Wednesday, June 8, 2011

regarding The Spice Girls

At 25, I’m at a crossroads, as are most of my friends. We’re pursuing careers and grad school and marriage. And I’m OK with that. I’m actually very much looking forward to the next stage in my life, the one where my fiancée and I settle down and start forming our own little paradise before our hypothetical three daughters screw it all up. But what puts me at a crossroads is this strain of nostalgia that forces me to compulsively reevaluate the pop cultural ephemera of my youth.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I bought a Spice Girls CD in the year 2011 for reasons that seemed legitimate at the time.

Let me get this out of the way right now: I do not subscribe to the notion that music was better “back in the day.” In fact, I think 2011 has been an amazing year for music. Rather, I’ve been processing a lot of signifiers from my youth, and a surprising number hold up (Star Trek, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Sonic the Hedgehog circa the Genesis years). This does not seem to carry over to music, or at least youth culture-centric music. In the mid-’90s, I was keen on The Beatles and Tom Petty. Those kinds of acts are always going to be relevant to somebody. But my appreciation of pop acts like TLC and Boyz II Men has not stayed with me post-1996.

I bought Spice Girls’ Greatest Hits for one specific reason: I had a lot of fun spinning Spiceworld while playing Jet Moto for Playstation. “Spice Up Your Life” was my jam. While I do not usually dabble in guilty pleasures (aside from maybe Whitesnake. Different story), I thought on and off for the last few months that maybe revisiting the band would be worthwhile. I’m sure underground comics legend Peter Bagge helped; I’ve been reading his Yeah! collection lately, and it’s a satire/homage to the teen pop star-making machine.

I’ll say this for the Spice Girls. A couple of their songs are legitimately catchy and fun (“Wannabe,” “Spice Up Your Life”). But the bulk of the collection is given over to indistinct pop songs that feel like they’re from another era, which they are. Compared to current mainstream pop, these tunes are too slow and empty. What I learned is that some things need to stay in the past. In short, this might have been a bad purchase.

Also there’s a lot of shame involved. Never forget the shame.

Still, I was surprised by the diversity of styles the Girls remolded, from disco to Motown soul to Latin to rave. I don’t mean to overintellectualize the whole thing (eh, too late), but these songs aren’t completely without merit. That said, I think I need to stop going down these stupid avenues where I obsess over something I don’t even actually enjoy. But if you wanna know the components of a good Spice Girls song, here you go: Scary raps the verses. Sporty gets a solo on the last chorus. Baby and Sexy sound a little flat but get to look hot in the video. I never know when Posh is singing. Now go read my Tombs review so I can feel some semblance of credibility.

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