Pop-Up Video: Wannabe (1996)

Spice Girls
Origin: London, England
Genres: Pop/dance & pop
Years active: 1994–2001, 2007–2008, 2018–present
Melanie C
Emma Bunton
Mel B
Geri Halliwell
Victoria Beckham

The Spice Girls' song "Wannabe" topped the UK Singles Chart for seven weeks. In the United States, it reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on February 22, 1997, for four weeks. By March 1997, "Wannabe" was the best-selling song in 37 nations and became the best-selling single by a girl group in the world by the end of 1997. A 2014 study chose it as the most easily recognizable pop song of the last 60 years.


The Spice Girls formed as a female alternative to boy bands. They answered an ad in a London magazine for young women between 18 and 23 years old to form a singing group. After the girls were chosen, they began training. Their nicknames - Ginger, Posh, Scary, Baby, and Sporty - came from an interview they did with Top of the Pops magazine before their first single was released. Staff at the magazine used them to refer to the girls in the piece. Other outlets followed suit, and the names became associated with the girls. "Scary" got her name because she was rather loud during the photo shoot.

Simon Fuller (l) & Simon Cowell (r)

They spent years developing their act and cultivating their image. But in October 1993, the girls rebelled. They refused to follow orders about what to sing, what to wear, and who sings lead. They left their manager. It took them two years to obtain a new manager, but in March of 1995, they found Simon Fuller, who created American Idol. Three months later, they signed with Virgin Records. 


"Wanna Be" was the Spice Girls' debut single. Producer Richard Stannard and his partner, Matt Rowe, were the songwriters. They held a brainstorming session with the singers. They wanted a song to represent the essence of the group. The girls added their own contributions. In this session, the idea of including a rap near the song's end came up. Mel B wrote the "here's a story from A to Z" part in the toilet. It took her just eight minutes. She incorporated the word "zig-a-zag-ah" into the lyrics. 

Mel B of the Spice Girls

After the single was released, some listeners speculated "zig-a-zag-ah" was slang for male genitalia. The Daily Star cleared things up when it reported an "'80s pop dude" who was working at the studio pooped and smoked cigars in the common toilet, stinking up the room. Mel B dubbed him "s--t and cigar." This was the original line in the song. The group reworked the phrase into something radio-friendly and nonsensical. 

"Wannabe" was written in thirty minutes and recorded in less than an hour. It was released in the UK on July 8, 1996, and reached number 1 on July 27. It remained in the top spot for seven weeks. In January 1997, the song was released in the US, and in February, it went to number 1. When the Spice Girls visited Nelson Mandela's house in 1997, Mel B stole a toilet paper roll. She told him about it later and said he laughed.


The video was shot at St. Pancras Midland Grand Hotel in London. The director was Johan Camitz, who was hired because of his commercials for Volkswagen, Diesel, and Nike. His concept was a one-take shoot of the group arriving at a location, taking over the place, and running riot; the same way they did when they were looking for a manager and a record company. The action was spontaneous. Although it appears to be one continuous shot, there are two barely noticeable edits. 

Spice Girls "Wannabe" video shoot

Virgin's executives were horrified with the final result. "The girls were freezing cold, which showed itself in various different ways," Ashley Newton recalled. After it was released, parts of Asia banned the video because of Brown's erect nipples. Virgin wanted a re-shoot of the video or an alternate one for the US. The Spice Girls refused. The video was sent for trial airing in its original form.


The music video first appeared on the British cable network The Box. It reached the top of the viewers' chart within two hours of going on air, and it was aired up to seventy times a week, becoming the most requested track in the channel's history. "Wannabe" won Best Dance Video at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards and Best Video at the 1997 Comet Media Awards. It was nominated for Best British Video at the 1997 BRIT Awards and was ranked at number forty-one in The 100 Greatest Pop Videos of all time by Channel 4.

Spice Grils 
Pop-Up Video


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