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"Wannabe" is a song by the British pop group Spice Girls, released as their debut single, and widely considered to be their signature song. It was written by the Spice Girls, Richard Stannard and Matt Rowe for the group's debut album Spice (see 1996 in music).

"Wannabe" is an uptempo pop song with a touch of white hip-hop, rap and dance music; the lyrics are a demand of sincerity, with a feminist message of choosing friends over relationships, the song became an iconic symbolism of female empowerment and the most emblematic song of the Girl Power philosophy. Despite receiving mixed reviews from music critics, the song won Best British-Written Single at the 1997 Ivor Novello Awards and Best Single at the 1997 BRIT Awards.

The single was released in July 1996 in the United Kingdom, reaching the top of the UK Singles Chart for seven consecutive weeks, and received a platinum certification by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). In January 1997 the song was released in the United States topping the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks, becoming their only number-one single in that country.

By the end of 1996 it had topped the charts in 22 nations, and by March 1997 this number had climbed to 31, before it became the best-selling single by a female group in the history of recorded sound, selling over six million copies worldwide.

Writing and inspiration

"Wannabe" was co-written by the Spice Girls, Richard Stannard and Matt Rowe. Stannard and Rowe also co-produced the track. The song's central emphasis is the union and solidarity of friends, an implicit challenge to any "wannabe" lovers.

Stannard and Rowe began writing with the group in January 1995, and the first song they wrote was called "Feed Your Love", a slow, soulful song which was eventually recorded and mastered for the Spice album – but not used because it was considered "too rude" for their target audience. Having completed that one, the girls wanted to write something a bit more uptempo.

Rowe set up a drum loop on his MPC 3000 drum machine, which was quite fast but also had a strutting quality about it. For Stannard the rhythm brought to mind the spirit of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John performing "You're the One That I Want" in Grease. Then the girls added their own contributions into the mix.

Rowe commented: "They made all these different bits up, not thinking in terms of verse, chorus, bridge or what was going to go where, just coming up all these sections of chanting, rapping and singing. And then we just sewed it together."

Halliwell wrote in the group's first official book Girl Power! that Melanie Brown and Emma Bunton came up with the song's chorus, and was in that moment that they realised they had something good.

The group and the producers were working all week on the song, but only half was completed by Friday night, so it was decided to finish it the following week. According to Victoria Beckham's autobiography Learning to Fly, that week she traveled to Torquaymarker to attend the wedding of a friend of her then boyfriend Mark Wood; she communicated with the other girls with a cellphone she and Halliwell recently bought; even though Beckham wrote: "It's not the same thing by phone". The song was finished and by the time they were going to record it, every solo parts were already divided between the four girls. Beckham only participates during the chorus of the song.

While other tracks on the album each required two or three weeks of studio time, the group was able to record "Wannabe" in under an hour – mainly because they had already written parts of the song beforehand.

The song won International Hit Of The Year and Best British-Written Single at the 1997 Ivor Novello Awards presented by the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters. It also won Best Single at the 1997 BRIT Awards.

Critical Reception

"Wannabe" received mixed reviews from music critics. Allmusic's reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine said "none of the Girls have great voices, but they do exude personality and charisma, which is what drives bouncy dance-pop like 'Wannabe', with its ridiculous 'zig-a-zig-ahhh' hook, into pure pop guilty pleasure".

Christina Kelly from Rolling Stone called the Spice Girls "another bubblegum pop group that offer a watered-down mix of hip-hop and cheesy pop balladry, brought together by a manager with a marketing concept", adding "Spice Girls' idea of power seems to be flaunting that they are all that, but the lyrics make Alanis Morissette's sound like Patti Smith's. A few nuggets: 'If you want to get with me, better make it fast...' Despite their pro-woman posing, the Girls don't get bogged down by anything deeper than mugging for promo shots and giving out tips on getting boys in bed." In a poll conducted by the magazine to identify the ten most annoying songs, this song was ranked eighth.

Matt Diehl from Entertainment Weekly also noticed the combination of genres describing "Wannabe" as "more a compendium of music styles (from ABBA-style choruses to unconvincing hip hop) than an actual song", but added that "there's something endearing about this goofily formulaic Euro pop".

Sputnikmusic in a review for Spice called the lyrics "dire" and wondered "how could parents feed this to their 10-year-olds? The album's lyrics are so heavily laden with smut, I'm surprised they even let their kids have the album" and then used "Wannabe" as an example saying "The gist of the song is basically get your act together and treat me right, or there's no show. Not to mention the famous zig-a-zig-ha... try replacing it with the word 'sex' in the lyrics and see how it all suddenly makes perfect sense", adding "this track is built around an infectious keyboard riff, and so profoundly annoying, you'll want to rip your toenails off just so it will stop. But it's also really catchy, which makes you hate it even more." Another review from "Sputnikmusic" said "The lively bubble-gum pop of the Spice Girls embodied a gender not willing to lie down, and their debut single "Wannabe" acted as a proverbial kick in the pants for male chauvinists worldwide."

