Friday, May 27, 2005

In Their Defence: The Spice Girls

Ladies and gentlemen of the jukebox jury. The Spice Girls are innocent.

As the representative of a person or group who are guilty of other, smaller crimes, it's hard to put forth a convincing defence of the larger charges, so before we start, let's clear up a few misunderstood points about what they were, who they were and what they were supposed to do. Yes, the Spice Girls were a manufactured band. Yes, the Spice Girls' nicknames and personas were marketing ploys. Yes, the Spice Girls did very little, if any, writing of music and/or lyrics themselves. But, ladies and gentlemen, it was damn fine marketing. They were damn fine fake personas and - perhaps most importantly - it was damn fine perfectly crafted pop music.

Before we get to the meat and potatoes of the defence, perhaps it would be a good idea to make sure that everybody is on the same page over what the argument actually is, and it touches on something said a few moments ago. Whilst obstensibly the group was the five original members, the project was very much a team effort. Management played a huge role in what can only be referred to as slight-of-hand. Appearances and percieved attitudes were pushed to the front and the music slipped by underneath. There is nobody involved with the project or even anyone with basic intelligence who could claim otherwise, although it's a well documented fact that the main members of the group were instrumental in picking their manager in addition to rejecting requests from interested record companies that a "clear leader" be established in the group. This amount of control and choice in and of itself is both a remarkable and unusual feat in the music industry.

Aside from the management and marketing, the Spice Girls triumphed musically. Being two totally different genres, one couldn't feasibly say that classical music was better than, say, heavy metal. Blues over jazz or polka over country. The differences are too numerous, wo with that in mind, it's unfair to compare perfectly crafted pop music to any other genres. Perfectly crafted pop music is what it is. Where some genres are pure and rely solely on melody or lyrics, perfectly crafted pop music derives success from an amalgamation of different parts. It's part promotion, part market research and part image. When those wheels work together, the clock runs smoothly. Some music acts slave for years in nightclubs, some music acts are created and cultivated in the studio. You don't have to agree with the way it works or what those methods produce to acknowledge their existance and realise that it can be done well and it can be done badly.

So musically, the Spice Girls did what they were supposed to do and did it well. The music reflected the attitudes and message of empowerment that the group was designed to produce in addition to being radio-friendly and catchy. Even Christopher Reeve couldn't resist tapping his feet to "Who Do You Think You Are", for example. The ballads were dripping with emotion in the same way that popcorn drips with butter; it may not be genuine, but it tastes good enough to do the job in the three minutes it takes to comsume it, exhibit A: the swooping strings of "Two Become One" and the reflective lyrics of "Viva Forever".

The prosecution will bombard you with misunderstood points of interest intended to misdirect your attention away from the facts of this case. They weren't a true band, they will say. They put style over substance, they'll tell you. Their music was dreaful, they'll whine. Ignore them. They weren't supposed to be a real band, style over substance is what perfectly crafted pop music is about and the music wasn't dreadful... it's just not to everyone's taste.

And so in closing, I ask you - the fine members of the jukebox jury - I ask you to judge the Spice Girls solely within the context of what they were created to be and not what personal preferences and tastes decide they should have been. The Spice Girls were a perfectly crafted pop group, selling perfectly crafted pop music.

Good morning, thank you and girl power.

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