This was the Spice Girls first single. It was a huge and immediate hit, as their message of "Girl Power" and quirky personalities went along with the catchy beat and intrigued audiences around the world.
The song was written by Richard "Biff" Stannard and his musical collaborator Matt Rowe with assistance from the group members, who all received writers credits. Stannard had written the song "Steam" for a boy band called East 17, and after a chance encounter with Mel B., he was invited to write some songs for the Spice Girls, which was honing their act. Over the course of 10 days, he and Rowe wrote both "Wannabe" and the group's eventual third single, "2 Become 1." Stannard said that pretty much every waking hour of those 10 days was spent working on the songs; he explained to Pink News: "We wrote 'Wannabe' quite quickly, but it took ages to get it to sound right. I remember waking up on the studio floor with this post-it from Matt saying, 'Press play.' We'd finally got it. So it was luck and hard work."
The Spice Girls were formed as a female alternative to boy bands, which were big at the time in the UK. They spent years developing their act and cultivating their image; by the time this song was released, they had already made many media appearances and were ready for the big time.
When "Wannabe" was released in the UK on July 8, 1996, it blew past even the loftiest of expectations, reaching #1 on July 27, where it stayed for seven weeks. Global domination followed - in January 1997 the song was released in the US and in February it went to #1. It topped the charts in at least 10 other countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Worldwide, this is the best-selling single by an all-female group.
The lyrics are about the value of friendship. The five Spice Girls helped come up with the words and craft the song. Regarding their contribution, Richard Stannard said: "There were seven of ussitting on the floor in this tiny room. Matt Rowe and I would add the backing track and start with rhythms; everyone had their role; Geri was always concentrating on the theme and all the others would chip in with melodies and lyrics."
Talking about how they created the mood of the song, Stannard said, "It was the madness in the room. There would be two or three things going on at once; we would have three or four mikes up and we would record everything then pick the bits we liked and play it back to them."
A "Wannabe" is a person who aspires to be someone else, generally a celebrity, and imitates that person. The phrase has very little to do with the song, but makes a catchy title.
Suggestion credit: Bertrand - Paris, France
The video was done by the Swedish director Johan Camitz, who was known for his work on commercials. It was shot at St. Pancras Midland Grand Hotel in London, where the girls are seen larking about and making scene. The video appeared to be one continuous shot, although there are two barely noticeable edits. The action was mostly spontaneous, as the girls were presented as individuals rather than a choreographed unit.
Before the song was officially released in the UK, the video aired on the cable network The Box, where it quickly became their most popular clip, setting the stage for a successful release.
In February of 1997, this song won a Brit Award for Best Song. In addition, their follow-up hit, "Say You'll Be There," won for Best Video.
The line "Friendship never ends" became a credo for the Spice Girls. They used the phrase in a press release when Ginger Spice left the group.
The Spice Girls were managed by Simon Fuller, who created American Idol. When his protégé Simon Cowell launched the TV show X Factor In 2011, he hired Richard Stannard, who wrote this song, as a writer/producer for acts on the show.
On April 12, 1997, the Spice Girls performed this song and "Say You'll Be There" on Saturday Night Live.
Suggestion credit: Jerro - New Alexandria, PA
The big finish in the movie Grease, where John Travolta breaks out some great dance moves in a party carnival setting, was an inspiration for this song. Stannard says they were talking about that scene when they started to write the song, and they built on that vibe with Matt Rowe adding chords to a beat Stannard had on an MPC drum machine.
The "Zig A Zag Ahhhh" line was a big attention grabber in this song, and many listeners speculated that it was a bit dirty, as in shorthand for "suck a d--k." Stannard claims it's a nonsense phrase they had been throwing around when they wrote the song, and that it's purely innocent.
Asked during a Reddit AMA what a zig-a-zag is and why did you want one, Mel B replied: "EVERYBODY needs a zig-a-zag-ah, and it's whatever you want it to be."
The Daily Star reported something different in 2015, claiming that one of the writers anonymously told them that Mel B directed the line at an "'80s pop dude" who was working at the studio. Apparently, this guy pooped and smoked cigars in the common bathroom, making quite a stink. She dubbed him "s--t and cigar," which was the line, until they reworked it into something radio-friendly and nonsensical.
This was named the catchiest ever hit single in a 2014 UK scientific study by Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry. The result came from an online survey, which asked 12,000 people to name a song as soon as they recognized it. They were chosen at random from more than 1,000 clips of best-selling tunes with participants averaging around five seconds to clock a track.
The Spice Girls' earworm was named in an average of 2.29 seconds, ahead of Lou Bega's "Mambo No 5 (A Little Bit Of)," which was recognized an average of 2.48 seconds. Survivor came third with "Eye of the Tiger" at 2.62 seconds.
This song has been used in some memorable scenes from TV shows. On the 2007 One Tree Hill episode "All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone," the girls on the show do a dance routine to the song; in the 2009 Simpsons episode "How The Test Was Won," Ralph Wiggum sings it; in the 2013 episode of Glee, "Guilty Pleasures," the student perform the song.
In the '10s, some contemporary pop stars cited the Spice Girls as an influence, and sometimes performed this song in homage. Fifth Harmony posted a video of the quintet performing the song dressed as the Spice Girls on Halloween 2013. Adele expressed her love for the group during her "Carpool Karaoke" segment on The Late Late Show with James Corden in 2016, when she sang "Wannabe" along with the host.
