Zig-A-Zig-Ah! A Look Back at When the Spice Girls Ruled the World

It's been 24 years since the Spice Girls took Girl Power global with the release of their smash-hit debut single "Wannabe"

By Billy Nilles Jul 08, 2020 7:02 PMTags

Ginger. Sporty. Scary. Posh. Baby.

Prior to 1996, that list of adjectives meant nothing. It was just a collection of words, vaguely British in origin—thanks to the inclusion of posh—but nothing worth knowing, let alone celebrating. 

But once the Spice Girls arrived on the scene with the release of their debut single "Wannabe" on July 8 some 24 years ago, that all changed.

The song wouldn't make its way Stateside until January of 1997, but by then, its markedly pure pop—the antithesis of the decade's alt-rock reign—had already turned the five women who'd only come together after answering an advertisement in a local newspaper into global sensations. Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton, Victoria Adams (not yet a Beckham), Melanie Brown and Melanie Chisholm, along with their feminist mantra of "Girl Power," were suddenly everywhere you looked. 

Recorded in less than an hour with its iconic laugh intro and rapped bridge, "Wannabe" would go on to become not just the biggest-selling debut single of an all-female group, but the best-selling single from such a group of all-time. From there, the quintet would releases two of the three best-selling girl group albums of all-time worldwide, 1996's Spice (No. 1) and 1997's Spiceworld (No. 3), become a merchandising powerhouse, release a tongue-in-cheek cult classic film, and help usher in a second wave of British Invasion of the U.S.

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Like most things that burn bright and fast, it wouldn't last. Halliwell's hasty departure from the group in 1998 to pursue a solo career brought the craze back down to Earth. The remaining quartet would try and keep things afloat, releasing one last album, Forever, in the fall of 2000. But the swerve into a more mature and musically relevant R&B sound wasn't enough to keep listeners interested. The group announced their indefinite hiatus in January 2001.

While our attention dwindled in those post-Ginger days, our fascination and obsession with the iconic group has remained as fervent as the first day the phrase "zig-a-zig-ah" entered our lexicon. It's what's allowed the Girls to mount not one, but two massively successful reunion tours over the years and kept us pining for the days when Girl Power conquered the globe.

In honor of the 24th anniversary of their debut single, let's take a look back at the time when the Spice Girls ruled the world!

Not-So Humble Beginnings

The Spice Girls became a global success upon the release of "Wannabe" in 1996. Considered the best-selling female group of all time, the British songstresses have sold over 85 million records worldwide. 

Spice Up Your Life

The girl group rocked the stage at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards in New York City with a performance of "Say You'll Be There." They took home Best Dance Video for "Wannabe" that year. 

Royalty Meets Royalty

Lucky, Prince Harry! The young royal is pictured with his father, Prince Charles, during a 1997 meet and greet with the Spice Girls. 

Legends Only

Ginger Spice's Union Jack mini-dress became synonymous with the Spice Girls after their performance at the 1997 Brit Awards. Initial controversy aside, the iconic ensemble sold for more than $58,000 at a a charity auction. 

Spice World

Released in December 1997, Spice World: The Movie became an instant blockbuster hit. Two decades later, it remains a cult phenomenon and recently even returned to theaters in the U.K. to celebrate the milestone anniversary! 

Saturday Night Divas

Posh, Scary, Sporty, Baby and Ginger Spice come together for a 1998 photo opp. Two years later, they'd announce their decision to put Spice Girls on the back burner for a renewed focus on their respective solo careers. 

Reunion!

The Spice Girls made a comeback in 2007 with a global tour that sold out in a whopping 38 seconds. That same year, the ladies hit the stage at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in Hollywood. 

Viva Forever!

After four years apart, the girl group reunited once again to celebrate the premiere of Viva Forever!, a musical inspired by their time in the spotlight. 

Gold Medal Girl Group

At the closing ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics, the fivesome performed a medley of greatest hits like "Wannabe" and "Spice Up Your Life."

GEM

In 2016, Melanie Brown, Geri Halliwell and Emma Bunton announced a spinoff trio called GEM. A single titled "Song for Her" leaked online, but the project was evidently put on hold around the time Halliwell announced her pregnancy with baby No. 2. 

Friendship Never Ends

Cue the pandemonium! All five Spice Girls sent social media into a frenzy with this photo posted in February 2018. 

They responded to the excitement in a joint statement, saying, "We have enjoyed a wonderful afternoon catching-up and reminiscing about the amazing times we have spent together. We are always overwhelmed at how much interest there is across the whole world for The Spice Girls. The time now feels right to explore some incredible new opportunities together. We all agree that there are many exciting possibilities that will once again embrace the original essence of The Spice Girls, while reinforcing our message of female empowerment for future generations."

Reunion! (Again)

After announcing in late 2018 that four of the five Spice Girls would be reuniting once more for a tour—Victoria sat this one out to focus on the commitment to her fashion empire—Geri, Emma and the Mels began a 13-date European tour at Croake Park in Dublin, Ireland on May 24, 2019. Concluding with three nights at London's Wembley Stadium, the tour earned over $78 million, proving that Girl Power never goes out of style.

Happy anniversary, ladies!

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