On their sophomore album, the Spice Girls went bigger, and a new deluxe anniversary edition piles on even more
The Spice Girls’ debut album, 1996’s Spice, is one of the biggest debut albums of all-time.
It’s sold over 23 million copies worldwide, topped the chart in at least 16 countries, and was the #1 album of 1997 in the U.S. So for their follow-up what could the quintet possibly do but more?
That means more of the same – on Spiceworld, which was released barely a year after Spice (and even more quickly in the U.S., where their debut didn’t come out until February 1997), they stuck with the same producers and songwriters, the team known as Absolute and the duo of Matt Rowe and Richard Stannard, who between them helmed nine of the album’s 10 tracks. But it also means more in general; for Spiceworld, the attempt was clearly to go bigger, higher, faster.
Lead single “Spice Up Your Life” is like all of the ideas on Spice distilled into one three-minute pop song – and it works because, not in spite, of that. It’s all icing and no cake (I mean, that bridge is still one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard), but what a sugar rush.
VIDEO: Spice Girls “Spice Up Your Life”
Spiceworld throws everything at the wall, and often works. The Girls dip into past dance styles on “Stop,” with a ‘60s soul feel, and “Never Give Up on the Good Times,” which takes a disco tack and succeeds brilliantly. “The Lady Is A Vamp” is an attempt at a feminist anthem – I think? – with a ‘40s, would-be Andrews Sisters-in-the-’90s vibe that’s not bad, but is an uncomfortable fit.
But then there’s second single “Too Much,” an adult contemporary ballad that’s dull as paint, and “Saturday Night Forever,” which should be an exuberant uptempo throbber just based on its title, but is instead oddly sluggish. And then there’s “Move Over,” an attempt to make a whole song out of a Pepsi jingle that was actually written by winners of a Pepsi “Generation Next” single campaign. Ugh.
Spiceworld 25, the album’s deluxe anniversary edition, adds a number of previously unreleased tracks, remixes, and live cuts to the mix. “Outer Space Girls,” while ridiculous, smacks so deliriously of Backstreet Boys’ “Larger Than Life” that I can’t help but fall for it. “Walk of Life” (not a cover of you-know-what, thank goodness), meanwhile, is the Spice Girls-singing-over-a-dub-track you didn’t expect to ever hear. I’m not sure it’s good, exactly, but it’s worth hearing.
AUDIO: Spice Girls Party Mix
The live tracks are the experience of hearing the Spice Girls live without the excitement of actually seeing them. Your mileage may vary, though I honestly doubt it. Of the remixes, the class of these are unsurprisingly those by David Morales, whose takes on “Spice Up Your Life” and “Stop” are thumping pop-house glory. The John Themis Ambient Mix of “Viva Forever” is a kind of hush; if you removed their vocals, you could nearly slot this into an ambient playlist. Spiceworld 25 ends with the nearly 15-minute “Spice Girls Party Mix,” a mash-up of various tracks and remixes which is appropriately, aggressively uptempo, and frankly an awful lot of fun.
So, overall: Spiceworld isn’t quite as solid as Spice, but still has its high points. If you’re not a fan, do you need Spiceworld 25? Not at all. If you are? Sure: Edit out the clunkers and it’s a whipped-cream blast.
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