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Sunday, August 17, 2003
  She said ‘because the Spice Girls are crap!’

The answer to most of life’s questions? I put the first album on, something in me wanting to mock my pretensions to eclecticism - ‘so you like all music huh?!’

Wannabe’s opening bars always have the same effect. They’re like the intro to Baby one more time, only English; less urgent, less slick, attempting glamour and sassiness and not quite pulling it off. My masochism satisfied I look around for something to throw at the CD player. I’m not really concentrating - I notice absently that I need to put a load of washing on; my mind wanders, and at that moment something strange happens. It’s subtle, but there’s a familiar presence in the room.

The verse. Into the vacuum float Ginger, Posh, Baby, Sporty… as we all know them. The lyrics are all of a sudden dripping with personal memories. The media saturation that the spice girls achieved means we all know not just who they are, but a lot else besides. We also know about the breakup, the failing solo careers, the tacky relaunches. They’re a part of us, as irritating and indelible as the FA cup theme tune or the Wombles.

In the light of everything that happened, Wannabe seems such a quaint and almost amateurish offering. Is this really the song that launched a quest for global domination, with its cringing rap middle eight and under-produced vocals? More so than on any of their later records, they seem like a bunch of hapless naïve girls, cruelly misled by some unscrupulous svengali to believe that their cheesy posturing will bring fame and fortune.

So how were we all fooled? I think part of the secret of the Spice Girls’ success was that despite all their efforts, they never entirely shook off that image of being somehow flawed, somehow a bit ordinary - girls with faces made up from a how-to in a teen magazine, dancing in front of the mirror. Their styling was so cack-handed it seemed their roles had been selected at random; the best thing you can say about Posh Spice is that she is anything but posh. And there’s something about the honesty and down-to-earthness with which she pursues her (career?) objectives that seems to endear her to people. We might not like her singing, and God knows she probably doesn’t have any other talents, but you can’t really hate her for wanting to get on, to make something of herself.

English pop history is littered with acts aspiring to stateside sophistication, but falling short by being too… English. And it’s often in their peculiar failings that we see our own - we feel an affinity with the star’s awkwardness, their discomfort in the lamé. More than ironic jesters like Jarvis, I think of David Essex - not quite charismatic enough, not quite good looking enough perhaps; Spandau Ballet, Boy George, East 17. All equally repellent save for their put together in a hurry charm.

By the end, Wannabe’s beginning to sound like a half decent record, but track 2 (Say you’ll be there) is disappointing, so I switch it off and start gathering my laundry.

Perhaps I’ll put it on in another five years.
 
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