Girl Groups are one of the easiest things to market in the music business, even moreso than Boy Bands. Guys get to look at attractive girls while they secretly enjoy the tunes, while women young and old have role models or icons in pop culture to help give them senses of identity. The legendary Spice Girls were no different. The biggest British invasion of the US since the War of 1812 and The Beatles, the Spice Girls swept America up in a tide of pop-feminism and S&M influenced male disempowerment.
#56 “Say You’ll Be There” by The Spice Girls. Coming off of their debut single “Wannabe” from album “Spice” in 1996, this track proved the Spice Girls were no one hit wonder. While they were often compared to compatriots The Beatles, their legacy came up short in the end. At the time of this song’s release, you wouldn’t have been able to predict that. American teenage girls were ravaging the nation with a sense of power that they could be who they wanted, wear their hair in funny shapes, and in the spirit of the song, tell boys they just wanted to be friends.
The video for “Say You’ll Be There” was much lauded, won some awards, but the track itself acquired some tepid reviews amongst the throngs of hyped up praise. Each Spice Gal performs this song under a pseudonym, which allows them to commit crimes of S&M violence against hapless males in the desert using their Sci-Fi-influenced weaponry and martial arts skills. It’s good fun (if you’re into that sort of thing, no judgement…) and you even get a bit of Stevie Wonder-esque harmonica and R&B groove.
It’s this last bit that garnered criticism. While I personally love a bit of British Motown and Blue Eyed Soul-inspired groove from the UK, the Spice Girls washed ashore the States against a prevailing trend of R&B and growing Hip Hop influences. Their attempt at funk in this song was seen as a cop out and a street-cred grab to hitch onto that genre’s momentum.
The Spice Girls’ flame burned out, only to be rekindled here and their later on in film with “Spice World” and later reunitings. For better or worse, they are seen as a treasure by some in the UK (mostly in the music biz, I’d guess). Their legendary beginnings, including an alleged clandestine operation to steal their own materials and tapes before being enslaved by greedy managers and a draconian contract create a mythic background for a band that couldn’t wind up standing the test of time. Their unique personas stay with us, even if their pop beats remain in the 90’s, but is that really the worst way for their story to end?