and peaked at number one for fifteen non-consecutive weeks. 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.
Spice Girls debut single "Wannabe" is one of the best selling singles of all time, topping the charts in 31 countries and selling over 6 million copies Worldwide.
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That same month the Spice Girls attracted a crowd of 500,000 when they switched on the Christmas lights in Oxford Street, London. At the same time, Simon Fuller started to set up million pound sponsorship deals for the Spice Girls with Pepsi, Walkers, Impulse, Cadbury's and Polaroid. In December 1996, the group won three trophies at the Smash Hits awards at the London Arena, including best video for "Say You'll Be There". In January 1997, the group released "Wannabe" in the United States. The single, written by the Spice Girls, Richard Stannard, and Matt Rowe also proved to be a catalyst in helping the Spice Girls break into the notoriously difficult US market when it debuted on the Hot 100 Chart at number 11. At the time, this was the highest-ever debut by a non-American act, beating the previous record held by the Beatles for "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and the joint highest entry for a debut act beating Alanis Morissette with "Ironic". "Wannabe" reached number one in the US for four weeks. In February 1997, Spice was released in the US, and became the biggest-selling album of 1997 in the US, peaking at number one, and was certified 7× Platinum by the RIAA for sales in excess of 7.4 million copies. The album is also included in the Top 100 Albums of All Time list of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) based on US sales. In total, the album sold 28 million copies worldwide becoming the biggest-selling album of all-time by an all-female group.
Later that month, the Spice Girls won two Brit Awards for Best British Video, "Say You'll Be There" and Best British Single for "Wannabe". The group performed "Who Do You Think You Are" to open the 1997 BRIT Awards with Geri Halliwell wearing a Union Jack mini-dress, causing it to become one of pop history's most famed outfits. In March 1997, a double A-side of "Mama"/"Who Do You Think You Are" was released in Europe, the last from Spice, which once again saw them at number one, making the Spice Girls the first group in history since the Jackson 5 to have four consecutive number one hits. Girl Power!, The Spice Girls' first book and manifesto was launched later that month at the Virgin Megastore. It sold 200,000 copies within a day, and was eventually translated into more than 20 languages. In April, Spice: the Official Video Volume One, was released, and sold half a million copies. In May, Spice World was announced by the Spice Girls at the Cannes Film Festival. The group also performed their first live British show, for the Royalty of Great Britain. At the show, they breached royal protocol when Mel B and then Geri Halliwell planted kisses on Prince Charles' cheeks and pinched his bottom, causing controversy. At the Ivor Novello Awards, the group won International Hit of the Year and Best-Selling British Single awards for "Wannabe". In June 1997, Spice World began filming and wrapped in August. In September, the Spice Girls performed "Say You'll Be There" at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and won Best Dance Video for "Wannabe". At the 1997 Billboard Music Awards the group won four awards; New Artist of the Year, Hot 100 Singles Group of the Year, Album Group of the Year, and Album of the Year for Spice.
1997–98: Groundbreaking success, Spiceworld and Halliwell's departure
In October 1997, the Spice Girls released the first single from Spiceworld, "Spice Up Your Life". It entered the UK Albums Chart at number one on 19 October 1997, making it the group's fifth consecutive number one hit single. That same month, Simon Fuller took the Spice Girls east to perform their first live major concert to 40,000 fans in Istanbul, Turkey. Later, the Girls travelled to South Africa to meet Nelson Mandela, who announced, "These are my heroes." This was the year when the Spice Girls reached the height of their career. In November, the Spice Girls released their second album, Spiceworld. The album was a global best seller. It set a new record for the fastest-selling album when it shipped seven million copies over the course of two weeks. Gaining favourable reviews, the album went on to sell over 10 million copies in Europe, Canada, and the United States combined, and 20 million copies worldwide. Criticised in the United-States for releasing the album just nine months after their debut there, and suffering from over-exposure at home, the Spice Girls began to experience a media backlash. The group was criticised for the number of sponsorship deals signed—over twenty in total—and they began to witness diminishing international chart positions. Nevertheless, the Spice Girls remained the biggest-selling pop group of both 1997 and 1998.
