In the early 1990s, boy bands were dominating the UK charts. Determined to give them a run for their money, Bob and Chris Herbert of Heart Management decided to create a girl group consisting of five drastically different characters that would each appeal to a different segment of the audience. The result was the Spice Girls. Comprising of Mel B (“Scary Spice”), Melanie C (“Sporty Spice”), Emma Bunton (“Baby Spice”), Geri Halliwell (“Ginger Spice”), and Victoria Beckham (“Posh Spice”). The Spice Girls were a sensation, leading the teen pop resurgence of the decade and becoming instant pop culture icons. To date, they’ve sold over 100 million records worldwide, making them the bestselling girl group of all time and the most commercially successful UK pop band since the Beatles. Here’s our pick of the 10 best Spice Girls songs of all time.
10. Spice Invader
Spice Invader is stark raving bonkers. It came about when the single Spice Up Your Life was about to be released. With all the good stuff already taken by the group’s debut album, the record label was left without a B side. Stuck for anything else to do, they tasked the production duo of Paul Wilson and Andy Watkins to come up with something at the last minute. The result is a brilliantly mad, completely nonsensical few minutes of Mel B accusing Geri of being a tree hugger, rambling on about running up massive phone bills, and talking about various other things that make zero sense. Weird but utterly wonderful.
9. Baby Come Round
Next up is another B-side, albeit a slightly less bewildering one than our previous entry. Released as the accompaniment to the sugary sweet Mama and the glorious Who Do You Think You Are, Baby Come Round is a catchy, bouncy piece of ’90s pop that might sound slightly dated now, but was perfect for the time.
8. Walk of Life
Who knew the Spice Girls could do reggae? Fans of Walk of Life, that’s who. The Spice Girls and reggae might not sound like the most natural marriage in the world, but it’s actually a strangely good effort, with enough grit from the backing track to give it a decent amount of edge. Admittedly, it’s not going to give Bob Marley a run for his money, but it’s still a very worthwhile listen.
7. Viva Forever
Whatever else Viva Forever is, subtle it isn’t. Written by the group along with Matt Rowe and Richard Stannard, the theme is fleeting summer romances on vacation. The flamenco guitars, castanets, and “hasta mañana’s” have been laid on with a trowel, but even if it’s a bit heavy-handed at times, the melancholy quality of the lush arrangments are dreamy enough that it’s hard to care. The critics weren’t too enamored with it, but the fans lapped it up, sending it to the top of the charts and giving the group their seventh No. 1 hit. It’s since been certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).
6. Spice Up Your Life
If you can overlook the woeful lyrics – “Yellow man in Timbuktu / Colour for both me and you” was bad enough in 1997, and it’s not got any less regrettable with time – Spice Up Your Life is is incredibly hard to dislike. Released as the lead single from the group’s second album, Spiceworld, in October 1997, it proved the Spice Girls were no one-album wonder. Chaotic, wild, and almost exhausting in its energy, it gave us a new dance move ( “Slam it to the left (if you’re having a good time) / Shake it to the right (if you know that you feel fine)”) and the girls their fifth consecutive No. 1 on the UK Singles chart.
5. 2 Become 1
Whether you take issue with the simplistic lyrics of 2 Become 1 or not (although you certainly won’t be the only one if you do), there’s no denying the beguiling charm of its lush arrangements and vocals. The Spice Girls might not have been the best singers in the world, and they certainly weren’t the best songwriters, but they always had too much character for anyone to either notice or care. Released as the group’s third single on 16 December 1996, it became their third consecutive chart-topper in the UK and their first No. 1 Christmas hit.
As The Guardian says, Stop was as close as the Spice Girls came to joining in with with the retromania of Britpop, although unlike most of the indie bands around them, they went the Motown and blue-eyed soul route. Released as the third single from Spiceworld in March 1998, it peaked at number two on the UK Singles Chart, becoming the first (and only) Spice Girls’ song not to reach number one. It was also their last single released as a quintet before Geri Halliwell’s departure in May 1998.
It’s hard to think of a more instantly recognizable song from the ’90s than Wannabe. Actually, make that any era. With its zig-a-zig-ahs, massive hooks, and message about the value of female friendship, the Spice Girls’ debut single ushered in the era of girl power with a bang. Predictably, a lot of music journalists didn’t get it, but everyone else did – released in June 1996, it spent 7 weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart, 4 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, and became the best-selling single by a girl group ever. It also managed to pick up the award for Best British-Written Single at the 1997 Ivor Novello Awards and for British Single of the Year at the 1997 Brit Awards.
2. Say You’ll Be There
As NME says, Say You’ll Be There has the same generous sloshes of G-Funk as Baby Come Round and like Wannabe, it’s a song that’s all about empowering women to take control of what they want and start calling the shots. Both elements have been amped up to max, resulting in a huge, bulldozer of a song that sums up the essence of girl power in a nutshell.
1. Who Do You Think You Are
Packed with double entendres, dripping with sauce, and with oozing with charm, Who Do You Think You Are distills everything there is to love about the Spice Girls into three minutes of pop perfection. As Vulture says, it doesn’t matter if the lyrics never really expand past the title. It’s a song that defines the late ’90s, and if you were there, one that’s always guaranteed to have you weeping tears of nostalgia within two seconds of the opening bar. Released as a double-A side with Mama in March 1997, it became the fourth of the group’s singles to top the charts.