Yesterday, the Internet lost its collective hive-mind when all five of the Spice Girls (yes, even Victoria) were photographed together and later confirmed plans to reunite for special “projects”. We’re still not sure what that means (although a continuation of their wildly successful 2007 reunion tour makes the most sense), but it’s clear that we are embarking on a new wave of Spicemania, 20 years after they zig-gah-zig-gah-ed their way into our hearts.
In the spirit of “girl power” (which, side note, is such a resonant sentiment right now), I am dusting off an old post I wrote back in 2014: my definitive ranking of the Spice Girls singles, from their world-dominating debut to their surprisingly unsuccessful comeback track (well, not that unsurprising for reasons I’ll explain). The truth of the matter is, despite the kitsch factor and the questions about their talent level, the Spices are responsible for some truly great moments in pop that put much of Top 40 now to shame. What better time is there to celebrate than a 22-year anniversary reunion?
13. Headlines (Friendship Never Ends) – 2007
Why the Spice Girls launched their comeback off the back of this treacly, turgid ballad, I will never understand. Their first single as a five-piece in a decade failed to capture their effervescent pop energy, and audiences roundly rejected it. Frankly, it’s best forgotten.
12. Holler – 2000
Yes, the Spice Girls released music after Geri left. After a two-year hiatus, the Girls came back with a new single and new look to boot. Produced by hitmaker Rodney “Darkchild” Jenkins, “Holler” was a surprisingly hip R&B number that took the girls to edgier, sexier heights. While nowhere near their pop heights, “Holler” at least showed they were willing to evolve, if only we let them.
11. Mama – 1997
This tribute to the complicated mother-daughter relationship is sweet, but it may be a little too sweet and it’s kind of forgettable. If anything, the song shows a more vulnerable side of the Girls, with Mel B and Emma sharing a truly great verse at the end.
In the Spice Girls ballad canon, “Let the Love Lead the Way” is pretty standard, but its sweeping melody and tight harmonies make the song a solid, affecting entry.
“Goodbye” is more than just a tribute to Geri…ok, it’s mainly just a tribute to Geri, but it’s a sweet one that can transcend to speak more broadly to moving past heartbreaking loss. It’s a genuinely moving and strongly constructed pop ballad.
How does a song that kept the Spice Girls from being one-hit wonders after “Wannabe” rank so low? To its credit, their second single is a more-than-solid followup, with a funky pop groove that buoy their surprisingly vulnerable lyrics. Still, in the grand of scheme of Spice, “Say You’ll Be There” falls to more daring, interesting, or just plain better tracks.
A shamelessly cheesy track? Sure, maybe, but the first single from their second album/movie soundtrack Spiceworld shows the Girls aren’t afraid to think outside the box. The most forward statement of their domination since “Wannabe”, this loud and proud stormer of a track sports some unique global influences that were ahead of its time. It can be a lot, but the song is undeniably Spice.
“Viva Forever” had the unfortunate task of being the Spice Girls’ last single before Geri abruptly quit in the summer of 1998, but what a way to go out. This Latin-influenced ballad of regret and reflection has the Girls at their loveliest, with strong performances from all of the girls and some stunning harmonies.
For a group that straddled the border of obnoxious with aplomb, the Spice Girls’ take on sex was surprisingly subdued. Surrounded by sweeping strings, the Girls weave a sweet tale of passion, subtle enough to fly over the heads of the group’s younger audiences (it did mine). It also remarkably manages to weave in contraceptive messaging without sounding preachy. Romantic without being treacly or titillating, their first ballad established them as a real pop force.
This song will forever be tied to Geri’s legendary Union Jack dress from their equally legendary 1997 BRIT Awards performance, but it stands strong enough on its own. With horns blaring and Mel C blazing, this funky slice of modern-day disco is a relentless call to throw on your platform boots and storm the dance floor. “Who Do You Think You Are” is irresistible even to pop’s biggest detractors, and an excellent flag carrier of the “Cool Britannia” era.
3. Stop – 1998
In a collection filled with fun pop moments, “Stop” may be their most unabashedly joyous. This fun and flirty pastiche of 60’s Motown finds the Girls wanting their prospects to slow things down, while they up the pace with one of their best-ever pop hooks (with hand choreography to match). The sheer effortlessness of this pop perfection makes its underperformance on both sides of the Atlantic (it famously broke their #1 streak in the UK) all the more puzzling. Even if “Stop” suggested a wane in Spice fever, it’s still top-notch.
I’ve long held the belief that “Too Much” is the Spice Girls’ crowning creative achievement as a music act. The second single from Spiceworld is a silky-smooth tribute to doo-wop that is both sexy and melancholy, contemplating the excesses of love and fame that there swept up in when they ruled the world. It’s an understated, mature effort from the Girls that signaled at their potential as a legitimate pop act. Who knows where they could’ve gone if Geri hadn’t mucked everything up only seven months later.
Come on, what else would be number one? “Wannabe” is more than a party smash that practically defines the 90’s; it’s one of the most incredible statements of intent that pop music has ever seen. The Girls wear their brash and sassy energy on every surface, drilling their effervescent message of female empowerment and unity into your brain with so many iconic hooks that resistance is a fool’s errand. Simply put, “Wannabe” is one of the best pop moments of the last 25 years.