Mel B wrote the "here's a story from A to Z" rap part in the toilet. It took her just eight minutes.
George from Vancouver, CanadaYou say: A "Wannabe" is a person who aspires to be someone else, generally a celebrity, and imitates that person. The phrase has very little to do with the song, but makes a catchy title.
It's everything to do with the song -- if you wanna be my lover (zigazag(presumedly sex)). . . you got to get with my friends (UK slang = "get along with", unless influenced with US slang, then = "have sex with"(presumably to have your prowess tested & reported on)
That's the hook -- sexual prowess -- but then it focuses on relationship (forget my past(=girl power aspect))
Friendship is listed as most important, for "forever" & getting along with her friends is critical.
But the song finishes off as purely about sex.
i.e. playing the socially presumed man's game (switched to she just wants sex, but he wants love/forever)
Mike from Santa Barbara, CaI can't stand the opening of this song, and the rest isn't much better. Fortunately, the Spice Girls' subsequent songs were pretty good.
Shawn from Green Bay, WiI'm a man, and I love the Spice Girls. They are about my age, and I remember when they first came out. I was a fan because they were hot at first, but now I like a lot of their music. "Say You'll Be There," "2 Become 1," and "Stop" are all good tunes, and "Too Much" is a GREAT song. This song is better in a live performance than recorded. It is a fun, energy-packed song that the girls have a lot of fun performing. And I absolutely LOVE Mel C, the girl a prior poster referred to as "a man." Hahaha.... Idiot. Go on youtube and look up a recent live performance of Mel C once, and then tell me she isn't a beautiful and talented woman.
Jennifer Harris from Grand Blanc, MiI love this music video and song. What does Zigazag Ah mean?
Mike from Matawan, Nj*see: People/Groups no one really cares about anymore.
But take heart Spice Broads, Brittany will be joining you soon
Marissa from Akron, OhThis song brings back memories all the way from second grade. It's a great song to blast when you're in the car with your best girlfriends, as I know from experience.
Bender from East West Virginia, VaIt must have been cold when they filmed this vid.
Louise from Newcastle, United KingdomSo annoyingly catchy...I remember the video vividly.
Becky from Chicago, Ili've heard that the phrase "zig-a-zig-ah" means Orgasam. is that right?
Julie from Taylor, Txi just have to say one thing.....Stop hating on this song! You knoe it freakin rox!
Bertrand from Paris, FranceEven after the years of hype surrounding this all-girl group and its members, "Wannabe" is an exhilarating listening pleasure. "Girl power" from the group swept the U.K. in 1996 and then conquered America the following year.
Ethan from Mason, MiI think that when it comes to this song people are very shallow! No one ever realizes what they say and how stupid they're being when this song is the topic of discussion.
First of all, I've witnessed people talk about this song and most of the time they don't know more than the chorus. So if they did hear the verses they'd be like, "wha- whats this song?"
Also, I think it's pathetic that no one can admit how great the spice girls are and that they use them for an object of humor. They are the one of the most talented, great-spirted, and beautiful girls in the world!
Why is it that in the world we live in today, people must choose not to admit what music they enjoy only to protect their self image? I think it's sick.
I for one love the Spice Girls, and yes, I'm a guy.
Matthew from Milford, MaI'll also admit that I don't even want to know what "slam your body down and wind it all around" could mean..
Matthew from Milford, Ma...Well, okay, I'll admit that the "zigzag" thing is kind of random.
Matthew from Milford, MaSilly? The meaning of this song is quite deep, actually. It's about the distinction between sycophantic clingers and true friends; the latter are much better to have around!!!
Mark from Lancaster, OhFor heaven's sakes. I never understood why everyone attached such significance to the Spice Girls' music. It's happy, great fun to listen to, and perfectly silly, as girls have a tendency to be. They were a fine group.
Mike from Santa Barbara, CaThe beginning of this song is AWFUL! When they rap "Tell me what you want, what you really really want.." my first thought is, "I want to hear a better song." The rest of the song is just plain dull. Their follow-up songs were an improvement, thankfully.
Hayley from Mckinney, Txthe spice s were huge.. but one was a man.. so like the spice boys kicked pure ace!
Kat from Sydney, Australiayay Australia, 11 weeks, gotta be proud! (i shouldnt say nething i bought that song!)
Laura from Melbourne, AustraliaYes,well,last time I was reading the dictionary, i didn't see the word 'silutaneously'. However I am intrigued to be offered an explantion for this perhaps versatile word or possible spelling error. P.S Spice girls were not a cult fad of the 90's, they were 'silutaneous', in the true sense of the word. You're a good sport pommy
Claire from Oak Ridge, Tni remember being 5 and tagging along dancing to this with my older sister and her in-the-know friend.
Martin from London, EnglandWith 7 weeks at No. 1, 26 weeks on the chart and sales of 1.27m in the UK, this track was the 12th best seller of the 90s and, at the time of its release, the 31st best-selling single ever in the UK.
Martin from London, EnglandThis, the Girls' first single, was silutaneously No. 1 in Australia for 11 weeks, during which time their 2nd and 3rd singles were No. 1 in the UK. In the US, it was simultaneously No. 1 with the Girls' 4th single at No. 1 in the UK.
Dave from Cardiff, WalesThre 'forever friends' stigma exploded in the Spice Girls' faces with Geri Halliwell's acrimonious split from the band in May 1998.