On 7 November 1997, the group performed "Spice Up Your Life" in the 1997 MTV Europe Music Awards. After this performance, the Spice Girls made the decision to take over the running of the group themselves, and fired their manager Simon Fuller. The firing was front page news around the world. Many commentators speculated that Fuller had been the true mastermind behind the group, and that this was the moment when the band lost their impetus and direction. In December 1997, the second single from Spiceworld, "Too Much", was released. This became the second Christmas number one for the group and the sixth consecutive number one hit single in the UK. At the 1998 American Music Awards on 26 January, the Spice Girls won three awards; Favorite Pop Album, Favorite New Artist, and Favorite Pop Group. In February 1998, the Spice Girls won a special award for overseas success at the 1998 BRIT Awards, with combined sales of albums and singles for over of 45 million records worldwide, as of 7 February 1998 according to Billboard. That night, the group performed their next single, "Stop". This was their only track not to hit number one in Britain (it entered and peaked at number two). Further singles released from the album included "Viva Forever", which was scheduled to be released as a double A-side with "Never Give Up on the Good Times", but these plans were scrapped due to Halliwell's departure from the group in May 1998. The song became the seventh number one, and the video includes scenes of Halliwell stop motion animation.
"Spice Up Your Life" became the group's fifth consecutive chart-topper, which made them the first act to have its first five singles reach number one in the UK.
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In early 1998, the Spice Girls embarked upon the world tour that Fuller had set up for them covering Europe and North America. The Spiceworld Tour kicked off in Dublin, Ireland on 24 February 1998 before moving on to mainland Europe and then returning to Britain for two gigs at Wembley Arena and Twelve gigs at Birmingham's NEC Arena. Performing to 150,000 fans over the course of the tour. It was here that recordings were made for a planned live album, which was confirmed by the group: "We've shown everyone we can do the business on stage, so now we want to do a live album for fans". Despite masters of the recording being made, the idea was eventually dropped. Later that year, the Spice Girls were invited to sing on the official England World Cup song "How Does It Feel (To Be on Top of the World)", however, it was derided by England football fans in favour of a re-release of the Lightning Seeds anthem "Three Lions", which comfortably beat it to No. 1 on the singles chart. This was also the last song the group recorded with Geri's vocals until 2007. On 31 May 1998, Halliwell announced her departure from the Spice Girls. Through her solicitor (i.e. lawyer) she stated: "Sadly I would like to confirm that I have left the Spice Girls. This is because of differences between us. I'm sure the group will continue to be successful and I wish them all the best." Halliwell claimed that she was suffering from exhaustion and wanted to take a break. Halliwell's departure from the group shocked fans, in the middle of rumours of fight with Mel B, the news of Halliwell's departure was covered as a major news story by media around the world, it made the covers of the most important tabloid and became one of the biggest entertainment news stories of the year, making news headlines the world over. Geri went on to launch an initially successful solo career.
The four remaining members were adamant that the group would carry on and that their approaching North American tour would continue as normal, however, Halliwell's departure threw most of the group's plans into disarray. It also meant that most of the material the group had recorded throughout the first half of 1998 at Dublin's Windmill Lane Studios with long-time collaborators Richard Stannard and Matt Rowe was eventually scrapped. A rumoured animated venture by Disney also failed to materialise. Finally, Halliwell's departure was the subject of a lawsuit by Aprilia World Service BV, a manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters. On 9 March 1998, Halliwell informed the other members of the group of her intention to withdraw from the group, yet the girls signed an agreement with AWS on 24 March and again on 30 April and participated in a commercial photo shoot on 4 May in Milan, eventually concluding a contract with AWS on 6 May 1998. The Court of Appeal of England and Wales held that their conduct constituted a misrepresentation, allowing AWS to rescind their contract with the Spice Girls. This is now the leading case in English law on misrepresentation by conduct. "Viva Forever" was the last single taken off Spiceworld. The video for the single was made before Geri's departure and features the girls in animated form – a decision made because there was no time to produce a video due to the heavy world tour schedule. Originally planned as a double A-side with "Never Give Up on the Good Times", the idea was dropped for several reasons, mainly due to time restraints (since there was no time to re-record and edit out Halliwell's vocals or make a video for the track). The North American tour was a big success, began in West Palm Beach on 15 June, and grossed $60 million in 40-date sold-out.
1998–2000: Forever and indefinite hiatus
While on tour in the United-States, the group continued to record new material and they released a new song, "Goodbye", before Christmas in 1998. The song was seen as a tribute to Geri Halliwell, and when it topped the UK Singles Chart it became their third consecutive Christmas number-one – equalling the record previously set by The Beatles. Later in 1998, Bunton and Chisholm appeared at the 1998 MTV Europe Music Awards without their other band members, and the group won two awards: "Best Pop Act" and "Best Group" for a second time. In late 1998, Brown and Adams announced they were both pregnant at the time, the former was also married to dancer Jimmy Gulzer and became known as Mel G for a brief period. She gave birth to daughter Phoenix Chi in February 1999. One month later, Adams gave birth to son Brooklyn, whose father was then Manchester United player David Beckham. Later that year, she married Beckham in a highly publicised wedding in Ireland.
