Spice Girls

Virgin Records, 1997




It's highly fashionable to bash pop acts and revere white female folk singers these days. And dumping on the Spice quintet is always supremely in vogue. But what's more dangerous; popular music or popular thinking?

If it was as simple as throwing five aesthetically pleasing females together, Virgin would not be the only record company making millions off this method. The various knock-offs like pseudo-R&B All Saints and bland ass Solid Harmonie will never equate Spice Success because they lack ... what? ... "personality." The we're-so-cool posturing the All Saints foursome makes me nauseous. The Spice Girls don't need to do that; they KNOW they are. How many people can truly say they know themselves enough to be secure before millions?

Bob likes to say that the Spiceworld movie is something equal to the moon turning blood red. A lot of people agree with him. Bizarrely enough, most of these people I've noticed have not even bothered to see the movie itself. Pop music doesn't rot the brain but P-R-E-J-U-D-I-C-E definitely contributes to cerebral decay.

Their earlier album sounded vaguely Cretaceous-Janet-Jackson; trying to hard to fill in the beats with a tiny little voice. But in my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Spiceworld, they are doing what they should've done; letting the harmonics of their voices take over the center and life of the song. One of the few vocal assets they have is their seamless harmony (something harder to pull off than it sounds) and appropriate grooves according to ambience can be built around this foundation. They do not have strong voices (Victoria: "We aren't five Mariah Careys.") but they sure sound like they do in "Do It".

Though "Spice Up Your Life" makes the same mistake of fill-in-the-blanks singing, the past ends there. They hit follow-ups like "Stop" and "Too Much" with artfully layered vocal arrangements. "Too Much" is lyrical enough to the point of effective a cappella, if they chose to do so.

Sheer vocal dedication leads the groove in "Saturday Night Divas" and makes up half the layers in "Never Give Up On the Good Times" and still manages to sound club. "Do It" is the signature of the Spice Girls with its upbeat motivational let's-Reebok-Stepladder theme. In all the layering, Mel C (the sporty one), the only Spice Girl with a technique, occasionally stems off to improvise; all they really need is a voice sampler and a drum machine.

But sometimes it doesn't pull through; forced Pepsi anthem "Move On" lacks heart for some reason, repeating the words "Generation Next" over and over again without conviction. "Denying" overdoes the freedom of expression thing, again done without conviction. Without conviction, the Spice Girls are five people singing commercial jingles.

"Mama" from the earlier album hinted at what they could do with ballads. The breathless "Viva Forever" uses Spanish influences to create "sunset horizon" atmospheres a la Walter Afanasieff. It's strange how there aren't more ballads on the album.

One song made me smile and think, "This is so COOL." From the foray in jazzy R&B in "Too Much", they delve deeper into old jazz radio with "The Lady is a Vamp". Love the horn section. Alternating a name-dropping theme (Elvis, "Seven Year Itch") with a nineties review (Charlie's Angels, ladies on top), they make a no-encores-please exit with ... dare I say ... style.

With Spiceworld they've done the best with what they have, which turns out to be more than one can expect from all the negative media. They've participated in writing all the material, they don't lip-sync, they don't pretend to be more than they are, and they're deserving of respect overall. Since when was participation in Lilith Fair some sort of prerequisite for artistic validity?

This may come across as too Spice Girl-ish but girls just wanna have fun. They're having it, too.

Rating: B

User Rating: B+



© 1998 JB and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Virgin Records, and is used for informational purposes only.