Spiceworld (25th Anniversary)

Spiceworld (25th Anniversary)

How do you follow an album like Spice? The Spice Girls’ 1996 debut made them a once-in-a-generation phenomenon, storming to No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, spawning a record-breaking four UK No. 1 singles, and being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. Producing a worthy follow-up was always going to be an intimidating prospect—one further complicated by the small detail that much of it would be written and recorded between takes on the six-week shoot of the group’s first feature film (also named Spice World). Could they bottle lightning twice? “We spent about 18 months, on and off, writing Spice with them,” Andy Watkins of the production duo Absolute tells Apple Music. “With Spiceworld, we had about six days. They'd come still in their movie costumes, so one day Geri [Halliwell] turned up in army fatigues. Then again, she'd always turn up wearing mad things: a ski in the middle of summer, or something bizarre from a charity shop. She'd arrive with reams of lyric ideas, with knob doodles all over them.” At one point, their makeshift recording studio (housed in an articulated van on set) was mobbed by fans. “Security had left for the day and it turned into a bit of a riot,” says Watkins' partner Paul Wilson. “Mel B recorded the opening verse to 'Too Much' with fans rocking the van back and forth and police horses circling.” This sense of chaos was best harnessed on the shouty, samba-inflected lead single, “Spice Up Your Life,” the sound of a carnival in the Topshop changing rooms. Elsewhere on the album, rereleased in an expanded 25th-anniversary edition to include demos and live recordings, “Stop” is an infectious Motown pastiche (written as a directive to their soon-to-be-chopped manager, Simon Fuller) and “Never Give Up on the Good Times” is an assured slice of '70s disco. The influence of a year spent trotting the globe in platform boots could be felt on “Viva Forever,” a wistful flamenco-style ballad about holiday romances. The album's final single, it featured rich harmonies from the two Melanies and gained added poignancy in the wake of Geri's departure from the group, spelling the end of their imperial phase. If Spice acted as a manifesto for world domination, then consider Spiceworld the group's victory parade. Boasting broader influences and bigger hooks, their message was clear: This is the Spice Girls' world and we were just blessed to be living in it. As Watkins puts it, “There was an understanding that what we were doing meant something to a lot of people.”

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