There’s no question that the Spice Girls were kind of cheesy and ridiculous, with their platform boots and zig-ga-zig-gah. But underneath all of that, there is a girl group who, for two short years, became absolutely massive pop icons. They sold 55 million albums worldwide with two albums; some would be lucky to see that in their entire 20-year span career. How’d they do it? Sure the image helped, but it was the music they were buying before all of the crap they schlepped across the world.
Now that the Spice Girls are pretty much accepted as pop culture treasures (their heralded appearance at the 2012 Olympics set it in stone), why not take a look back at the singles that made them pop superstars? Can you guess which song is #1?
You can click on each single cover to see my thoughts behind its ranking. I’d love to hear your thoughts too, so leave a comment below!
13. Headlines (Friendship Ends)  – Let’s be honest: no really knows this song exists, and that’s a good thing. Worst comeback song possible.
12. Mama (1997) – While it’s a sweet sentiment (who doesn’t love talking about how much they love their mamas), it’s a bit too sweet.
11. Holler (2000) – By 2000, Spicemania had worn off. That’s unfortunate, since “Holler” was a pretty good comeback. Helmed by Rodney “Darkchild” Jenkins, it had the remaining Spices at the sexiest and grooviest. Maybe if somebody hadn’t left because she felt redundant (hi Geri), this might have taken Spicemania into the new millennium.
10. Goodbye (1998) – The post-Geri song. It was a shameless tribute to the departed Spice Girl, but also a very pretty and emotional ballad about loss. I’m sure there are some who consider this the last Spice Girls song (pretending 2000 and 2007 never happened) and that’s fair; it would’ve been a great send-off.
9. Let Love Lead The Way (2000) – It’s a beautiful ballad, with the kind of sweeping melody the Spice Girls are known for. While it’s a pretty standard track in their canon, it further establishes their knack for a good tearjerker.
8. Spice Up Your Life (1997) – It’s kind of a silly song, just looking at the title. But, like most Spice songs, it’s a pretty powerful statement of intent: they were here to take over the world. It’s more of an novelty track compared to the others, but it represented them at the summit of their powers. Plus, with it’s Latin inflections, it was kind of ahead of its time (the Latin explosion of the 90s came two years later).
7. Say You’ll Be There (1996) – Considering how successful Wannabe was, this song should’ve flopped hard. Alas, the Spice Girls proved here that their hit-making potential was real. It’s funky and cool affirmation of Spicemania, although time hasn’t been that kind to it (hence it’s low placing here).
6. Viva Forever (1998) – Accompanied by Ginger’s quitting, the song took on an even more somber meaning. It’s a gorgeous, Latin-influenced ballad about loss that’s even more impactful than their actual “Geri’s gone” song, “Goodbye”.
5. Who Do You Think You Are (1997) – This song will forever be linked with Geri’s historic Union Jack dress, but the song is nothing to sneeze at. It is a fun, funky slice of modern disco that perfectly encapsulates the essence of “spice”.
4. 2 Become 1 (1996) – The sex ballad. Ok, maybe that’s not how it’s known but it is literally about sex. To the girls’ credit, it’s not sleazy or titillating, and it actually promote contraception. It’s a subtle, even romantic affair, that solidified the five girls as a pop force to be reckoned with.
3. Too Much (1997) – The Spice Girls were never going to be Grammy winners, but if they were going to submit something, this would be it. “Too Much” is their most mature offering, with an old-school bop and some pretty interesting lyrical content. It suggested that the girls could be about more than just “girl power”.
2. Stop (1998) It still confuses me how this song wasn’t a global smash (it was the first Spice Girls song to not hit #1). It’s a fun, flirty throwback to 60’s Motown, with one of their best hooks ever. It definitely deserved more than it got.
1. Wannabe (1996) – I feel like I would betraying some secret 90’a kid code if this song wasn’t #1. But besides that, it really is the song that started it all. None of their other records could’ve broken them worldwide like this undeniable pop stomper. It’s one of those songs that come around once in a lifetime that define an era. Sure, be embarrassed by it, but you know the words, remember the outfits, and know that iconic first line. Deal.
Had enough Spicemania? No? Luckily for you, I have created a Spotify playlist of all the tracks arranged in order so you can relive your 90’s heyday: