24 September 2010

Spice Girls: Wannabe

So this week Lyrics, Weakly takes a trip back to 1996 (well, more 1997 in the United States), and specifically back to the start of the whole Spice Girls phenomenon and their debut single, “Wannabe”.

Yep, they named a song allegedly about girl power and friendship (though, as you’ll see below, it really seems to be about much weirder stuff than that) with a word denoting someone trying to fit in with a group that’s more popular than they naturally are. Something’s really rather bizarre about that disjunction, you know?

But the Spice Girls really were a bizarre thing overall, weren’t they? They claimed to be all about girl power, but they were also presented so as to appeal to a pretty wide range of male fantasies (the redheaded one, the athletic one, the rich and well-dressed one, the dark-skinned one, and—most creepily—the one presented as a large-breasted fifteen-year-old). Basically, the Spice Girls were a heterosexual Village People.

Anyway, here are the lyrics to the song. All of the Spice Girls take various turns in this, but i’m not about to try to identify which one delivers which line, or which one is the lead singer—i’m really not taken enough with them to spend that much effort on figuring out which voice is whose. You’ll just have to take it as a given, then, that there’s a good bit of call-and-response going on here, and so the pronoun shifts aren’t actually as jarring as they might look in print.

That said, the discourse incoherence is jarring at times. Like, oh, in the very first verse…

Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want

Cool. I mean, it’s not like I have the means of giving it to you, what with you being in a British band and me being on the other side of the Atlantic and all, but it’s nice to know what’s on your Christmas list. You know, should i ever be in a position to provide you with what you really, really want.

So tell me what you want, what you really really want

And this comes from someone else in the band. Nice of her, i think—she hears that her bandmate has a need, and so she signals that she wants to know the details of the request, presumably so that she can fulfill the need (at least, if she has the resources to do so).

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want

No, dude, your friend already said you should tell her—if you repeat this in that context it simply sounds like a desperate plea for attention. And, of course, you being a Spice Girl, you wouldn’t want to give the impression that you’re after undue attention, would you?

So tell me what you want, what you really really want

Nice of her friend—i’d’ve already walked away. (But then again, i have better things to do with my time than engage verbal teases in conversation—i mean, i could be at YouTube watching Russians yodel or something useful like that.)

But it appears our tease of a Spice Girl is finally going to give an answer, namely:

I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna

With this much buildup, it must be something amazing!

I wanna really really really wanna zigaziga ha

Or not.

Seriously, every time i hear this verse (and i’ve been hearing it way too often writing this up) i feel like i’ve been rickrolled. I mean, zigaziga ha?!? Seriously?

But maybe this bit of arcane cant will be explained in the verses that follow. I mean, there’s no way we’ll be left with something that meaningless, right?

If you want my future forget my past

Read: I know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried. And i plan to invoke my fifth amendment rights should you ask how i came by that knowledge.

If you wanna get with me better make it fast
Now don’t go wasting my precious time
Get your act together we could be just fine

It appears that the particular Spice Girl who’s singing here is really, really worried about her biological clock. This is perhaps unexpected, given that the oldest of them was about 24 years old when this song was released, but i suppose that that only goes to show how much value our modern Angloamerican society places on motherhood. There’s a sociology dissertation in there waiting to be written, i’m thinking.

(If you’re interested, i’ll even provide you with a title to use: On the Relationship Between Lyrical Content of Modern Dance Songs and Maternal Longing: A Post-Lacanian Analysis. No, no need to thank me—you don’t even have to acknowledge my contribution if you use it. In fact, upon further thought, please don’t acknowledge my contribution if you use it.)

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want

You’re just toying with us now, aren’t you?

So tell me what you want, what you really really want

You know, this response has gone beyond niceness—it’s now just enabling. You really want to avoid these sorts of co-dependence issues, you know.

I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna
I wanna really really really wanna zigazig ha

Well, i guess we should at least be happy that she only claimed she’d tell us what she really, really wanted once before providing us with this line this time.

Small blessing—it’s all about counting the small blessings.

If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends
Make it last forever friendship never ends

So this starts out actually making sense—if you want to be some particular Spice Girls’ lover you first have to pass through the gauntlet of being approved by her friends. Fine—that’s ordinary enough. But if you’re going to make such a request, you could at least give a rational reason for it. But the reason that’s given here? Because friendship never ends.

Right. That’s why all of you have been hanging out with the same people since kindergarten, right?

Of course not! Friendships ebb and flow—it’s part of the whole circle of life thing. There’s no shame in admitting that you won’t always be friends with the people you’re friends with now—just deal with it.

Of course, there may be shame in admitting you’re a very young woman with biological clock neuroses, but we’ve already dealt with that line of the song.

If you wanna be my lover, you have got to give

I’m guessing they named themselves the Spice Girls because Material Girl was already in use?

