Mar 032023

Go back to the beginning

10. The Baseballs – Wannabe

So many ways to perform “Wannabe.” Here’s another one, throwing the song back forty-odd years before it arrived and giving it a go Memphis-trio style. Well, Memphis by way of Berlin, where The Baseballs hail from. You’d never guess from their performance, though – their accent-free vocals and hot, Grease-y licks make them sound as American as their name. – Patrick Robbins

9. Avenue 22 – Who Do You Think You Are

“Maybe we should add some saxophone.” Probably the gutsiest line in the covers game. It’s a make-or-break decision: does dropping in a little of the flashiest woodwind sound like full-on cheesy lounge music, or does it crank the funk to 11? In the case of Avenue 22, it’s the latter. The extremely disco-y Spice Girls track gets a great lift in this cover. The rhythm guitar is brought way up in the mix, sounding very Nile Rodgers of Chic, and the saxophone matches perfectly. The staccato of both instruments pairs wonderfully with the smooth vocals. The cover takes what the Spice Girls were going for and does it better. – Mike Misch

8. Van Bobbi – 2 Become 1

Dream pop turned club banger, this cover starts out with some sultry crooning. A syncopated synth paves the way for the punctuating beat to step into a main character role in the choruses. Amongst all of this energy, the intimacy of “come a little closer baby” is still maintained, as this part is delivered with the minimal accompaniment. Various electro-pop sprinkles appear throughout to keep us on our toes, never letting us fully settle in to a complacent head bop. – Sara Stoudt

7. Why Mona – Wannabe

This list is unsurprisingly a bit of a “Wannabe” convention. It is the most popular Spice song by a very wide margin, and decades later, its video still kicks total (pop) ass (zigazig-ahhh). In their 2017 cover, duo Why Mona reimagines the boisterous banger as a delicately menacing, chilled-out, laid-back electro groove. And it’s become a bit of a TikTok smash. – Hope Silverman

6. Lisa Mitchell – Stop

“Stop” is a joyfully infectious pop tune. That’s what makes Australian singer Lisa Mitchell’s cover so powerful. She reinterprets the song as a quiet, bittersweet acoustic track. The words “I need somebody with the human touch,” come across like a cry for help. It’s striking to hear such a happy song reworked into something so sad. – Curtis Zimmermann

5. Minimal B – Saturday Night Divas

Minimal B live up to their name here with a vocal and cello duet. The duo slow the tempo way down, deeper and down, to great effect. The plucked cello bass notes and the cello accompaniment are nice, but when the cello harmonizes with the vocals at the end of the chorus the combination, really shines. It’s a deceptively simple cover that gets more impressive on repeat listens. – Mike Misch

4. MØ – Say You’ll Be There

In 1998 the Spice Girls announced that they were going to be touring the U.S. for the first time. Despite the fact that Halliwell had quit the group just prior to this event, their popularity was still peaking and this tour was set to be huge. I was working at a big NYC record store at the time that was (unfortunately) home to a (freakin’) Ticketmaster outlet. Thus we were going to have to sell tickets to their highly anticipated show at Madison Square Garden. The line was down the block the morning they went on sale and I had the extreme misfortune of having to man the Ticketmaster unit that day.

Even back in 1998, Ticketmaster was incapable of handling big events. It was all too normal for the unit to kick out three tickets before it randomly threw in the towel and could print no more. This was allegedly because every outlet in NY state was trying to access them at the same time (sound familiar?). The end result of this technological insufficiency was that we poor record store soldier-slobs were often put in the position of having to calm angry, disappointed (but mostly angry) would-be ticket purchasers. Of course, on Spice Girls morning, the unit gave up minutes into the tix going on sale. I can still see the faces of the first victims whose dreams I destroyed. They were one of the most volatile human pairings in all of mankind; an Upper West Side mother and her young daughter.

“YOU TELL MY DAUGHTER SHE IS NOT GOING TO SEE THE SPICE GIRLS !!!!” the aforementioned angry mom screamed at me when I told her mere minutes after the sale began that the Ticketmaster unit devil machine had stopped working and I couldn’t access tickets. By angry mama’s side stood her daughter who looked to be about seven. The kid was dressed as Sporty Spice. Her hair was in a ponytail and she was wearing a brightly colored half-tee, tracksuit bottoms, and sneakers. She was a mini-American Mel C whose life had been leading up to this moment, and I was about to crush it. I could barely look at this girl without feeling like an absolute demon, so I just apologized to the mom and took the residual abuse. Many years have passed since this incident and I figured that while we were here honoring the Spices, I’d take this opportunity to apologize to the mini-American (now adult) Sporty for unintentionally breaking her heart that day.

Danish popster MØ was a fan-letter-writing, posters-on-the-wall Spice obsessive as a kid, too. Her love never subsided, and in 2014 she decided to pay tribute to her heroes by covering the group’s first-ever UK number one “Say You’ll Be There.” On her cover, MØ turns down the twee and reshapes the cheezin’ anthem into a sinewy, sexy, and sublime electro groove. It’s the kind of thing that could turn a hardened Spice hater into a fan (at least of this song). – Hope Silverman

3. The Twang – Spice Up Your Life

This one is only here courtesy our esteemed editor, Patrick Robbins, drawing my attention to this, astonishingly, German band. He’s drawn attention to them a couple of times, and hooked me on their line (dance). Spice Girls, with their sassy girl power, are about as far removed from the docile stand by your men of C&W, with, I suspect, a tongue tucked firmly in cheek. They totally deconstruct the anthem and imbue it with a Sergio Leone vibe (spaghetti, or should that be sauerkraut, Western), mixed in with a dash of “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” – Seuras Og

2. Sandflower – Wannabe

Firstly, as an NYC person, I confess to loving this video because I know exactly where Sandflower and her friends are strutting (walking west on Kenmare Street, holla)…but even without visual accompaniment, this cover is pretty hot (and very cool). It’s a slow boil with a slinky attitude, powered by a smooth soulful heartbeat, and may inspire you to do some involuntary strutting of your own. – Hope Silverman

1. Jim O’Rourke – Viva Forever

If Jim O’Rourke isn’t the most unlikely musician you’d imagine to cover the Spice Girls, he’s probably on the short list. The extremely prolific composer and post rock musician does record some interesting covers, but his sound is so far removed from ’90s girl group pop, the very idea of the cover messes with your mind. His version opens with forceful drums and a bit of laconic vocal from O’Rourke, an electric guitar and not much else. But at the first chorus, a kind of wall-of-sound approach you’d expect from him kicks in. In the second verse, a string arrangement is added, followed by an instrumental break with an extended guitar solo. There are fun dynamic touches throughout, with various instruments coming in and out of the mix. This version feels like a hybrid of indie rock and chamber folk, among other things, and it manages to totally reinvent the song while still retaining enough of the original to be just familiar enough. It’s quite the transformation. – Riley Haas

Check out more installments in our monthly “Best Covers Ever” series, including ABBA, Boy Bands, The Beach Boys, and more.

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