How The Spice Girls’ Legacy Of ‘Girl Power’ Paved The Way For Women To Dominate Pop

So tell me what you want / What you really, really want…

On July 7, 1996 these iconic lyrics rang through the UK for the very first time. It’s difficult now to imagine a time when the entire world wasn’t familiar with the chorus to the Spice Girl’s first hit “Wannabe,” but it was all a risk at the time. So much so, that a few weeks before the song came out, a music video for it — which was directed by a Swedish commercial director named Johan Camitz — was released to test the waters.

In the now-infamous clip, the five women tear through the St. Pancras Chambers in London like a tornado, nothing short of a metaphor locked in a feminist time capsule. Five women storming through a stuffy setting, throwing papers and behaving badly is who these women were, and more importantly — who they were to pop music.

This rebellious, groundbreaking behavior would become characteristic for the girls, five women determined to use pop music to run down what they really, really wanted, at all costs. This was not the way the genre had traditionally been used for and by women, but even if they had come together via a label-hosted casting call, the Spice Girls had their own ideas.

From their inception in 1994, it only took three years for the group to reach the peak of their enormous, improbable run in 1997. Their prime lasted through most of the late ’90s, until they lost member Geri Halliwell in 1998, and eventually went on hiatus in 2000. But what they accomplished in those years is nothing short of incredible: Five BRIT awards, three AMAs, three MTV Europe Music Awards, 80 million albums sold worldwide, and 9 number one singles in the UK alone.

In the ’90s, Scary, Baby, Ginger, Sporty and Posh Spice created a cultural epoch. Almost a quarter century after their initial debut, the success of the Spice Girls is still impacting pop music at large. Here’s a look back at their fascinating story, subsequent fall, and what their music means today.

How The Spice Girls Got In Formation

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In February 1994, London-based management team Bob and Chris Herbert published an advertisement in The Stage, a British trade magazine:

“WANTED: R. U. 18-23 with the ability to sing/dance? R U streetwise, outgoing, ambitious, and dedicated? Heart Management Ltd are a widely successful music industry management consortium currently forming a choreographed, singing/dancing, all-female pop act for a recording deal. Open audition. Danceworks, 16 Balderton Street. Friday 4 March11am @ 5.30pm. Please bring sheet music or backing cassette.”