The Spice Girls were a British pop girl group formed in 1994. The group consisted of five members, who each later adopted nicknames initially ascribed to them: Melanie Brown (“Scary Spice”), Melanie Chisholm (“Sporty Spice”), Emma Bunton (“Baby Spice”), Geri Halliwell (“Ginger Spice”), and Victoria Beckham, née Adams (“Posh Spice”). They were signed to Virgin Records and released their debut single, “Wannabe”, in 1996, which hit number-one in more than 30 countries and helped establish the group as a global phenomenon. Credited for being the pioneers that paved the way for the commercial breakthrough of teen pop in the late 1990s, their debut album, Spice, sold more than 28 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling album by a female group in music history. They have sold over 80 million records worldwide,making them the best-selling female group of all time one of the best-selling pop groups of all time, and also making them the most successful British band since the Beatles.
Measures of their success include international record sales, a 2007–2008 reunion tour, merchandising, record-breaking achievements, iconic symbolism such as Halliwell’s Union Jack dress, representing “Girl Power”, a box-office film, Spice World, and their internationally recognised nicknames. The group became one of the most successful marketing engines ever, with their global grosses estimated at $500–800 million between 1996 and 1998 and the group earning up to $75 million per year. Under the guidance of their mentor and manager Simon Fuller, the group embraced merchandising and became a regular feature of the British and global press.
In 1996, Top of the Pops magazine gave each member of the group aliases, which were adopted by the group and media. According to Rolling Stone journalist and biographer David Sinclair, “Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh and Sporty were the most widely recognised group of individuals since John, Paul, George, and Ringo”. They were the biggest popular cultural icons of the 1990s, according to a survey carried out by Trivial Pursuit, winning by 80 percent in a poll of 1,000 people, stating that “Girl Power” defined the decade. They are cited as part of the ‘second wave’ ’90s British Invasion of the US.
British Music Scene
The image of the Spice Girls was deliberately aimed at young girls, an audience of formidable size and potential; reinforcing the range of appeal within the target demographic were the bandmates’ five distinctive personalities, which encouraged fans to identify with one member or another. This marketing was helped in no small way by the aliases assigned to each member of the group, similar to the marketing ploy used in children’s serial literature of including several different character types in the storyline. Shortly after “Wannabe”‘s release, the group appeared in Top of the Pops magazine where each member was given a nickname based upon her image: Adams became “Posh Spice”, Bunton became “Baby Spice”, Brown became “Scary Spice”, Halliwell became “Ginger Spice”, and Chisholm became “Sporty Spice”
“Girl power” has put a name to a social phenomenon, but the slogan was met with mixed reactions. The phrase was a label for the particular facet of post classical neo-feminist empowerment embraced by the band: that a sensual, feminine appearance and equality between the sexes need not be mutually exclusive. This concept was by no means original in the pop world; both Madonna and Bananarama had employed similar outlooks. The phrase, whilst coined by Welsh indie band Helen Love in 1993 and was the title of an album by British pop duo Shampoo in 1995, was in fact attempted to be used by a London UK ‘capella’ all girl group called Mint Juleps in 1987. Who, with the production might of Trevor Horn behind them, released a track called ‘Girl to the Power of 6′. The format of the song, whilst having an obvious ’80’s’ sound, had a similar format to the Spice Girl’s ‘Wannabe’, where each girl presented a distinct personality trait. The phrases ‘Girl to the Power’ and ‘Girl Power’ are mentioned several times, as well as strong overtones of female empowerment, unity and loyalty. However the formula did not work, perhaps being too far ahead of its time. It was not until the emergence of the Spice Girls in 1996 with Wannabe (over 9 years after Mint Juleps), that the concept of ‘Girl power’ exploded onto the common consciousness. The Spice Girls’ version was distinctive. Its message of empowerment appealed to young girls, adolescents and adult women,]and it emphasised the importance of strong and loyal friendship among females.
In all, the focused, consistent presentation of “girl power” formed the centrepiece of their appeal as a band. Some critics dismissed it as no more than a shallow marketing tactic, while others took issue with the emphasis on physical appearance, concerned about the potential impact on self-conscious and/or impressionable youngsters. Regardless, the phrase became a cultural phenomenon, adopted as the mantra for millions of girls and even making it into the Oxford English Dictionary. In summation of the concept, author Ryan Dawson said, “The Spice Girls changed British culture enough for Girl Power to now seem completely unremarkable.”
Fashion Trends and Nicknames
As the girls become more popular, their images became as important as their music. In their early days of the band, the girls had a laid back and casual look, and maintained an image of everyday British young females. As their career progressed into a worldwide phenomenon, the girls and their manager Simon Fuller became more aware of the impact their images had. The Spice Girls soon became noticeable just by their clothes and hairstyles, and soon became icons of late 1990s fashion. In a summer 1996 issue of Top of the Pops magazine, editor Peter Loraine gave them nicknames for their images and personalities, and this soon had an impact on their fashion. In contrast to their early career, the girls soon began to differ their images from each other, and each girl had a unique look.