England's Spice Girls, who achieved immediate chart and sales success the Beatles never dreamed of, are releasing a new album, "Spiceworld." They're preparing for their first-ever concert tour and putting the finishing touches on "Spiceworld," a "Hard Day's Night" knockoff scheduled for early 1998 from "Absolutely Fabulous" film director Bob Spiers.
That's a full plate for the five young women, none of them singers or musicians, who responded to a 1994 audition notice seeking "glam girlies" who were "streetwise, outgoing, ambitious." The newspaper ad didn't mention music, yet the Spice Girls' debut album, "Spice," has sold 20 million copies. Their ambition has paid off in other ways, too. Former British finance minister Kenneth Clarke appropriated the lyrics of "Wannabe" for a state-of-the-economy speech: "I'll tell you what I want, what I really really want . . . healthy, sustainable growth."
Spice Girls' manufactured origin is not really a problem; neither is the fact that (Geri) Halliwell, Sporty Spice (athletic Melanie Chisolm), Posh Spice (haughty Victoria Adams), Baby Spice (pigtailed Emma Bunton) and Scary Spice (Melanie Brown) were selected for looks and personality rather than musical ability. Apparently, attitude excuses ineptitude. Besides, pop music has a grand tradition of conjured groups ranging from Phil Spector's various girl groups to En Vogue, New Edition and New Kids on the Block, and television's Monkees, Partridge Family and Josie and the Pussycats. The talent scout who originated the cattle-call audition was just looking for a distaff version of boy-toy groups like Take That and Boyzone, teen idols massively popular in England.
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