‘World’s greatest girl band’ in royal reunion

Pop princesses: A bashful 13 year-old Prince Harry meets three of the Spice Girls in 1997.

Should we admire the Spice Girls? With a reunion (sort of) underway, the 90s stars may perform at Prince Harry’s wedding. Some say their message of “Girl Power” is needed now more than ever.

The Spice Girls were one of the greatest pop groups of all time. They sold over 85 million records, notched nine UK number ones, and defined a generation. And soon they could reunite at the most talked about event of the year: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.

Whilst appearing on a US chat show, Mel B (aka Scary Spice) claimed that the “five Spice Girls” had received invitations. However, she would not confirm if they would perform, joking that she would be sacked if she revealed any more.

A reunion of sorts had been confirmed earlier this month with each band member set to earn a reported £10 million from endorsements and TV projects. However, no concerts have yet been arranged (Victoria Beckham insisting she does not want to sing). Nonetheless, a royal wedding would be quite the stage for a comeback performance.

It would not be their first royal engagement either. The group once met Prince Charles at a charity gala where Posh Spice, thinking little of regal decorum, encouraged Charles to get a tongue piercing.

But beyond this frivolity, the Spice Girls symbolised something far deeper. For some they were nothing short of feminist heroes.

For example their record-breaking debut single “Wannabe” was an anthem of female solidarity, the chorus proclaiming that “Friendship never ends.”

On the back of this initial success, the band soon spread their slogan of “Girl Power” to millions of fans — the message described by one journalist as a “rallying cry against oppression and gender inequality”.

And some think this idea is more vital now than ever. As the Time’s Up and #MeToo campaigns lead the fight against sexual abuse, the tag #GirlPower has lit up social media, being shared millions of times. Even the United Nations used a Spice Girls song to campaign for women’s rights.

Even so, not everyone is convinced that a full-blown comeback would be a good idea — not least the band’s own members. As Victoria Beckham recently told Vogue: “I’m not going on a tour”.

But should we admire the Spice Girls?

Old spice

Hardly, some say. Their vague and derivative slogan “Girl Power” is not exactly groundbreaking. And rather than empowering women, nicknames like Sporty Spice merely present female identity as a bland succession of stereotypes. What is more, this “reunion” is clearly a cynical money-making ploy from a group whose better days have long passed.

Nonsense, others respond. The Spice Girls’ unparalleled success can be measured in money made or records sold, but the intangibles are what count — for example, the confidence and joy their music inspires in people across the world. For this alone they more than deserve a second chance in the spotlight.

You Decide

  1. Overall, is pop music feminist?
  2. Is a Spice Girls reunion a good idea?

Activities

  1. Make a list of your favourite musicians — whether they are famous pop groups, obscure singer-songwriters, or old rock bands. What messages do you think their music communicates? Are their ideas mostly positive or negative?
  2. Just as we analyse poems and novels, we can use the same techniques to look closely at pop songs. Choose a famous song by Spice Girls (you could pick “Wannabe”) and look up the song’s lyrics. Slowly analyse the words, looking out for interesting language and techniques. What hidden messages did you find? Would it be appropriate to call the Spice Girls poets?

Some People Say...

“Spice Girls is about unifying the world — every age, every gender, everyone.”

Geri Halliwell

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
This would not be the first reunion that the band have attempted. After splitting up in 2000, the group reunited in 2007 for a worldwide tour which was ultimately cut short. They also briefly came together to perform at the 2012 London Olympics closing ceremony. In 2016 Emma Bunton, Mel B, and Geri Halliwell formed a short-lived three-piece called GEM, but they cancelled the project later that year.
What do we not know?
We do not know what shape this latest reunion will take, but it is extremely unlikely that the group will tour. Some think they will avoid musical performances altogether. Furthermore, a royal source claimed that official invitations to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markel have not been sent out.

Word Watch

Scary Spice
All members of the group had alter-egos and nicknames. Emma Bunton was known as Baby Spice, Geri Halliwell was called Ginger Spice, Victoria Beckham went by Posh Spice, and Mel C was called Sporty Spice.
Record-breaking
It was released in November 1996 and by March 1997 the song had topped the charts in 37 different countries. It soon became the biggest selling single by a girl band ever, with over seven million copies sold.
Girl Power
The band did not invent the phrase. It was previously associated with the Riot Grrrl movement in America — an underground feminist group known for their punk style.
Inequality
For more on this view see Arianna Davis’s piece in Become An Expert.
Campaign
Specifically the song “Wannabe”. Watch the two videos in Become An Expert to see how the single was transformed from a pop hit into a campaign song.
Derivative
Something which copies or is based on another source.

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