Right - now we're talking. Liking the Spice Girls puts you immediately on the defensive - either you're a tokenist air-kissing irony boy or your brain really has turned to mulch. No, neither, sorry. Here are some feted 90s recording artistes who have yet to make a record as good as "Wannabe": Oasis, Radiohead, Beck, Neutral Milk Hotel, All Saints, the Divine Comedy, the (collective not solo) Wu-Tang Clan, Roni Size, Belle And Sebastian, Steps. That the glorious cocktail of sass, contempt, and showbiz that bursts open the opening bars of "Wannabe" is denied by so many purported pop-lovers is a source of as much inchoate rage, frustration, and grief to me as any other act of wanton neglect in pop history. Twelve million bought it? Not enough.
The Spice Girls are manufactured, which is only to say they're something we own. The saddest sight in celebrityland lately has been Sporty's welshing on the pop deal, scrabbling to get back some kind of identity of her own. People thought she and Geri were lesbians - "that's so funny". The joke's on her - for as long as the Spice Girls are in the limelight they are whatever you or I want them to be. And what a lot of people wanted them to be was tough, brash, up for a laugh, independent - Girl Power was an ad slogan which got caught in the media-public feedback loop and became real for enough people that it didn't matter any more than it was a slogan. Unless, of course, you were outside that loop or had made it your business to comment knowingly upon it.
Forget it - arguing the Spice Girls were 'important' is as silly and, yes, defensive as saying the reason you should listen to the Stooges is their 'importance'. You should listen to the girls because they're brilliant pop music, because the advice "Wannabe" gives you is at base pretty solid, and because when Geri blurts "And as for me, ha-ha, you'll see", the record comes together and sounds as hungrily confident of immortality as anything else I've ever heard.
What an odd entry! There's nothing more defensive than talking about being defensive, also Wu-Tang and B&S and All Saints had made records as good as "Wannabe", though I genuinely didn't think so at the time. "Wannabe" is a very good record, and a good record for the reasons I said it is, and an "important" record too even if I still agree with myself in the last paragraph. But it's not as good a record as "Say You'll Be There", or "Stop", or "Too Much" or "Spice Up Your Life!" even. And I knew this at the time - what I'm really being defensive about is my knowledge that I'm picking "Wannabe" as a tactic, not because I think it's one of the best 100 singles of the 90s. I'm defensive because I know it'll be read as a tactic ("tokenist air-kissing irony boy", well, no irony but tokenist for sure). I should have just picked "Say You'll Be There", put it as high up as it deserved and not made such a fuss. Or, gasp, even included TWO SGs singles.
The 'manufactured' sentence is interesting: I'm trying to articulate that the author-less-ness of 'manufactured pop' makes it easier and more open for whoever buys/listens to it. Particularly in the case of the Spice Girls, this is wrong I think - the personaes and 'message' of the Spice Girls are probably the strongest of any pop band since the 60s, in fact it's very hard to think of any pop act that's traded on personality to such an extent since, and impossible to think of one which came packaged with an agenda in the way the Spice Girls did. It's as hard to free yourself from that as it is to free yourself from the Lennon-specifity of 'Plastic Ono Band' (to pick on a favourite bugbear).