In 1997, Spice Girls mania ruled as the British vocal quintet roared to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 dated that Feb. 22 with its breakthrough smash “Wannabe,” logging its first of four weeks at the summit.
The song was released from the group’s debut album, Spice, which debuted on the Billboard 200 the same week and went on to crown the survey for five weeks starting May 24, 1997.
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.”
Released in February 1997, Spice would go on to sell 7.5 million copies to-date in the United States, according to MRC Data; spend 105 weeks on the Billboard 200; score the 1997 Billboard Music Award for album of the year; and spawn massive singles, as “Wannabe” was followed by two more top five Hot 100 hits, “Say You’ll Be There” (No. 3, May 1997) and ballad “2 Become 1” (No. 4, September 1997). Spice Girls dolls, body spray and other merch flooded the market, and a second top 10 album, Spiceworld, was released just nine months after Spice (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. In 2000, the remaining four released Forever, which hit No. 39 on the Billboard 200, but soon went on hiatus. The quintet reunited for a successful 2007 tour.
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 publicly in December 2012 for the premiere of the London stage musical Viva Forever — a show based on the Spice Girls’ music. In 2019, four of the members of the group (Brown, Bunton, Chisholm and Halliwell) staged a 13-date 2019 tour of the U.K. and Ireland that grossed over $78 million, according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore.