Twenty-five years on from the release of their debut single Wannabe, the Spice Girls remain the best-selling girl group of all time.
As they mark the milestone anniversary this week, music licensing company Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) has compiled a list of their most played songs since 2000.
While many of the Spice Girls‘ hits were released in the late 1990s, the list has been put together using radio and TV airplay data available from the the 21st century. No, we’re not sure why it doesn’t stretch back before then, either, but let’s go with it; any excuse to spend the day watching Spice Girls videos.
1) Who Do You Think You Are
Swing it, shake it, move it, make it, who do you think got the top spot? It’s fourth single Who Do You Think You Are, made famous by Geri Halliwell’s Union Flag tea-towel dress at the Brits in 1997 – the performance that truly cemented the band in the annals of pop history.
The song that launched the Spice Girls to the world, the band’s most ubiquitous hit was always going to be a contender. Establishing the girls and their “personalities” – Baby, Ginger, Posh, Scary, Sporty – straight away, the song and video are a masterclass in pop branding – and a lesson that lyrics don’t even have to make sense to be remembered for years to come.
Stop right now, thank you very much, I need somebody to tell me how this one took the third spot. Yes, it has a big chorus and an easy-to-remember dance routine, but released after Spice Up Your Life and Too Much, from second album Spice World, Stop just feels a little tame.
4) 2 Become 1
The sultry first ballad and first of three Christmas number ones in a row, 2 Become 1 and its lush strings saw the girls showing off their maths skills, singing about safe sex, and pouting their way around New York wearing long, snuggly winter coats in the video (gilet for Mel C, because: sport). The ultimate ’90s school disco snogging song, rivalled only by Dina Carroll’s Don’t Be A Stranger.
5) Say You’ll Be There
Featuring the girls taking on alter-egos – remember Geri as Trixie Firecracker? – as they run around a desert, the follow-up to Wannabe proved the Spice Girls were more than just bubblegum pop. With a G-funk sound and even a Harmonica solo, it sounded completely different and altogether more sophisticated, and we really got to hear Mel C sing. Should have been number one.
6) Spice Up Your Life
The first single from second album Spiceworld saw the girls upping the dance ante with a song that was pure raw energy. In a futuristic, Blade Runner style video, the girls instructed us to “Slam it to the left, if you’re havin’ a good time/
Shake it to the right, if you know that you feel fine”, and we all did as we were told, even if we had no idea what moonwalking the foxtrot actually meant.
The first single recorded without Geri, Goodbye was written about the end of a relationship before she left but reworked following her shock departure in May 1998. “Look for the rainbow, in every storm,” they sang, and millions wept. With Geri gone and both Mel B and Victoria pregnant in the wintery video, it felt very much like times were changing, and they were saying goodbye for good…
Released alongside Who Do You Think You Are? coincidentally/cleverly just in time for Mother’s Day 1997, Mama is sickly and corny and pretty terrible, and yet… with its lyrics teaching us that our mums were only looking out for us – “so now, I see through your eyes, all that you did was love” – it probably helped a few mother-teenage daughter relationships during its time, so who are we to judge?
9) Viva Forever
Released a few month’s after Geri’s departure but recorded beforehand, Viva Forever meant our last images of all five of the girls together (before the later first reunion) were of the girls as fairies flying out of a magic egg in the woods. A lush, melancholy ballad that felt like the first goodbye, before the actual Goodbye, and then the Holler goodbye two years later.
10 Too Much
A woozy, sexy slow number, Too Much was the Spice Girls’ second Christmas number one, released in 1997, and the song that accompanied their film, Spice World. The video featured clips from the film as well as scenes of the girls as different film characters. Not the Spice Girls’ best work, but deserving of a place in the top 10.
Note this is the PPL top 10: YouTube views put Wannabe firmly in first place on the video platform, with more than 524,000,000 views compared with runner-up Say You’ll Be There, which has more than 81,000,000, and third place 2 Become 1 with 55,000,000-plus hits.
Streaming platform Spotify also puts Wannabe at number one with more than 600 million streams globally, followed by Stop, 2 Become 1, Say You’ll Be There and then Spice Up Your Life.
But let’s not argue. Whichever hit is your favourite, here’s to celebrating 25 years since Mel B, Victoria Beckham, Emma Bunton, Melanie C and Geri Halliwell first spiced up the charts.