When the Spice Girls brought their debut album Spice into the world, they became an international sensation. The British girl band comprised of Melanie Brown (Scary Spice), Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice), Emma Buntin (Baby Spice), Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice) and Victoria Adams Beckham (Posh Spice) were met with international tours, major sponsorship offers, and even a movie deal within a year of the release. It’s always best to strike while the iron is hot, and the Spice Girls weren’t about to let their careers cool down. Thus, Spiceworld was born.
This sophomore album was recorded while filming their movie Spice World, meaning that the entirety was written and recorded in stolen moments between takes. While the Spice Girls hung onto the creative control and writing process they had fought for while creating Spice, their contributions were piecemeal at times due to the chaotic nature of filming. Spiceworld was released to mainly positive reviews, often for how catchy and melodic every song was. While it didn’t reach the same height of success that Spice did, Spiceworld has sold over thirteen million copies worldwide and landed on the Billboard Top 100 chart, making them the first British band to have two separate albums in the top ten at the same time since the Rolling Stones over twenty years prior.
Spiceworld takes what the Girls built with Spice and expands their sound, further developing their amalgamation of pop, R&B, and disco with dips into Latin influences (“Spice Up Your Life,” “Viva Forever”), Motown sound (“Stop,” “Too Much”), and interestingly enough, jazz (“The Lady is a Vamp”). While some critics weren’t in love with the experimentation, others were impressed that the Spice Girls were expanding their horizons musically without sacrificing any of their instantly memorable melodies. For instance, album opener “Spice Up Your Life” was slammed in reviews for its lyrical hodgepodge, but its effervescence and infectious energy made it a worldwide success regardless of what critics had to say.
Thematically, Spiceworld helped the Spice Girls continued to build their girl power brand. Self respect continued to be a major topic on the album. The Motown-influenced “Stop” is all about slowing down a relationship to prove that it’s more about the chase. “You need less speed/Get off my case/Gotta slow it down baby just get out of my face,” they sing during the bridge, making it known that their significant other complies or hits the bricks. The keyboard-heavy “Denying” let an unnamed man know that they saw through him. “You think you’re so cool/Hey big man you’re old school/You think you’re smart/But who the hell you think you’re talking to,” Chisholm and Halliwell sing, asserting their lack of respect.
While Spice talked a lot about girl power, Spiceworld took it to a new level with direct advice for their fans within the lyrics. The disco-riddled “Never Give Up on the Good Times” lends some fairly self-explanatory advice, the power pop Pepsi endorsement track “Move Over” calls fans to come together, and the Madonna-esque “Do It” instructs fans to trust themselves above anyone else.
The album ends on “The Lady is a Vamp,” a jazz-inspired tune that makes it sound like the Spice Girls are performing at a speakeasy. The pop culture reference-filled song is all about women who dared to break the rules, both real life and fictional–Bond girls, Charlie’s Angels, Jackie Onassis Kennedy, Sandy from Grease, to name a few–and how that doesn’t always get the best of attention at the time. By adding their Spice names in at the end, the girls are inserting themselves into this line of boundary-breaking women, giving a name to their legacy. This is especially significant considering Halliwell left the group before all of the album’s singles were even released.
While it may not have seen the same level of commercial success as Spice, Spiceworld is just as important to fans. The album garnered positive feedback for its boundless energy and infectious spirit, as well as the Girls’ dedication to inspiring their fans. David Browne’s original Entertainment Weekly review sums up Spiceworld perfectly: “Trading verses in this and other songs, [the Spice Girls] transform the numbers into audio pajama parties full of sisterly advice, support, and warnings. Part heart, part mind, all cotton candy, Spiceworld might just be the answer to one of life’s most vexing quandaries.” Spiceworld may not have been the be-all end-all of pop music, but it was insanely energetic, fun as hell, and furthered the idea that the Spice Girls had established with their first album: young girls have voices and they should use them, regardless of what anyone tells them to do.