The Spice Girls returned to the studio in August 1999, after an eight-month recording break to start work on their third and last studio album. The album's sound was initially more pop-influenced, similar to their first two albums, and included production from Eliot Kennedy. The album's sound took a mature direction when American producers like Rodney Jerkins, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis came on to collaborate with the group. In December 1999 they performed live for a UK-only tour, named Christmas in Spiceworld, in London and Manchester, also showcasing new songs from the third album. During 1999, the group recorded the character Amneris' song "My Strongest Suit" in Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida, a concept album which would later go on to fuel the musical version of Verdi's Aida. The band performed again at the 2000 BRIT Awards, and it was announced that they had received the Outstanding Achievement in Music Award. Despite being at the event, Halliwell did not join her former bandmates on stage. In November 2000, the group released Forever. Sporting a new edgier R&B sound, the album received a lukewarm response from critics.
In the US, the album peaked at number thirty-nine on the Billboard 200 albums chart. In the UK, the album was released the same week as Westlife's Coast to Coast album and the chart battle was widely reported by the media, where Westlife won the battle reaching number one in the UK, leaving the Spice Girls at number two. The lead single from Forever, the double A-side "Holler"/"Let Love Lead the Way", became the group's ninth number one single in the UK. However the song failed to break onto the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart stateside, instead peaking at number seven on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles. "Holler" did peak at number thirty-one on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in 2000. The only major performance of the lead single came at the MTV Europe Music Awards on 16 November 2000. In total, Forever achieved only a fraction of the success of its two best-selling predecessors, selling five million copies. In December 2000, the group unofficially announced that they were beginning an indefinite hiatus and would be concentrating on their solo careers in regards to their foreseeable future, although they pointed out that the group was not splitting.
2007–08: Return of the Spice Girls and Greatest Hits
On 28 June 2007, the group held a press conference at The O2 Arena revealing their intention to reunite. The plan to reform had long been speculated by the media, but the group finally confirmed their intention to embark upon a worldwide concert tour, starting in Vancouver on 2 December 2007. Filmmaker Bob Smeaton, directed an official documentary on the reunion. It was entitled Spice Girls: Giving You Everything and was first aired on Australia's Fox8 on 16 December 2007, followed by BBC One in the UK, on 31 December. Ticket sales for the first London date of "The Return of the Spice Girls" World Tour sold out in 38 seconds. It was reported that over one million people signed up in the UK alone and over five million worldwide for the ticket ballot on the band's official website. Sixteen additional dates in London had been added and sold out. In the United States, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Jose shows also sold out, prompting additional dates to be added. It was announced that the Spice Girls would be playing dates in Chicago and Detroit (Auburn Hills) and Boston, as well as additional dates in New York to keep up with the demand. On the first concert in Canada, they performed to an audience of 15,000 people, singing twenty songs and changing a total of eight times. Along with the tour sellout, the Spice Girls licensed their name and image to Tesco's UK supermarket chain.
The group's comeback single, "Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)", was announced as the official Children in Need charity single for 2007 and was released 5 November. The first public appearance on stage by the Spice Girls was made at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, where the group performed at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. They performed two songs, 1998 single "Stop" and the lead single from their greatest hits album, "Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)". The show was filmed by CBS on 15 November 2007 for broadcast on 4 December 2007. They also performed the song live for the BBC Children in Need telethon on 16 November 2007 from Los Angeles, in Roberto Cavalli gowns. The release peaked at number 11 on the UK Singles Chart, making it the group's lowest charting British single to date. However, the album fared better, peaking at number two on the UK Albums Chart. On 1 February 2008, it was announced that due to personal and family commitments their tour would come to an end in Toronto on 26 February 2008, meaning that tour dates in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Cape Town and Buenos Aires were cancelled. In March 2008, the group won the coveted "Icon Awards" at the 95.8 Capital Awards; Bunton and Chisholm collected the award. In June, they captured the Glamour Award for the Best Band; Bunton, Brown and Halliwell received the award at the event. In September, the Spice Girls won the "Best Live Return Award" at the 2008 Live Vodafone Music Awards, beating acts such as Led Zeppelin and the Sex Pistols. Bunton was there to collect the award.
