'The return of the Spice Girls was a pop culture event worth getting excited about': Culture Club with Conor Behan
Nostalgia is big money. Hence the never-ending stream of reunions, reboots and remakes. We are inundated with options in the entertainment world and an established name will always catch our eye.
That excitement was palpable on the opening night of the tour in Dublin’s Croke Park. There’d been plenty of speculation: how will it work without Victoria? Would solo material pepper the set-list? The Spice Girls had a pop dominance that may have been short-lived but it was the kind of success that left such a mark that a stadium tour based on only three albums (only two of which were truly hits) didn’t feel that silly.
And of course, it wasn’t just about the music when it came to Spice Girls. Their exuberant energy, their nicknames and knack for branding made them a marketing dream and larger than life in a way few pop groups manage. They impacted a generation of pop fans from excitable pre-teens taping songs off the radio to those in their late teens and 20’s. And the stats back it up. 85 million records sold, nine UK Number 1s making one of the biggest selling pop groups of all time.
But would that translate in 2019? It was easy to worry that a group who hadn’t toured in a decade may not be able to pull off a stadium spectacle. Thankfully, it was a joy to be proven wrong. Spice World 2019 is a triumph. The hits are there with enough polish to sound fresh while a clutch of key album tracks will cheer anyone who wore out their trusty cassette tapes.
The visuals also spoke to how relevant the feel-good factor of the Spice Girls still feels. The sleek graphics were from Studio Moross, headed up by non-binary graphic designer Kate Moross. While there were gripes about sound issues at the Dublin show (which seemed to be gone when I saw the show for a second time in Manchester the following week) the biggest takeaway for me was how affirming it was. Despite their success, the Spice Girls were never ‘cool’. They were seen as pop puppets with no point of view.
Saw #SpiceWorld2019 for the second time last week in Manchester, it was night one when it was pissing rain but holy shit Spice Circle is quite the experience pic.twitter.com/xwwQ1BrDHB
— Conor Behan (@platinumjones) June 5, 2019
And yet they were hands-on in the writing of their many hit singles, at key points in their career, they either managed themselves or got themselves out of poorly managed contracts and, despite criticism they were manufactured flashes in the pan, their music still resonates for the hundreds of thousands of fans who saw this tour. These are great pop songs, delivered by women who knew what they were doing when they wrote them and still do.
Seeing the women in this group play around on stage, revel in their success and their unique bond was a joy. It was a reminder of the power of friendship and the enduring appeal of a big pop chorus no matter what music snobs might like to think. The inclusive, playful energy of the Spice Girls feels as needed as ever. Nostalgia or not, my double dose of Spice World 2019 has put a huge spring in my step.
Along with Holly Shortall, Conor is the co-host of Popsessed – the unmissable pop culture podcast. Check it out here.
This story originally appeared on GCN’s June 2019 issue. Read the full issue here.
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