In The Simpsons episode "Maximum Homerdrive", Homer plays the song in the truck and refers to it as the ultimate truck-driver song. The song was also used in The O.C. episode "The Case of the Franks", in the episode "Stand Up And Holler" of the CBS crime drama Cold Case, and in the finale of the fourth season of One Tree Hill. In 2007, online voters rated "Wannabe" #33 on VH1's list of "The 100 Greatest Songs of the '90s".

Music video

The music video for "Wannabe" was shot in April 1996, directed by Jhoan Camitz and produced by Mod Films. The clip appears to be one continuous take (although there were two barely noticeable edits) of the girls creating mischief at the Midland Grand Hotelmarker in St. Pancrasmarker. Among their antics is Melanie Chisholm's back handspring on one of the tables. In their first book Girl Power!, Geri Halliwell wrote about the video: "I remember the chaos and the cold. It wasn't very controlled - we didn't want it to be. We wanted the camera to capture the madness of "Spice".

When the music video was released and first appeared on UK cable network The Box, it was selected so frequently that it reached the top of the viewers' chart within 2 hours of going on air, staying at number-one for 13 weeks, being aired up to 70 times a week at its peak and becoming the most requested track in the channel's history.

A promotional video for the song which includes clips from the making of the video was issued by Virgin Records before the official video was released. In the promo the group is seen singing "Wannabe" at the recording studio; they described the origin of "Spice" and their first impressions of each other, and they also sang the chorus of "One of These Girls", which would eventually was released as the B-side for their third single, "2 Become 1".The video won Best Dance Video at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards. It was also ranked at number forty-one in the Top 100 Pop Videos of all time by Channel 4.

Chart performance

"Wannabe" was released in the United Kingdom on 8 July 1996, debuting on the UK Singles Chart at number three, before climbing to number one the next week, knocking Gary Barlow's "Forever Love".It then spent seven weeks at the top, the second longest stay by an all female group, only behind Shakespear's Sister's "Stay", which spent eight weeks at number one in 1992. With eighteen weeks in the Top 40, and twenty-six weeks in the Top 75, it sold over 1.27 million copies, becoming the second biggest-selling single of the year, the twelfth best-selling single of the decade, the fortieth best-selling single ever in the UK, and is still the biggest selling single by a female group in the UK.

In Europe the single reached the number-one position in almost every country it charted. On 14 September 1996 the song reached the top of the Eurochart Hot 100 for nine consecutive weeks, before it was replaced by the group's second single, "Say You'll Be There". In Ireland the song reached the number-one position the first week of August, staying at the top for four consecutive weeks.

In France the song debuted on 27 July 1996 at number forty-seven, reached the top position ten weeks later for three consecutive weeks, remained twenty-four weeks on the chart, and received a diamond certification by the Syndicat National de l'Edition Phonographique in June 1997. In Germany the song debuted on 12 August 1996 at the sixty-one position, reaching the top of the chart five weeks later for four consecutive weeks, remaining twenty-two weeks in the chart, and received a gold certification by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

In the Netherlands the song reached the top position of the Dutch Top 40 for two weeks, and received a gold certification by the NVPI. In Switzerland the single debuted on 25 August 1996 at number five, reaching the top of the chart for five consecutive weeks. It stayed twenty-four weeks on the chart, and received a gold certification by the IFPI.

In Finland the song reached the top for one week, and stayed thirteen weeks in total. In Norway it debuted at number eight, reaching the top of the chart for five consecutive weeks, and was certified platinum by the IFPI. In Sweden the single debuted on 2 August 1996 at number twenty-eight, reached the top of the chart for three weeks, and received a gold certification by the Swedish Recording Industry Association (GLF). "Wannabe" also reached the first position in both of the Belgian charts (Flanders and Wallonia), and the Spanish airplay chart; it also reached the second position in Austria, and the third position in Italy.

"Wannabe" debuted at number forty-five in Australia, reaching the top of the ARIA Singles Chart for eleven weeks, and ending at number-five at the 1996 year-end chart. In New Zealand the single debuted on 1 September 1996 at number thirty-eight, reaching the first position ten weeks later, staying there for only one week, and thirty-two weeks in total.

In Canada, "Wannabe" debuted at the eighty-nine position of the RPM singles chart, reaching its peak at number nine in its eighth week, remaining on the chart for sixteen weeks, and ending at the sixty-eight position on the year-end chart. The song was more successful on the Dance Chart, where it reached the top for three weeks, and ended at the top of the year-end chart.

In the United States, the song debuted on 25 January 1997 at number eleven. At the time was the highest-ever debut by a British act in the U.S. beating the record previously held by The Beatles for "I Want to Hold Your Hand" at number twelve. It reached the top of the chart in its fifth week, knocking Toni Braxton's "Un-Break My Heart", staying there for four consecutive weeks simultaneously with the group's fourth single ("Mama"/"Who Do You Think You Are") being at number one in the UK. It was a successful number-one single, reaching the sixth position of the Hot 100 Airplay chart, and topping the Hot 100 Singles Sales chart for four consecutive weeks. The song was a crossover success, reaching the top of the Rhythmic Top 40, and hitting the top twenty of the Hot Dance Club Play chart, and the top ten in the Hot Dance Singles Sales chart. It ended at number ten at the 1997 year-end chart.