2010–12: Viva Forever musical and London Olympics
In 2010, the group was nominated for a BRIT Award in the new category, "Best Performance of the 30th Year" for their Brit Awards performance of their songs, "Wannabe" and "Who Do You Think You Are". The group later won the award which was received by Halliwell and Brown. The group along with Simon Fuller also teamed with Judy Craymer and Jennifer Saunders to develop a Spice Girls musical entitled Viva Forever!. Although the group were not in the musical, they influenced the show's cast and production choices in a story which uses; similar to that of ABBA's music in Mamma Mia!.
Two years later, in June 2012, the group reunited for the first time in four years for the press conference in London to promote the launch of Viva Forever: The Musical. The press conference was held at St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel, the location where the group filmed the music video for "Wannabe", sixteen years earlier, to the day. In August 2012, after much speculation from the press and the public, the group performed a medley of "Wannabe" and "Spice Up Your Life" at the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony, reuniting solely for the event. Their performance received great response from the audience and became the most tweeted moment of the Olympics with over 116,000 tweets on Twitter per minute. In December 2012, the group reunited once again for the premiere of Viva Forever: The Musical at the West End's Piccadilly Theatre. In addition to the promotion of the musical, the group appeared in the documentary, Spice Girls' Story: Viva Forever! which aired on 24 December 2012 on ITV1.
2016: Spice Girls - GEM
On 8 July 2016, Mel B, Bunton, and Halliwell unveiled a new website under the name "The Spice Girls - GEM", released a short video celebrating the 20th anniversary of their first single "Wannabe", and teased upcoming news from them as a three piece. Mel B later clarified that "GEM" was not a new name for the three-piece, saying "GEM is the name of our website - we’re always going to be Spice Girls. I think people are getting it a bit confused with GEM." Mel C announced that she opted not to take part in a reunion project, noting "I didn’t make the decision lightly. I did go quite far down the route with the girls. I went to a lot of meetings. But when it came to it, I just didn’t feel it was right in my gut." Mel B reaffirmed this in an interview saying, "Victoria's busy [...] Mel C's doing her own album" and noted that both Victoria and Mel C gave the three-piece their blessing to continue with the project. However, Mel C noted that things were "awkward" between her and the other girls as a result.
Cultural impact and legacy
British music scene
The image of the Spice Girls was deliberately aimed at young girls, an audience of formidable size and potential; reinforcing the range of appeal within the target demographic were the bandmates' five distinctive personalities, which encouraged fans to identify with one member or another. This marketing was helped in no small way by the aliases assigned to each member of the group, similar to the marketing ploy used in children's serial literature of including several different character types in the storyline. Shortly after "Wannabe"'s release, the group appeared in Top of the Pops magazine where each member was given a nickname based upon her image: Adams became "Posh Spice", Bunton became "Baby Spice", Brown became "Scary Spice", Halliwell became "Ginger Spice", and Chisholm became "Sporty Spice".
The phrase "girl power" put a name to a social phenomenon, but the slogan was met with mixed reactions. The phrase was a label for the particular facet of post classical neo-feminist empowerment embraced by the band: that a sensual, feminine appearance and equality between the sexes need not be mutually exclusive. This concept was by no means original in the pop world: both Madonna and Bananarama had employed similar outlooks. The phrase, whilst coined by Welsh indie band Helen Love in 1993 and used as the title of an album by British pop duo Shampoo in 1995, had been used in 1987 by a London a cappella all-girl group called Mint Juleps. With the production might of Trevor Horn behind them, this group had released a track called "Girl to the Power of 6". The format of the song, whilst having an obvious 1980s sound, had a similar format to the Spice Girls' "Wannabe", where each girl presented a distinct personality trait. The phrases "Girl to the Power" and "Girl Power" are mentioned several times, as well as strong overtones of female empowerment, unity and loyalty. However, the formula did not work for the Mint Juleps, perhaps being too far ahead of its time. It was not until the emergence of the Spice Girls in 1996 with "Wannabe", over 9 years later, that the concept of "Girl power" exploded onto the common consciousness. The Spice Girls' version was distinctive. Its message of empowerment appealed to young girls, adolescents and adult women, and it emphasised the importance of strong and loyal friendship among females.
In all, the focused, consistent presentation of "girl power" formed the centrepiece of their appeal as a band. Some critics dismissed it as no more than a shallow marketing tactic, while others took issue with the emphasis on physical appearance, concerned about the potential impact on self-conscious and/or impressionable youngsters. Regardless, the phrase became a cultural phenomenon, adopted as the mantra for millions of girls and even making it into the Oxford English Dictionary. In summation of the concept, author Ryan Dawson said, "The Spice Girls changed British culture enough for Girl Power to now seem completely unremarkable."
