Wannabe at 20: How the Spice Girls Changed the World

It’s been two decades to the day since the Spice Girls’ Wannabe topped the US Billboard Hot 100 – their first and only US number one hit. The track marked the first UK act to score a stateside chart topper in over 18 months, turning the Spice Girls into a pop culture phenomena and setting the precedent for every successive girl band to follow along the way.

So just what have we learnt from Wannabe‘s success? Our five point briefing should help decode the importance of all things “zig-a-zig-ah!” as the iconic track celebrates its 20th anniversary of breaking America.


The Spice Girls had the perfect debut single.

Other songs in their discography may have had better lyrics (Say You’ll Be There), more emotion attached (Viva Forever) or a better chorus (Stop) but as a handy introduction to the Spice Girls, their individual characters and their entire Girl Power shtick, Wannabe serves as the perfect prologue for all that was to come.

The Spice Girls can’t be imitated.

A lot of the Spice Girls success came down to the fact that they, at the end of the day, just seemed like five British girls who accidentally happened to become international pop superstars and were making the most of every moment. They were chaotic, irreverent and sometimes almost unbearably naff, but they just had it. That little spark, that injection of magic that makes everything fall into place. After their gradual disbanding following Geri’s departure, many pop acts were created in response to the Spice Girls and in attempt to recreate their success; Girl Thing, S Club, B*Witched, all were more or less successful to a certain degree, but were never able to fully capture what the Spice Girls had briefly mastered.

No-one does a middle-eight rap breakdown better than Scary and Ginger Spice.

Honestly, it should be totally cap – and it kind of is – but it’s also genius. This logic can be applied to pretty much everything that the Spice Girls did, Spiceworld anyone?

It’s capable of capturing unequivocal joy.

You really liked your mates when you were 12, didn’t you? You thought you’d go through everything together, that you’d live forever and nothing would stop you. Of course, then things changed. You got older, you got stupid, you argued over clothes, over hair, over boys, over other friends and you just kept arguing and arguing until there was nothing left of your friendship or who either of you were before. That doesn’t change the fact that they were a moron or you were a pushover, but Wannabe is able to singularly capture a moment in time where everything was seemingly perfect and nothing could stop you or your friends from taking over the world. Not many songs can do that.

The Spice Girls are a hard act to follow.

OK, count on your hand the number of girl-bands, post Spice Girls, that have had the same level of success. Girls Aloud? Life and genre-changing pop tunes, but no sir. Pussycat Dolls? A few basic bangers, don’t get us wrong, but no. Little Mix? Maybe in two years. Fifth Harmony? Try again. Mini Viva? Maybe in our wildest dreams. The fact is, that the Spice Girls were so successful that it’s been kind of hard for any girlband to step out of their shadow and take over the world like they did. Why is that? Mostly, down to either poor timing, promotion or the public just not catching on. The Spice Girls were an extremely hard working group of girls, but they weren’t demi-gods; they had a fair few lucky breaks as well and, twenty years on, it’s easy to put their gargantuan success down to a few things; the right group of girls, the right time in history and the recognition that one hit song isn’t enough – you have to keep going until the wheels fall off.

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