Monday, November 24, 2003

Ah, Spice Girls. Those were the days. VH-1 thinks so, too, as last night they premiered a Spicy episode of Behind the Music (and if you missed it, don't feel badly; apparently the only things VH-1 is capable of promoting these days are their stupid "Big In '03" show and endless specials about the Hilton Sisters and Michael Jackson). It was largely disappointing, mainly because they only got interviews with Melanie Chisholm and Geri Halliwell (Sporty and Ginger, respectively) and didn't spend enough time on the girls' solo careers (apart from pointing out that Geri's has been akin to watching a car crash). But the upside is that it reminded me of why I loved the Spice Girls in the first place.

So you know what I had to do, right? Of course: I made a comp.

Spicy!: The Best of the Spice Girls
1 "Christmas Wrapping" - where the Girls show great taste in seasonal covers, taking on the Waitresses' cult holiday classic. A refreshing choice, in that it's not a particularly "up" song - also good that it doesn't take a lot of (over)singing. Fine fun.
2 "Goodbye" - their last-ever single, as the then-four-piece sent departed Geri a love letter. Classy, solid balladry.
3 "Holler" - the first single from their last album, the ill-titled Forever, and one which holds up surprisingly well, likely due to Darkchild's superb production. It's a meaty, elastic R&B groove which works a charm. For some reason, though, the way they sing "holler" always makes me want to rhyme it with (I have no idea why) "intifada."
4 "Holler (Masters at Work Remix)" - Kenny and Louie work their magic on the Girls, opening "Holler" up widescreen, giving it a seductive, late-night feel.
5 "Who Do You Think You Are" - a horny attempt at funk which ends up more on the faux side of things.
6 "Move Over" - a track from the sophomore Spiceworld - a better album than their debut - which unfortunately became a Pepsi jingle in '98. Ergo, all the "Generation Next" chanting. Important in a sociological study of Spice, as they were supreme queens of marketing.
7 "Wannabe" - the original atom bomb, one which detonated with only slightly less worldwide (commercial) impact than "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." A solid, but by no means spectacular, pop record - apart from the "zigga-zig-ah!"s. There was better to come. True fact: upon first hearing "Wannabe," I was utterly flabbergasted as to how this song about group sex ("if you wanna be my lover/you gotta get with my friends") had made onto the radio. I really thought that was its gist, initially.
8 "Mama" - more midtempo than ballad, and more effective than you remember, largely due to its acoustic guitar. As songs about mothers go, at least.
9 "Stop" - Spice Girls-go-Motown by way of Boy George. Cute, kitschy, totally throwaway.
10 "2 Become 1" - one of their better ballads, actually tender and not smarmy. "I need some love like I've never needed love before" gets me, somehow. Another fine vocal from Sporty.
11 "Say You'll Be There" - now, this was more like it. Marvelously tough bassline and high-pitched synth lines in a fine song about devotion whilst still being an independent woman.
12 "Saturday Night Divas" - I've never figured out what this song's supposed to be about; I actually meant to leave this off. Not one of their best.
13 "Too Much" - a lovely, softly swinging ballad with an almost '50s feel to it, while still sounding contemporary, nealy swingbeat.
14 "Spice Up Your Life" - a pseudo-Latin fiesta of a dance record, and by furlongs their finest single ever, this was Spiceworld's first salvo. Rubbish lyrics about treating life as a party (I think), but it just bumps so sexily as to be positively absurd. And it references the lambada!
15 "Never Give Up on the Good Times" - their best non-single. Sounds like an early-'90s pop/aceeeed house record, what with its silly scratching and jittery keybs in the intro. The chorus is full of possible joy: "never give up on the good times/gotta believe in the love you find/never give up on the good times/livin' it up is a state of mind." Norman Vincent Peale should've been so pithy.
16 "The Lady Is A Vamp" - its fun torchiness would've been more effective were it not for just plain stoopid lyrics. But it's still effective, just less than it might have been.

They weren't perfect, but they were better than they get credit for being. And they were more fun than most you care to name. As pop artists, they ruled for a couple years, and deservedly so. Take notes. [And ignore most of their collected solo work, please. Except for that fab recent Emma (Bunton) single, "Maybe," Geri's Weather Girls cover, and most of Melanie C's Northern Star (save for those hideously gay remixes of "I Turn To You").] Their blood was shed so that Girls Aloud might live.

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