The term "Cool Britannia" became prominent in the media and represented the new political and social climate that was emerging with the advances made by New Labour and the new UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Coming out of a period of 18 years of Conservative government, Tony Blair and New Labour were seen as young, cool and very appealing, a main driving force in giving Britain a feeling of euphoria and optimism.
Although by no means responsible for the onset of "Cool Britannia", the arrival of the Spice Girls added to the new image and re-branding of Britain, and underlined the growing world popularity of British, rather than American pop music. This fact was underlined at the 1997 BRIT Awards. The group won two awards but it was Halliwell's now iconic red, white and blue Union Jack mini-dress that appeared in media coverage around the world and became an enduring image of "Cool Britannia".
1990s iconic status
The Union Jack dress that Halliwell wore has achieved iconic status, becoming one of the most prominent symbols of 1990s pop culture. The dress was sold at a charity auction to Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas for a record £41,320, giving Halliwell the Guinness World Record for the most expensive piece of pop star clothing ever sold after interest from a frenzy of bidders. The dress was one of many items of Spice Girls memorabilia sold at the auction, where total sales reached £146,511 for charity.
The iconic symbolism of the Spice Girls in the 1990s is also attributed to their merchandising and willingness to be a part of a media-driven world. They advertised for many brands and even parodied themselves in the video for the song "Spice Up Your Life", in which the band fly in a space ship surrounded by billboards and adverts featuring them. Because of their regular appearances in ads and the media, the band solidified themselves as a phenomenon—an icon of the decade and for British music. The Spice Girls ranked No. 10 in The 101 Reasons the '90s Ruled, special for TV channel E!.
Some sources, especially those in the United Kingdom, revere the Spice Girls as "gay icons". In a survey in which more than 5,000 male and female homosexually oriented individuals from the UK had voted, Victoria Beckham placed 12th and Geri Halliwell placed 43rd in the Top 50 gay icons of all time. Halliwell joked at the Video Music Awards in 1998 about her appearance as Ginger Spice: "As you have noted, I am no longer dressed like a drag queen." During an interview, Emma Bunton explained why the Spice Girls have so many gay fans: "We were really flattered with having such a huge gay fan base because they know about fashion and they know about songs ... I'm so flattered that we've got such a huge gay following, it's amazing."
Ten years after the release of their debut single, the Spice Girls were voted the biggest cultural icons of the 1990s by 80 percent in a UK poll of 1,000 people carried out for the board game Trivial Pursuit, stating that "Girl Power" defined the decade.
Spicy Crispy Chicks
In 1997, Jack in the Box, an American fast-food chain restaurant, sought to capitalise on Spice Girl Mania in America, by launching a major advertising campaign using a fictional musical group called the 'Spicy Crispy Chicks' (a take off of the Spice Girls). The comedic national television commercials were used to promote the new 'Spicy Crispy Sandwich', with the girls mimicking the Spice Girls, dancing in "the Jack groove." The Spicy Crispy Chicks concept was used as a model for another successful advertising campaign called the 'Meaty Cheesy Boys'. At the 1998 Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) Show, one of the Spicy Crispy Chicks commercials won the top award for humour.
Fashion trends and nicknames
In the summer of 1996 a lunch at a Notting Hill restaurant with the editor of Top of the Pops magazine, Peter Loraine would inadvertently lead the Spice Girls to adopt nicknames. The nicknames played a key role in their marketability and the way their international audience would identify with them.
"In the magazine we used silly language and came up with nicknames all the time so it came naturally to give them names that would be used by the magazine and its readers; it was never meant to be adopted globally," he explains.
- Victoria Beckham: Victoria was called Posh Spice because of her more upper-middle-class background, her choppy brunette bob hairstyle and refined attitude, form-fitting designer outfits and her love of high-heeled footwear.
- Melanie Brown: Melanie (also called Mel B) was given the nickname Scary Spice because of her outrageous, "in-your-face" attitude, "loud" Leeds accent, throaty laugh, pierced tongue, manner of dress (which often consisted of leopard-print outfits), and her voluminously curly Afro hair.
- Emma Bunton: Emma was called Baby Spice because she was the youngest member of the group, wore her long blonde hair in pigtails, wore babydoll dresses, had an innocent smile, and had a girly girl personality.
- Melanie Chisholm: Melanie (also called Mel C) was called Sporty Spice because she usually wore a tracksuit with her long dark hair in a ponytail and sported a tough girl attitude as well as tattoos on both of her arms. She also possessed true athletic abilities, her signature being her ability to perform back handsprings.