Live performances

The Spice Girls were in Japan when "Wannabe" went to number one in the United Kingdom. The group made their first appearance on Top Of The Pops by satellite link from Tokyomarker, where they used a local temple as a backdrop for their mimed performance.

The song was included in the set list for both the Spiceworld Tour and the Christmas in Spiceworld tour. It was also performed several times on television, including Top Of The Pops, Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, Live & Kicking, Saturday Night Live,The Oprah Winfrey Show, the Bravo Supershow, and many television programs across Europe. "Wannabe" was also performed in many awards ceremonies like the 1996 Smash Hits! Awards, the 1996 Irish Music Awards, and the 1997 Channel V Music Awards held in India.

"Wannabe" was usually introduced by Melanie Brown. During the bridge ("here's the story...") Melanie Chisholm did some acrobatics as in the video, always earning a big ovation from the public. After Halliwell left the band, her parts were replaced by Chisholm, Beckham, and Bunton this way:

Lift ("tell me what you want..."): Chisholm

Verses ("get your act ... if you really..."): Beckham

Bridge ("easy V doesn't..."): Bunton

The line "easy V doesn't come for free, she's a real lady" was altered for their Spiceworld Tour (for some shows) to "easy V doesn't come for free, 'cause she's havin' a baby!" For The Return of the Spice Girls tour, Halliwell sometimes replaced "she's a real lady!" with "she's Victoria Beckham!", "'cause she's Victoria" or "she's Miss Beckham!"

Formats and track listings

These are the formats and track listings of major single releases of "Wannabe".

  • UK CD1/Australian CD/Brazilian CD/Japanese CD
  1. "Wannabe" [Radio Edit] – 2:52
  2. "Bumper to Bumper" – 3:43
  3. "Wannabe" [Vocal Slam] – 6:20

  • UK CD2
  1. "Wannabe" [Radio Edit] – 2:52
  2. "Wannabe" [Dave Way Alternative Mix] – 3:27
  3. "Wannabe" [Dub Slam] – 6:25
  4. "Wannabe" [Instrumental] – 2:52

  • US CD/European CD
  1. "Wannabe" [Single Edit] – 2:52
  2. "Bumper to Bumper" – 3:43

  • European 12" Vinyl Single
  1. A1 "Wannabe" [Vocal Slam] – 6:20
  2. B1 "Wannabe" [Dub Slam] – 6:25
  3. B2 "Wannabe" [Instrumental Slam] – 6:20

  • US 12" Vinyl Single
  1. A1: "Wannabe" [Junior Vasquez 12" Club Mix] – 9:20
  2. A2: "Wannabe" [Vocal Slam] – 6:20
  3. B1: "Wannabe" [Junior Vasquez Club Dub] – 9:20
  4. B2: "Wannabe" [Dub Slam] – 6:25
  5. B3: "Wannabe" [Single Edit] – 2:52

  • 2007 Club Remixes (Promo Only)
  1. "Wannabe" [Soulseekerz Vocal Mix] – 6:55
  2. "Wannabe" [Soulseekerz Dub Mix] – 6:56
  3. "Wannabe" [Soulseekerz Radio Edit] – 3:32

Credits and personnel

Published by Windswept Pacific Music Ltd/PolyGram Music Publishing Ltd

Cover versions

Charts, peaks and certifications

Chart positions

Chart (1996) Peak

Australian ARIA Singles Chart 1
Austrian Singles Chart 2
Belgian Ultratop 50 1
Belgian Ultratop 40 1
Dutch Top 40 1
Eurochart Hot 100 Singles 1
Finnish Singles Chart 1
French SNEP Singles Chart 1
German Singles Chart 1
Irish Singles Chart 1
Italian Singles Chart 3
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart 1
Norwegian Singles Chart 1
Swedish Singles Chart 1
Swiss Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart 1

Chart (1997) Peak

Canadian RPM Singles Chart 9
U.S. ARC Weekly Top 40 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 20


Country Provider Certification Sales/shipments
France SNEP Diamond 732,000+
Germany IFPI Gold 150,000+
Netherlands NVPI Gold 40,000+
Norway IFPI Platinum 10,000+
Sweden GLF Gold 10,000+
Switzerland IFPI Gold 25,000+
United Kingdom BPI Platinum 1,250,000+
United States RIAA Platinum 1,000,000+


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  2. McGibbon, 1997. pp. 124–125,128.
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  20. Promotional Video. Retrieved 26 October 2007.
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  29. Sinclair, 2004. p. 79.
  30. Christmas in Spiceworld-Set list. . Retrieved 27 October 2007.
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  35. De Heideroosjes - Schizo (1999) -


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