Smack in the middle of the kind of news week that makes you let go of that last shred of faith in humanity, the Spice Girls have brought our souls back from the brink. On Wednesday, the Internet was blessed with four unreleased tracks recorded for the Spice Girls’ 2000 album, Forever.
“Pain Proof,” “Right Back at Ya’,” “A Day in Your Life,” and “If It’s Lovin’ on Your Mind” sadly lack Geri Halliwell because Ginger Spice had already peaced out in 1998. Still, for those of us who were raised on Baby, Posh, Ginger, Sporty, and Scary Spice, the tracks are pretty damn thrilling, packing the kind of nostalgic punch that will send you running for your white platform shoes and Spice World VHS.
There are few—if any—other musicians that I feel the same kind of emotional, mental connection to as I do with the Spice Girls. It’s not just that their music is the soundtrack to my first sleepover party (which it is), but their message of “Girl Power” made a lasting impression in how I saw the world and its myriad opportunities. It sounds silly and simplistic now, but their whole persona encouraged young girls to embrace being themselves—whether they were high fashion like Posh or sporty like, well, Sporty—and to always kick ass. Their music and attitude makes the crop of coquettish, (mostly faux) virgin pop stars that came after them—Britney, Christina, Jessica—seem downright antiquated.
As to be predicted by the relatively meh reaction to Forever when it was released (it was the only one of their three originally recorded albums not to reach No. 1 in the UK), the new tracks don’t measure up to “Wannabe,” “Spice Up Your Life,” “Stop,” “Who Do You Think You Are,” “Mama,”… I could go on, but I’ll cut my fanaticism short. Besides, the songs are still wildly infectious and remarkably satiating to Spice Girls fans who were underwhelmed by the pretty bland “Headlines” on their greatest hits album.
It sounds like the Spice Girls we loved before Ginger left, Posh became Mrs. Beckham and threw herself into fashion, and Scary had to get a court-ordered DNA test to prove Eddie Murphy fathered her child. That’s probably because these tracks were produced by Matt Rowe and Richard Stannard, who were behind the Spice Girls’ two earlier—and better—albums, Spice and Spiceworld.
Even the cheesiest of the new tracks, “A Day in Your Life,” still wins you over—and that’s despite boasting the line, “You’ve got to dance like no one is watching.” The Spice Girls are ridiculously good at taking lyrics that sound like a horny Hallmark writer tried his hand at music and knocking it out of the park. As with “2 Become 1,” a potentially cringe-inducing song ends up sounding believably, enjoyably sexy.
The best of the four may be “If It’s Lovin’ On Your Mind,” which has the same sexy-meets-funky vibe as “Say You’ll Be There.” It’s especially sultry when Mel C (the most underrated member in my opinion) croons, “Daddy says playing hard to get will have him beggin’ me for more.” Listening to it, I couldn’t help but feel sad for the dashed music video possibilities—an encore of the black leather and random glittery objects in the desert in the “Say You’ll Be There” video… I could only hope.
“Right Back at Ya’” and “Pain Proof” both had a no-shit attitude that seemed to be a direct answer to the Spice Girl naysayer. The former was released in a different version on Forever, so it’s not a total shocker, but it’s still exhilarating. When Scary raps, “We’re right back at ya’ no R.I.P. Not forgettin’ the days when we were all wannabes,” I had to exert all of my self-control to keep from shouting, “Yeah, bitches!” at my work computer screen. “Pain Proof” has an edgier sound than most Spice Girls tracks, which, admittedly, is the equivalent of saying an episode of Law and Order: SVU is less sexually disturbing than the rest.
Still, both of these songs have a defiant quality. I like to think they were the Spice Girls’ sharp-tongued response to critics—albeit in a very poppy, very manufactured manner. They form a catchy fuck you, we’re here to those who didn’t think the Spice Girls would crumble without Halliwell.
Those critics were right. Partially. The Spice Girls went on an “indefinite hiatus” months after Forever was released. But the Fab Five came back together for a reunion tour in 2007 and were selected to perform at the freakin’ Olympics in 2012. Even more significantly, in 2015, nearly two decades after Spice debuted, we still drop everything to listen to their remnants of ‘90s pop gold. Girl power, indeed.