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The Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” Is The Unity Anthem We Still Need

Music
Photo courtesy of Virgin Records

20 strong years of girl power and counting

The Spice Girls occupy a special echelon of pop stardom. They were more than, as Adele says in her "Carpool Karaoke" episode, "five ordinary girls who did so well and got out." Their message of girl power kick-started a new era of feminism within the pop world and the world at large. They knew and understood the strength that comes from women supporting each other and forging friendships. They lived and demonstrated it through example. "Wannabe," their inimitable single, is a testament to that.

Released as the lead single of the Spice Girls debut album Spice in 1996, "Wannabe" would go on to become something of a manifesto for girl power. In January 1997, the single debuted in the States and the rest is history. (Crazy to think how viral it could have been had social media platforms been around back then.) “‘Wannabe’ was catching a moment and sharing it," Geri Horner (née Halliwell), aka Ginger Spice, tells us. "From the minute I met the other girls, I knew I had found my tribe. My passion for music and success was ignited and amplified; it was unified and strengthened with four other girls into world domination." She adds, "This must be what girl power feels like." 

Indeed, "Wannabe," through cheeky subversion and pop innuendo, places value on female-to-female friendships over romantic ones with lovers. You have to be cool and able to kick it with their friends if you ever want to be their lover. Now the debate over whether it's important your significant other's friends and you get along has no clear answer; it can go either way. But if our friends are reflections of ourselves, a SO should be able to find some common ground with them. Girl power comes from building and supporting the females in your life. "Girl power, for me, was a voice for the voiceless, screamed from a megaphone and kicked out hard: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE," Horner says. "Our message screamed it for every girl." (And boy, in my case.) It really is something else the Spice Girls shot to success with a song about platonic unity. They were headstrong, talented, bold, and outspoken from the get-go; more importantly, they stood in solidarity with one another. That's a rare thing in today's pop landscape where harmony, even if it's genuine, can be seen as manufactured and a front. 

In the two decades since "Wannabe" hit stateside, its message hasn't lost its effectiveness. It doesn't date itself with trendy jargon or employ track productions that feel like that moment in the '90s. "Friendship is a timeless, enduring aspect of life," the mind behind Instagram's Spice Girls Net says. "'Wannabe' has its own life form that seems completely separate from the Spice Girls now. It's transcendent. 'Wannabe' belongs to everyone else." It's the friendship anthem millennials (and, well, everyone) needs. It's evident the original five believed its message, too. Their passion jumps out from the song, your speakers and goes beyond simply getting you to dance. "We all felt it," Horner says, "and as sisters all around the world connected through music and songs, we shared that feeling." That feeling will continue to endure because girl power endures. "Wannabe" endures because the desire for real human connection endures. "Real girl power says you don’t have to be perfect," Horner concludes, "you just have to be united." And that's the way it is.