The Spice Girls’ first single, ”Wannabe” — a No. 1 hit in England and 30 other countries, and the lead cut on the Brit quintet’s debut album, Spice — is one of those unstoppable songs: perky yet tough, catchy yet melodically surprising. A canny mix of dance, funk, and Supremes-style liberationism, it defines Essence de Spice Girl with its list of what it’ll take ”if you wanna be my lover”: ”You gotta give” and ”You gotta make it last forever” are salient requirements.
It’s always a dicey business, this Britpop stardom; sometimes it translates into Stateside success (Oasis) and sometimes it doesn’t (take that, Take That). The fact that the girls — Geri Halliwell, Melanie Brown, Emma Bunton, Victoria Aadams, and Melanie Chisholm — are eager to push a teasing sexiness is no guarantee, either (Kylie Minogue, anyone?). But ”Wannabe” has broken big here, and what lifts the Spice Girls above female- Bay City Rollers status is that Spice is a devilishly good pop collection, as the Girls deploy their thin, snarky voices in the service of white hip-hop that’s not without soul. The P-Funked ”Say You’ll Be There” is a bid for street cred, but it’s a fearlessly corny ballad like ”Mama” that will likely keep them from being one-hit wonders in America.