They told us what they wanted...

Fact titleFact data
First released:
8th July 1996
Written by:
Spice Girls, Matt Rowe, Richard Stannard
First recorded by:
The Spice Girls
Cover versions by:
De Heideroosjes, The Glee cast, London Double Bass Sound, Walt Ribeiro, The Thurston Lava Tube


Reading the Wikipedia entry for the song ‘Wannabe’ (linked to below) without ever hearing it, you may come away thinking that its cultural and musical importance are second only to the works of Beethoven. Even the description of its construction seems remarkably detailed for a ‘mere’ pop record:

I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want...

Apparently it is “…written in the key of B major, it is set in the time signature of common time and moves at a moderate tempo of 116 beats per minute.[21] It uses the sequence B–D–E–A–A♯ as its chord progression during the refrain, the chorus, and the bridge, and F♯–G♯m–E–B for the verses.”

However most British members of the public remember it as the joyous, shouty first single by The Spice Girls: a celebration of friendship over heterosexual relationships, and the place where the world learned the phrase: “zigazig-ha.” Held as being a keystone of the Girls’ ‘Girl Power’ philosophy, nearly 20 years on and in the light of the various members subsequent ‘careers,’ it does, unfortunately, seem to have been a little less important than the UK media took it to be at the time.

This isn’t to decry the importance of ‘Wannabe’ for a whole generation of teenage girls who not only related to the individual personality types of ‘Sporty’; ‘Scary’; ‘Baby’; ‘Posh’ and ‘Ginger,’ but also to the idea of female role models who preferred having a laugh to getting a boyfriend and promoted ideas of loyalty and feminine power. But the feminism of ‘girl power’ was, in truth a ragbag of media soundbites (cf: Geri Halliwell’s quote about Margaret Thatcher being a role model) disguising what in retrospect now seems like the beginning of the X-factor generation.

The Spice Girls were, after all, a manufactured girlband, put together by male svengalis and whose originally mooted debut single was a song called ‘Feed Your Love’: an ode to oral sex, of all things. Of course, that’s not to say that ‘Wannabe’ shouldn’t take its place amongst all the other People’s Songs: for what better illustrates the New Labour era of British boom and Union Jack waving ethos than the words: “I'll tell you what I want. What I really, really want”?


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