- Geri Halliwell: Geri was called Ginger Spice because of her "liveliness, zest, and flaming red hair." She often wore outrageous stage outfits, as in the iconic Union Jack dress. Geri was seen by some as the de facto leader of the group thanks to her articulate conversational style and business savvy nature. She was also the eldest member of the group.
Portrayal in the media
The Spice Girls became media icons in Great Britain and a regular feature of the British press; during the peak of their worldwide fame in 1997, the paparazzi were constantly seen following them everywhere, to obtain stories and gossip about the group, as a supposed affair between Emma Bunton and manager Simon Fuller, or constant split rumours which became fodder for numerous tabloids. Rumours of in-fighting and conflicts within the group also made headlines, especially between Geri Halliwell and Melanie Brown; the rumours suggested that they were fighting to be the leader of the group. Brown, who later admitted that she used to be a "bitch" with Halliwell, said the problems had stayed in the past. The rumours reached their height when the Spice Girls dismissed their manager Simon Fuller during the power struggles, with Fuller reportedly receiving a 10 million pound severance cheque to keep quiet about the details of his sacking. Months later, in May 1998, Halliwell would leave the band in the midst of rumours of fighting with Brown; the news of Halliwell's departure was covered as a major news story by media around the world, and became one of the biggest entertainment news stories of the year.
In February 1997 at the BRIT Awards, Halliwell's Union Jack dress from a Spice Girls live performance made all the front pages the next day. During the ceremony, Halliwell's breasts were exposed twice, causing controversy. This would not be the only such exhibition published of Halliwell, because during the year the release of nude photos of Halliwell that she posed for earlier in her career caused some scandal. According to the documentary Giving You Everything, the rest of the women stated that they knew about the photos before they were famous, but when the photos were published they created friction inside the group that never abated.
The stories of their encounters with other celebrities also became fodder for the press; for example, in May 1997, at The Prince's Trust 21st anniversary concert, Mel B and Geri Halliwell breached royal protocol when they planted kisses on Prince Charles's cheeks, leaving it covered with lipstick, and later, Halliwell told him "you're very sexy" and also pinched his bottom. In November, the British Royal Family were considered fans of the Spice Girls, including The Prince of Wales and his son Prince Harry. That month, South African President Nelson Mandela said: "These are my heroes. This is one of the greatest moments in my life" in an encounter organised by Prince Charles, who said, "It is the second greatest moment in my life, the first time I met them was the greatest". In 1998 the video game magazine Nintendo Power created The More Annoying Than the Spice Girls Award, adding: "What could possibly have been more annoying in 1997 than the Spice Girls, you ask?"
Victoria Adams started dating football player David Beckham in 1997 after they had met at a charity football match. The couple announced their engagement in 1998 and were dubbed "Posh and Becks" by the media.
Other brand ventures
In June 1997, the group began filming their movie debut with director Bob Spiers. Meant to accompany the album, the comical style and content of the movie was in the same vein as The Beatles' films in the 1960s such as A Hard Day's Night. The light-hearted comedy, intended to capture the spirit of the Spice Girls, featured a plethora of stars including Roger Moore, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Elton John, Richard O'Brien, Jennifer Saunders, Richard E. Grant, Elvis Costello, and Meat Loaf. Released in December 1997, Spiceworld: The Movie proved to be a hit at the box office, breaking the record for the highest-ever weekend debut for Super Bowl Weekend (25 January 1998) in the US, with box office sales of $10,527,222. The movie took in total $77 million at the box office worldwide, $100 million combining cinema tickets and DVD sales, including $30 million in the US and £11 million in Britain. Despite being a commercial success, the film was widely panned by critics; the movie was nominated for seven awards at the 1999 Golden Raspberry Awards where the Spice Girls collectively won the award for "Worst Actress".
Since 18 July 2014, The Spice Bus, which featured in the film driven by Meat Loaf, is now on permanent display at the Island Harbour Marina on the Isle of Wight, England.
The first television special that the Spice Girls filmed was a documentary of their experiences from 1996 to 1997, titled One Hour of Girl Power. Later, Girl Talk was released. It was a television special where the Spice Girls spoke individually about themselves and the group. In April 1997, The Spice Girls appeared on the popular American television show Saturday Night Live, singing "Wannabe" and "Say You'll Be There". In November 1997, An Audience with...The Spice Girls was screened for British channel ITV. They also sang the song "Power of Five" on the day Channel 5 launched. The show attracted 11.8 million viewers in the UK, one fifth of the population. In December 1997 was the release of the first US television documentary Too Much Is Never Enough, focusing on their reaction to their sudden rise to fame around the world. In January 1998, the Spice Girls appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, singing two songs, followed by an interview with Oprah.
