Tuesday 15 October 2019

Cancellations, fall-outs and no Posh - why are the Spice Girls reuniting?

As the original girlband announce a series of new shows, Alice Vincent looks back at their legacy

The Spice Girls, minus Posh Spice, in a handout photo. Photo: PA
The Spice Girls, minus Posh Spice, in a handout photo. Photo: PA

Alice Vincent

After years of rumours and rebuttals, the Spice Girls have finally given their nostalgic fans what they want, what they really, really want: a reunion stadium tour. The news broke yesterday afternoon with a video that could have been lifted from a remake of Spice World.

No, Victoria Beckham will not be joining. Yes, it has been discussed before. And although it's impossible to deny that the announcement video does inspire a certain fizzing excitement, a Spice Girls 2019 tour will cause conflict in the hearts of true Girl Power believers.

Because, while the statements in the press release claim that this is "the right time to do it all over again!" (Melanie Chisholm, who has repeatedly resisted the notion of a reunion over the years), it's difficult to believe that this isn't an optimistic gloss painted over a cynical construct to boost the Spice coffers.

There have been several attempts at a Spice Girls reunion in recent years. The one that proves most painful to remember was GEM, in which Mel B, Emma Bunting and Geri Horner sat in a bed together in party hats to release a video that had, it appeared, been shot on a smartphone.

The trio hinted at 20th anniversary celebrations and, eventually, leaked music was released. Gem diffused just as quickly, fizzling out like a lost balloon. Geri later said they didn't want to celebrate the band's anniversary without Victoria or Mel C. "I really pushed to get everyone back together," she told Red magazine. "It got to the point where I just had to let it go."

And just over a year later, she appeared to have succeeded: in February, the whole group held a meeting at Geri's home complete with former manager Simon Fuller. There were gushing updates on Instagram, while the group's publicist Jo Milloy said: "The time now feels right to explore some incredible new opportunities together." Things seemed shiny, legitimate and genuinely exciting.

When there were five: The Spice Girls. Photo: PA
When there were five: The Spice Girls. Photo: PA

Then, it became apparent that these "incredible new opportunities" were more likely to be the release of a greatest hits album, endorsement deals and some Chinese television.

In 2017 Victoria firmly drew a line under the notion of returning to the stage: "At some point you've gotta know when it's time to say, 'that was great'," she told This Morning. As of this afternoon, that's been gussied up as "business commitments", with Victoria supportively saying: "I wish my girls so much love and fun as they go back on tour."

The 20-year-nostalgia cycle has certainly put the Spice Girls back in ironic vogue, but the members have all carved distinct paths for themselves away from 90s nostalgia. Victoria recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of her fashion brand with an irreverent viral video for Vogue. Mel C is continuing to beat the soulful path that made her one of the group's most successful solo creations.

Geri has become a children's author, among other ventures, and Bunton is now a radio DJ and co-founder of sustainable nappy company Kit & Kin. Of late, it is Mel B who has earned the most tabloid attention. She publicly spoke about her diagnosis with PTSD and admission to rehab for alcohol and sex addiction in the wake of her explosive divorce from Stephen Belafonte. She said she was "financially battered" by the separation.

Cynics will be quick to suggest that next year's reunion will be for the cash. Absentee Victoria, after all, is thought to have a net worth of around $450 million. And it's not a huge leap to make: Mel C's recent tour locations have included Winterville, a Christmas market in Clapham Common - playing 80,000-capacity stadia for a rumoured €13.7 million payday would be a difficult upgrade to turn down.

If not cash, perhaps the original group want to make themselves relevant to the children of those fans who catapulted them to globe-trotting success in the 90s. But this, too, feels unnecessary. Much as the Spice Girls broke (and still retain) records for chart-climbing in their prime, they remain an anomaly of the pop machine - still household-name famous two decades on. Perhaps it was their original prowess, or the press's continued fascination with them, but the Spice Girls remain a cultural touchstone.

Perhaps what's strangest about the notion of a reunion tour - six UK stadium dates - is that the Spice Girls were never a touring group. If anything, their attempts at a major live show have been fairly disastrous. Their rise to fame had involved scene-stealing five-minute performances on television shows or at award ceremonies, not two-hour endurance tests of live singing and dancing, for which the group were ill-prepared.

Mel B compared looking down the list of tour dates to being "in prison, ticking off the days". Two days before the end of the European leg, with the entire American tour ahead of them, Geri left the Spice Girls, leaving the group's lawyer to inform Posh, Scary, Baby and Sporty.

While the remaining dates earned the new foursome good reviews, the tour was only followed up by one more, Christmas In Spiceworld, an eight-date event that attempted to rekindle public affection after the group had wildly loss control of their public image in the late 90s.

In 2007 they reformed for The Return Of The Spice Girls world tour, which included a whopping 17 nights at the O2 Arena in London. But this, too, ended in backlash, when dates in South America, Asia, Australia and Africa were cancelled amid rumours that Mels C and B had disbanded.

I clearly remember the raw jealousy over those friends whose parents had forked out for tickets to see the Spice Girls, but I still don't think that a reunion show would give me the chance I so sorely missed.

Because money, fame and notoriety aside, maybe the Spice Girls always struggled to tour properly because they were a phenomenon that defied pop convention. They took over the world with a cheaply made music video and managed to turn a phrase as trite as 'Girl Power' into an encapsulation of 90s pop culture.

If the Spice Girls really want to do their former fame justice, they should release new music - people forget they co-wrote 'Wannabe' and 'Spice Up Your Life'. Or, really, the band - and their fans - should be content with them being preserved in our memories as the greatest pop group of the past 50 years. I really hope they do it justice.

Irish Independent

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