Rewinding the Charts: In 1997, Spice Girls Powered to No. 1

The Spice Girls photographed in 1997.
Ray Burmiston/Photoshot/Getty Images

The Spice Girls photographed in 1997.

Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh and Sporty brought Cool Britannia to America when their debut album topped the Billboard 200 on May 24, 1997.

In the spring of 1997, Spice Girls mania ruled as the British vocal quintet rose to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with its debut album, Spice.

The group’s members -- Victoria Adams (now Mrs. David Beckham), then 23; Melanie Brown, 21; Emma Bunton, 21; Melanie Chisholm, 23; and Geri Halliwell, 24 -- promoted a unified front of “girl power” and friendship among strikingly different personalities. Their adoption of nicknames that distilled their personas into marketing-friendly alter-egos also helped them appeal to the masses: Brown became known as “Scary Spice,” for example, a nod to her brashness and outrageous style, while the ponytail-and-tracksuit-wearing Chisholm was dubbed “Sporty Spice.”

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Released in February 1997, Spice would go on to sell 7.5 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen Music; spend 105 weeks on the chart; score the 1997 Billboard Music Award for album of the year; and spawn massive singles, including the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 “Wannabe.” Spice Girls dolls, body spray and other merch flooded the market, and a second top 10 album, Spice World, was released just nine months later (followed by an eponymous movie in January 1998).

A media backlash over the girls’ surfeit of sponsorship deals ensued, and the group lost some of its mojo when Halliwell — aka Ginger Spice — departed in 1998. The remaining four released Forever in 2000, but soon went on hiatus. The quintet reunited for a successful 2007 tour.

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Though the Spice Girls had a relatively short recording career as a group, each has released her own solo singles and albums to varying degrees of success, and Beckham is now a fashion mogul. All five artists most recently reunited in December 2012 for the premiere of the London stage musical Viva Forever — a show based on the Spice Girls’ music.


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