Taking is too easy, but that’s the way it is

First, i wish to highlight the triteness of the way this line ends—i mean, that’s the way it is? What, was the Pop-Song-O-Matic 5000 down the weekend this song was written, so they couldn’t come up with anything better? Even worse, is is, as far as i can tell, being used here as a rhyme for give. Really? You couldn’t even have come up with something that rhymed with the word give?!?

Here, try this: Taking is too easy, so that’s how you will live. It’s no better than the actual line in the song, sure, but i spent all of about four seconds on it and it actually rhymes—and it was easy to come up with, and i’m an amateur!

Second, taking is too easy? Um, you just said that this guy has to give—sounds like you’re gonna be doing some taking, but he doesn’t get to. Sounds, um, fair. You know, if you come across someone who really is that desperate to sleep with you, that is.

What do you think about that now you know how I feel
Say you can handle my love are you for real

If he’s imaginary he can handle anything you want him to handle, i’m thinking.

I won’t be hasty, I’ll give you a try

But earlier you said you wanted him to hurry—but you reserve the right not to?

Yeah, i’m calling you out right here as nothing but a manipulative b…um…ackbiter.

If you really bug me then I’ll say goodbye

First of all, by now the guy you’re singing to may be craving such a release.

But also, what’s the big deal about this? I mean, isn’t that the way romantic relationships work? Seriously—we don’t dwell on it all that much, but there’s a reason there are a lot of breakup songs, it’s because people end relationships with some frequency.

Face it, this doesn’t make you special. At all.

Yo I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want

I already know what you want, what you really, really want—you want to be able to dictate all of the terms of your relationships. And i suspect you’re going to be successful at that, too. Amazing what semi-attractive people are able to get away with, isn’t it?

So tell me what you want, what you really really want
I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna
I wanna really really really wanna

Might i suggest a chocolate biscuit?

zigaziga ha

No such luck.

By the way, according to various sources on the internet, one of the Spice Girls has informed the world that zigaziga ha actually means sex. I think this is like Bryan Adams claiming that the song “Summer of ’69” is actually about sex, not about 1969—if you say something stupid in a song and people call you on it, claim it’s about sex. Somebody’ll believe you.

You know what? I don’t.

If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends

I didn’t mention it earlier, but if this song is about sex, this is an almost-creepy line—to “get with” someone is to engage in romantic touching, possibly even sexual acts. So, once again if this song really is about sex, it seems to also be about polyamory.

Not necessarily an intrinsically bad thing, but not something my obviously old-fashioned-and-stuck-in-the-simpler-times-of-the-eighties self is really comfortable with pre-teens singing about, you know?

Make it last forever friendship never ends
If you wanna be my lover, you have got to give
Taking is too easy, but that’s the way it is

Another option: Taking is too easy, but my brain’s like a sieve.

And now we get told about various personality traits of members of the group—and i’ll warn you, things get somewhat less family-friendly here.

So here’s a story from A to Z, you wanna get with me
you gotta listen carefully

So if i don’t want to get with you, i get to ignore you? Cool—two wins with one action!

We got Em in the place who likes it in your face

Oh. My.

I’m trying to maintain a PG rating here, i really am, but…

Wow. There’s really not much i can say about this one, then, is there. (Warning: Link almost certainly unsafe for work.)

We got G like MC who likes it on an

This is, quite seriously, the entire line. As a result, i really do have nothing to say about this—mainly because there’s no actual propositional content.


Easy V doesn’t come for free, she's a real lady

So whichever Spice Girl happens to be V, i’m finding it impossible to come up with a non-sexual reading for this. In fact, i’m finding it impossible to come up with a reading for this in which her sexual activities are, um, non-professional. Well, i guess we now know the sort of women the soccer players are into these days.

And as for me you’ll see

Hey! Finally! We’re going to find out what the lead singer wants, what she really really wants.

It’s about time.

So what is it? Let’s listen carefully, as we find out that she wants the object of her affections to…

Slam your body down and wind it all around
Slam your body down and wind it all around

Um, yeah.

Well, at least we have a better idea of where this singer gets her inspiration.

(And then we get a reminder that if you want to be her lover, not only must you perform acts designed to create pain for yourself, but you also must get with her friends. I’ll skip it, which brings us, blessedly, to the end.)

If you wanna be my lover, you gotta
You gotta, you gotta, you gotta, you gotta

Maybe the problem is actually that she’s a stutterer?

Slam, slam, slam, slam
Slam your body down and wind it all around
Slam your body down and wind it all around
Slam your body down and wind it all around
Slam your body down zigaziga ah
If you wanna be my lover

Sorry, not interested, you’re asking for too much that isn’t really my kind of kink. Thanks for being up-front with your desires, though—it’s certainly saved us both a lot of time.

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