Spice Girls‘ 1996 hit “Wannabe” is more than just a pop record. It’s an artifact from a time gone by, a marker for nostalgia, and a theme tune for adolescence. For older millennials, it’s the song that, when played, brings them back to that slumber party. That prom. That night out with the girls. The song is a joyful time machine that transports its listeners to a simpler time when music was still sold on CDs, the Internet was in its infant stage, and MTV showed music videos.
To commemorate its 25th anniversary, Virgin Records has released an EP that honors its legacy. “Wannabe” is a sparkly, candy-coated pop ditty that celebrates female friendship above all else. Spice Girls’ pop-feminism was a breath of fresh air, injecting spirit and joy on a musical landscape that was dominated by grunge and gangsta rap just a couple of years earlier. The group – a prefab girl band of personalities – weren’t necessarily the best singers – separately, their voices were merely passable, with Melanie C being the most capable vocalist of the group – but pop music isn’t just about great voices. Their harmonies were airtight, and through the helpful aid of studio gloss and sonic lacquer, their serviceable voices were sweetened to a catchy trill.
The EP includes the original version of the song that is familiar to anyone who had a radio in 1996. The song is a short, heavenly three minutes of pop bliss. The lyrics are kinda nothing, but that’s fine because Spice Girls are having so much fun singing that we’re okay when we hear Geri Halliwell – the artist formally known as Ginger Spice – warble the nonsensical “I really, really, really want a zig-a-zig-ah!” we’re all on board.
The EP also includes a bass-heavy, tribal remix by Junior Vasquez. Though the remix is sexy and engaging, it lacks the slightly shambolic charm of the original version. And speaking of shambolic, the EP also includes the demo of “Wannabe”, a neat peek into the song’s genesis. Though it’s not acoustic or unplugged, it’s far more low-key without the gaudy studio production. Also, though the girls are not bad singers, there are some creaky vocals and missed notes, and the harmonies are often simply the girls just shouting in unison. But even in its raw form, the song has an easy appeal.
The last track on this audio amuse-bouche was previously unreleased, “Feed Your Love”, a pillow ballad that was meant for the Spice Girls’ debut album but was eventually shelved. It’s a slow, shuffling pop ballad with some light R&B flourishes but rather bland, aimless, and somewhat formless. The vocals are fine, nothing special, and far too understated. In comparison with the glittering “Wannabe”, it’s obvious why this sluggish tune was nixed.
Listening to “Wannabe” is still a fun experience and holds up really well 25 years later. The EP is a fun, if brief, tribute to a song that still transports its listeners back to the summer of 1996 when it dominated pop radio.