In June 1999 the TV special, The Spice Girls in America: A Tour Story was aired. This followed the Spice Girls' exploits and adventures in America, focusing on their tour of the US, and when Geri Halliwell left the Spice Girls. In December 2000, T4 aired a documentary, "Spice Girls on Film", which focused on the Spice Girls' music videos. In November 2003, Melanie C and Geri appeared on the VH1 television series Behind the Music which devoted a chapter to tell the story of the Spice Girls, as well as E! True Hollywood Story, the TV documentary series on the cable network E!.
The first public appearance on stage by the Spice Girls Reunion was made at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, where the group performed at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. They performed two songs, 1998 single "Stop" and the lead single from their greatest hits album, "Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)". The show was filmed by CBS on 15 November 2007 for broadcast on 4 December 2007, the show attracts averaged 7.4 million total viewers.
In December 2007, the official documentary, Spice Girls: Giving You Everything that made its world première in Australia on FOX8, It aired in Canada on 19 December 2007 (on the CTV), and on the BBC in the United Kingdom on 31 December 2007. The film features narrative insight and commentary from the five girls themselves. The title of the documentary comes from chorus lyrics from their UK No. 1 single "Say You'll Be There". The documentary attracted 3.6 million viewers in the UK.
Viva Forever: The Musical
A jukebox musical written by Jennifer Saunders, produced by Judy Craymer and directed by Paul Garrington. Based on the songs of the Spice Girls, the show began previews at the Piccadilly Theatre, London on 27 November 2012 and had its Press Night on 11 December 2012 and features some of the group's biggest hit songs including "Wannabe", "Spice Up Your Life" and the eponymous "Viva Forever".
Merchandise and sponsorship deals
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The year 1997 saw the Spice Girls capitalising on their fame through a multimillion-dollar phenomenon of merchandise, with hundreds of official products, including Chupa Chups, Walkers Crisps, Cadbury Chocolate, Polaroid, Impulse Deodorant, Aprilia Scooters, Domino Sugar, Spice Girls Dolls, a PlayStation video game, Sponsorship with ASDA Supermarket chain Channel 5, and signed contract with Pepsi earned the group over £5 million (US$10 million). The Spice Girls brand had produced over £300 million worldwide through merchandise in 1997. Globally, the group's total grosses are estimated to have been $500–800 millions of dollars between 1996 and 1998.
At the height of 1990s Spicemania, there were many official and unofficial products produced by numerous manufacturers, including clothes, stickers, postcards, pens, bags, shoes, watches, caps, cosmetics, toys, food products, mugs, backpacks, magazines, books, videos, etc.
During the summer of 1997, the group was criticised for "selling out" to worldwide brands, being accused of overexposure and signing too many sponsorship contracts with large corporate businesses. The group responded to the presses criticisms by launching a music video of "Spice Up Your Life" where they are seen referring to the number of sponsorships they had.
- Cadbury Chocolate: 10 chocolate bars, assorted boxes and holiday confectioneries including easter eggs featuring the girls individually or as a group were produced.
- Chupa Chups: Different tins filled with assorted lollipops featuring a different girl were among the many products released, but the most widely produced was the "Fantasy Ball" Chupa Chups with six different packages each featuring a collectible sticker. Also Pushpops, Crazy Dips, Bubblegum with tattoos and toy microphones were produced.
- Walkers Crisps: In this promotion, over 51 different packaging designs created, with 10 for each member, plus a group package. The girls starred in two television adverts for the products.
- Pepsi Cola: In early 1997, the Spice Girls signed a multimillion sponsorship deal with Pepsi, and earned over £5 million (US$10 million) for the group. The girls were featured on several cans and bottles of Pepsi throughout Europe. Promotional giveaways included collectible drinking glasses and a music single, "Step to Me". The girls starred in three television adverts for Pepsi all featuring the song "Move Over (Generation Next)".
- Spice Girls Dolls: Were released by Galoob Toys in 1997, became a huge hit during the Christmas season going on to become best-selling dolls.
- Polaroid: A regular Polaroid instant camera with a pink-and-purple shell and Spice Girl badging was produced along with a Spice Girls branded disposable Polaroid camera and flashlight. Each of the girls filmed a television advert promoting new types of Polaroid film (i.e. black & white, writable, etc.), in addition to making a group advert.
