Words: Will Stroude
8 July 1996 was the day everything changed, both for five young women, the music industry, and for thousands of pop lovers around the world who found their tribe.
The release of 'Wannabe' by the Spice Girls would propel Emma Bunton, Geri Halliwell, Melanic Chisholm, Victoria Beckham and Melanie Brown to overnight superstardom, spark two years of global Spice-Mania, add fuel the late '90s 'Cool Britannia' wave of national optimism, and mark out a pop legacy that would last a lifetime.
It's hard to believe that in the girls' comparatively brief time as a group they managed to wrack up 85 million record sales and nine UK Number Ones, but as runs of singles go, that Spice Girls' back catalogue is seriously hard to beat.
To mark the 25th anniversary of 'Wannabe's release, we've attempted the impossible and ranked every one of the group's singles in order of greatness.
We'll admit it was like choosing between children (with the notable exception of 'Headlines', which we'd gladly put up for adoption), but without further ado, here is our definitive ranking of Spice Girls singles from great to greater...
13) 'Headlines (Friendship Never Ends)' (2007)
Friendship might never end, but it turns out an unbroken run of UK Top Two singles and an untarnished singles discography can.
The Spice Girls' original reunion tour in 2007 might have come with much fanfare and a full line-up, but the ladies' return to the studio after seven years on 'hiatus' sadly resulted in this bland mid-tempo number, which, bereft of group's original spirit, limped into the charts at number 11 a decade ago.
12) 'Let Love Lead the Way' (2000)
Parts of the Spice Girls' attempts to embrace R&B-tinged noughties pop trends worked for them (see, 'Holler'). This most definitely didn't. Thank you, next.
11) 'Mama' (1997)
Girl Power moved up a generation in this sweet ode to motherhood, which was released as a double-A aside to 'Who Do You Think You Are' and came with a video that paid five of the world's most important figures their dues: The Spice Mums.
One of the band's strongest vocal efforts, 'Mama' remains a beloved entry in the Spice discography and one of their most profound.
10) 'Too Much' (1997)
The do-wop-inspired 'Too Much' became the Spice Girls' sixth consecutive Number One single and second in their trio of Christmas chart-toppers in December 1997.
The Bond-themed video, released just weeks after Spice World ushered in a new golden age of cinema (fight us) and provided plenty of iconic moments (hello VB's catsuit) - but of the girls' trio of wintry ballads, 'Too Much' probably ranks as the weakest.
9) '2 Become 1' (1996)
What does the deer at the end of the video mean? Who knows! The first of the Spice's Christmas triumvirate is an unadulterated cheese-fest, from an era when the term still meant something.
The fact that is one of a rare number of pop songs to include lyrics actively advocating condom-use (ta, Emma) only adds its legacy.
8) 'Wannabe' (1996)
Don't look at us like that! Yes, 'Wannabe' remains the defining song of the Spice Girls' career - possibly the 'defining song of the entire '90s, in fact - but the fact is, it's ubiquitousness has taken some of the shine off what was a much-needed breath of pop fresh air in 1996. Musically, there was much better to come...
7) 'Who Do You Think You Are' (1997)
The official 1997 Comic Relief showed the Spice Girls at their raucous, unstudied best. By now officially anointed Scary, Sporty, Posh, Baby and Ginger, the girls' performance of the ferocious disco number at the 1997 Brit Awards featuring that Union Jack dress would go down in history as a symbol of late '90s 'Cool Brittannia'.
The French and Saunders parody video of 'Who Do You Think You Are' for Comic Relief remains comedy gold to this day, and Mel C's final-chorus cries of 'SWING! IT! SHAKE! IT! MOVE! IT! MAKE! IT!' are enough to make the dead rise up and dance.
6) 'Stop' (1998)
Now considered one of the Spice Girls' defining tracks, 'Stop' inexplicably became the group's first single to miss out on Number One in the UK charts in March 1998 (Run-D.M.C. and Jason Nevins, we're looking at you).
Despite ruining what would have otherwise been an unbroken run of ten - YES TEN - UK Number One singles (no seriously Run-D.M.C. and Jason Nevins, you should be ashamed of yourselves), 'Stop' did provide a generation with new Motown-inspired moves to tear up the school disco, as well as providing us with our last proper Geri single.
5) 'Goodbye' (1998)
Of all Spice Girl ballads, it's 'Goodbye' that induces the biggest wave of nostalgia: The first song recorded as a foursome after Geri's abrupt departure (despite being co-written by her), it closed the door on a whirlwind era for both the group and fans.
After pursuing solo projects in 1999, Victoria, Emma and Mels B & C would make a comeback in the new millennium with R&B-flavoured third album 'Forever', but 'Goodbye' would represent the end of '90s Spice-Mania as we knew it *sniffs*.
4) 'Holler' (2000)
Growing up musically was never going to an easy ask for a group associated with '90s ladette culture, but the Spice Girls each brought the best of their respective solo endeavours as they returned after a year's break to start the new millennium with the funky, attitude-filled 'Holler'.
Retrospective reviews of the Spices' last true chart success as a group haven't always been kind, but they make the mistake of defining the era based on the cultural craze that had come before, rather than taking it on its own terms. Connoisseurs know that 'Holler' still slaps almost two decades later.
3) 'Say You'll Be There' (1996)
If 'Wannabe' was the undeniable pop hit with 'One-hit wonder' written all over it, 'Say You'll Be There' was the edgy older sister designed to mark a mark on the music industry.
Shedding the novelty of their debut, the accompanying music video - which is still influencing artists like Charli XCX to this day - channeled movie classics Pulp Fiction and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! as it introduced 'Katrina Highkick', 'Trixie Firecracker', 'Kung Fu Candy', 'Midnight Miss Suki' and 'Blazin' Bad Zula' to the world.
2) 'Viva Forever' (1998)
'Viva Forever' isn't just a great Spice Girls song; it's a great song period. Still dismissed as conveyor-belt fluff by many, critics were forced to eat their words when the band released this melancholy slice of Latin balladry.
The haunting video for 'Viva Forever' also represents one of the group's best: The strangely affecting story of a boy who is taken by ominous pixie versions of the girls before being imprisoned in a graveyard of children's toys was a metaphor for the loss of youth and innocence, and came as a nation mourned Geri's abrupt departure just weeks before.
1) 'Spice Up Your Life' (1997)
In the 14 months since the release of their debut single, the Spice Girls had gone from young five pop wannabes to one of the biggest music phenomenons of the century. After the record-smashing success of Spice, expectations surrounding the follow-up record were understandably high, and you'd have forgiven the group for caving under the pressure with something of a misstep.
Not so. When the girls did burst back into the charts in October 1997, it was with a single that not only matched 'Wannabe's levels of infectious pop ridiculousness, but exceeded them entirely.
Slated by many critics at the time, 'Spice Up Your Life' saw Posh, Sporty, Scary, Ginger and Baby embrace their position as the indestructible Terminators of the pop industry with a dark, futuristic video winking to the rampant commercialism of Spice Mania.
The carnival-inspired number was another certified global smash and debunked any lingering feelings that the band was a flash in the pan. Over 20 years later and 'Spice Up Your Life' still stands up scrutiny as an unapologetically brash banger that perfectly encapsulates the Spice Girls' bolshy philosophy while making generations old and young hit the dancefloor.
There's a reason the group chose it for their iconic (and possibly final?) performance as a fivesome at the London 2012 Olympic closing ceremony: 'Wannabe' may have been the sound of a band making history - but 'Spice Up Your Life' was the sound of five girls writing it themselves.