Spice Grrl Power -- the Mekon Defense

Michael Pollak mpollak at panix.com
Sat Oct 24 03:34:32 PDT 1998

[Sorry to join this thread late, I was out of town. It never crossed my mind that the Spice Girls might be the salt of feminism until I read the following spirited and amusing defense by Sally Timms, lead singer for the Mekons, of all people. It appeared in _Time Out New York_, June 25-July 2 1998, p. 108.]

It's Thyme!

The Mekons' Singer Comes to the Defense of the Spice Girls

by Sally Timms

I am a Spice Girl! I want to be Old Spice! I want to dance around with a pair of old knickers on my head, shout and swear and get drunk and generally act badly in public! (Actually, I already do, but no one will pay me for it.) I want to frighten tired old rock journalists who are so addled by soul-searching, sensitive artists that they've forgotten what "pop music" was all about. When the Slits acted up, everyone thought they were so cool -- so why not Scary or Posh?

We shouldn't be surprised that the Spice Girls blew up so big. They rose like postfeminist giants, stomping on all comers with their great platform boots. After years of Pearl Jam clones and traumatized girls with acoustic guitars, the world needed some light entertainment. The Spice Girls' music is fun. It's upbeat and positive. It's about Girl Power. They sing about the value of female friendships and how boyfriends had better accept it. "If you wanna be my lover/You better get with my friends." They are the natural antidote to the half-dead hippie Ophelias featured at Lilith Fair. Hooray for the Spice Girls, for they are copers!

The Girls are a global, cross-cultural phenomenon; they're hugely successful in nearly every country in the world. They sell a trillion zillion records, and you probably don't own any of them. (I have two). Were they really manufactured? Let's be realistic. If record company executives were capable of being half that clever, there would be armies of Spice Clones racing up the charts. No one would have picked these particular girls. They're too chubby, too loud, too crazy, too sexy, too plain, too Everygirl. I believe they are their own creation -- they are themselves.

We are they so successful, then, you wonder? Their concept is pretty simple, which may explain their popularity. They started out as five (Ginger quitting was surely just a publicity stunt -- she'll be back!); each has a different look and personality. Therefore, one is bound to be your type. You can choose to like just one, or you can be really greedy and like them all! Who's your favorite? Sporty, Baby, Scary or Posh? I like Scary.

Critics moan about their inability to play musical instruments: "They can't sing, they can't dance, they don't write their own songs." But Mick Jones couldn't sing very well, lots of people can't dance and they *do* write their own songs (at the very least, the melodies and the lyrics). If "Wannabe" and "Spice Up Your Life" weren't great pop songs, the Girls wouldn't be selling out their shows so fast. Last summer those songs blasted out of the radio like fresh air, and the ineptitude was part of the charm. The Spice Girls may not sign like En Vogue or dance like TLC, but add up their parts and they make a wonderful package. So why are the Girls viewed as inferior to their peers? Is it because they don't take the whole thing seriously enough? Acknowledging that their careers could all end tomorrow, they look on with amusement as they enjoy greater longevity than most of the other acts that have launched in the past few years. Their second album did not die; they're *not* one-hit wonders.

Anyone can be a Spice Girl (or Spice Boy, for that matter), and everyone is welcome in Spice world. It's a colorfree zone where little homegirls hang out with suburban WASPs. The group and fans are multiracial, and it's no big deal. Fuck Paula Cole with her "I am black" routine -- how come no one calls her on that? And that tambourine thing she does with her feet!? God help us all -- *that* is the crap that should carry a parental-advisory sticker! But in the Grammy stakes, it was Paula Cole 7, Spice Girls 0 (why was such a huge-selling group not even nominated?) Strangely, despite their untiring efforts and financial contribution to its cause, even the industry is down on the Spice Girls.

However, there are signs that the tide is turning. Madonna recently admitted she *used* to be a Spice Girl -- a little denial going on there, because she *still* is one! Avant-gardist Jim O'Rourke apparently likes Baby Spice best. How many other furtive Spice groupies are out there? Someone's buying those records! Frankly, I'm tired of arguing the point. More of us need to come out of the closet and join the fray. We owe it to ourselves to be loud and proud, and we mustn't be afraid to let the world hear us shouting, "Three cheers for the Spice Girls! Long live the queens of pop!

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__________________________________________________________________________ Michael Pollak................New York City..............mpollak at panix.com

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