- Impulse: The girls launched a fragrance known as "Impulse Spice", Deodorant and shower gel products were produced. One television advertisement was made for the product.
- PlayStation: Spice World, a video game featuring computer-animated cartoons of the girls was developed in 1998.
- Aprilia Scooters: 5 different scooters, each promoting a Spice Girl, were created and marketed as the "Spice Sonic Effect".
- ASDA Supermarkets: British supermarket chain ASDA, created over 40 different Spice Items for Christmas 1997 developing goods such as party supplies, xmas supplies, Chocolate biscuits, Cookies, Cakes, Pizzas, Towels, Pillows, Bean Bags, Clothing supplies even including spice branded platform shoe sneakers and even Spice Girl branded kids meals in the stores' restaurants. Signed contract with ASDA for earned over £1 million (US$2 million)
- Tesco Supermarkets: A two-part television ad campaign celebrating Christmas with the Spice Girls aired in 2007, been paid £5 million (US$10 million).
- Channel 5: The girls appeared in promotional print ads, recorded a song ("1,2,3,4,5!"), filmed a music video and launched Britain's fifth terrestrial television network in 1997.
- Domino Sugar: The Girls promoted the sugar with a sponsor of their North American tour, with clips being played before shows and during intermission on video screens.
- Target Stores: The American discount retailer was one of the largest suppliers of official Spice Girls merchandise in the United States and Australia, usually devoting an aisle to products such as bikes, school supplies, party supplies, and toys.
Career records and achievements
As a group, the Spice Girls received several awards including five BRIT Awards, three American Music Awards, three MTV Europe Music Awards, one MTV Video Music Awards and three World Music Awards. As of January 2010, they have sold more than 80 million records worldwide, achieving certified sales of 13 million albums in Europe, 14 million records in the US and 2.4 million in Canada. The group achieved the highest debut for a UK group on the Billboard Hot 100 at number five with "Say You'll Be There". They are also the first British band since The Rolling Stones in 1975 to have two albums in the US Billboard 200 albums chart at the same time (Spice and Spiceworld). In addition to this, the Spice Girls also achieved the highest ever annual earnings by an all-female group in 1998 with an income of £29.6 million (approximately US$49 million).
They produced a total of nine number one singles in the UK—tied with ABBA behind Take That (eleven), The Shadows (twelve), Madonna (thirteen), Westlife (fourteen), Cliff Richard (fourteen), The Beatles (seventeen) and Elvis Presley (twenty-one). The group had three consecutive Christmas number one singles in the UK ("2 Become 1", 1996; "Too Much", 1997; "Goodbye", 1998); they only share this record with The Beatles. Their first single, "Wannabe", is the most successful song released by an all-female group. Debuting on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 11, it is also the highest-ever debut by a British band in the US, beating the previous record held by The Beatles for "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and the joint highest entry for a debut act, tying with Alanis Morissette.
Spice is the 18th biggest-selling album of all time in the UK with over 3 million copies sold, and topped the charts for 15 non-consecutive weeks, the most by a female group in the UK. It is also the biggest-selling album of all time by a girl group, with sales of 28 million copies worldwide. Spiceworld shipped 7 million copies in just two weeks, including 1.4 million in Britain alone—the largest-ever shipment of an album over 14 days. They are also the first act (and so far only female act) to have their first six singles ("Wannabe", "Say You'll Be There", "2 Become 1", "Mama"/"Who Do You Think You Are", "Spice Up Your Life" and "Too Much") make number one on the UK charts. (Their run was broken by "Stop", which peaked at number two in March 1998.)
Spiceworld: The Movie broke the record for the highest-ever weekend debut a film on Super Bowl weekend (25 January 1998) in the US, with box office sales of $10,527,222. Spiceworld: The Movie topped the UK video charts on its first week of release, selling over 55,000 copies on its first day in stores and 270,000 copies in the first week. The Return of the Spice Girls Tour was announced as the highest-grossing concert act of 2008, netting £16.5 million (US$33 million) for the band. In total, the tour took more than $70 million, and produced $107.2 million in ticket sales and merchandising.
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- Larkin, Colin. The Virgin Encyclopaedia of Popular Music (4th ed.) (Virgin Books, 2003.) ISBN 1-85227-923-0
- McGibbon, Rob (1997). Spice Power: The Inside Story. Macmillan Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0752211420.
- Sinclair, David. Wannabe: How the Spice Girls Reinvented Pop Fame (Omnibuss Press, 2004)
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