What Australia Really Really Wants From The Spice Girls
Stop right now, thank you very much!
Because what we really really want is to tell the Spice Girls: say you’ll be here, in an Australian leg of the tour.
So far, the reunion tour, announced today, only includes six UK dates, but Mel B has stated the girls “hope to make it worldwide.” There’s no indication so far that they’ll come to Australia, a move that could devastate fans who were disappointed that the Sydney leg of their last reunion tour in 2007-8 never went ahead.
But, in an unashamed love letter making the case as to why they should come to Australia, I want to explain their enduring appeal, throwing in some surprising facts.
The Spice Girls were only famous as a five-some for less than two years. Wannabe was released on 26 June 1996. Geri left on 31 May 1998. As Geri once said while still in the band: “Everyone keeps calling it a phenomenon,” pronouncing “phenomenon” deliciously slowly.
Phenomenon was no euphemism. A band only famous for 22 months still generates fever rarely seen in the age of reveal-all social media.
One explainer is that their music unites people. While other bands were singing trite ditties about love lost and won again, the Spice Girls tackled subjects like friendship, safe sex, female empowerment and being Gen X.
Every Christmas, my friendship circle (mainly Brits in Australia) sing the first two albums and the first three songs of the third (they had three consecutive Christmas number ones, without singing about bells or mistletoe in any of them). Sure, people try to skip the album tracks. But when you’re word-perfect on the rap to Love Thing, why deprive your friendship group of these genius lyrics: “On and on with the girls named Spice, wanna get with us and you’d better think twice: God help the mister (yeah God help the mister) that comes between me and my sisters.”
The humour of the Spice Girls is surely one of the major reasons Aussies adore them.
Self-deprecation cuts down any accusation of tall poppy syndrome (yes, even for Victoria Beckham whose recent hilarious Vogue video proved that). Their tour announcement video today poked fun at the last time they reunited in 2007 and Geri didn’t get the all-black dress-code memo.
The girls embrace their parodies. When British comedians including French and Saunders became the parallel ‘Sugar Lumps,’ the band invited them into their Comic Relief video, Who Do You Think You Are which featured Kathy Burke as Mel C singing the theme tune to the Bodyform advert for tampons.
And the hugely popular UK comedy Bo Selecta features the character of Mel B with the northern British catchphrase “Ya bastad” which Mel B has embraced fully, sometimes appearing next to comedian Leigh Francis as her alter-ego.
Mel B alone is reason enough to love the Spice Girls, with her raucous, unapologetic personality and the fact that on MTV cribs she revealed she has two toilets in one bathroom -- “one for lady’s poo and one for man’s poo.” One year on Top of the Pops she revealed her new year’s resolution was to “make my ‘air bigger than Diana Ross’s.” Brilliant. And achieved.
Her recent Halloween costume, going as Victoria Beckham for refusing to tour, was frankly inspired.
She also rapped in the audacious Leeds accent on many a Spice Girls song, long before the Arctic Monkeys made northern accent singing a thing.
And Geri’s back. What’s not to love about Geri Horner, nee Halliwell? The single most iconic joyful image of the 90s was her in the union jack dress. Many forget she put the peace sign on the back, because PR advisers implored her not to wear it, telling her she looked like she was promoting the National Front. By defying them, she did more for UK confidence and coolness than the combined history of its tourist board campaigns, forever wrestling our British flag back from the bigots.
When you’re feeling sad and low, she will take you where you wanna go. Just listen to her rapping passages of Mills and Boon novels in her unique brand of Spanglish and I defy you not to smile.
Mel C, meanwhile, has received the most credibility for her solo career. But for today’s tour announcement, she’s back in the Adidas, proving how she made doing literally nothing in your activewear a thing long before it was a thing.
And Emma Bunton is like Dolly Parton -- adoration is mandatory, unequivocal and genetic to all humans born post 1977.
I’m not the only one who thinks of them as my five older sisters. UK journalist Joe Stone used his position to independently interview all five of them in this astounding piece of investigative journalism, demonstrating Mel B’s prickliness, confirming Geri’s quirkiness and revealing Victoria’s surprising insecurity.
These women transcended class, geographical, race, gender and commercial boundaries and expectations on their own terms. Watch this clip of Mel B and Geri challenging blackface on Dutch TV for evidence of their racial pride and harmony as a group.
Their ‘girl power’ version of feminism was sassy, youth-oriented and most of all, accessible. They wrestled feminism away from the elitist, dusty shelves of academia and onto the pages of Smash Hits, inspiring girls from all backgrounds to realise their power -- and use it.
Listen to them harmonise in their tour announcement video. Admittedly, it’s the Aldi to the Harrods food court of Whitney and Mariah’s When You Believe duet, but Aldi’s wine is award winning. I defy you not to smile. Ya bastads.
Feature Image: Getty