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  1. #1
    Rocket Surgeon Swish's Avatar
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    Week 21: 50 Albums That Changed Music

    Well, you knew this had to happen. They are British after all, but I don't think there's any excuse for this week's choice.The Spice Girls - Spice (1996)

    The music business has been cynically creating and marketing acts since the days of the wax cylinder, but on nothing like the scale of the Spice phenomenon, which was applied to crisps, soft drinks, you name it. Musically, the Spice's Motown-lite was unoriginal, but 'Girl Power', despite being a male invention, touched a nerve and defined a generation of tweenies who took it to heart. Without this...five year olds would not have become a prime target for pop marketeers. Most of all, there'd be no Posh'n'Becks.

    Ok, so what exactly was it about this record that "changed music"? It was nothing more than disposable pop garbage that catered to teeny-boppers who bought into the hype. Me? You couldn't provide a worse gag-factor, and this is a dreadful, pathetic choice.

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  2. #2
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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  3. #3
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    I think you go too far

    Quote Originally Posted by Swish
    It was nothing more than disposable pop garbage that catered to teeny-boppers who bought into the hype.
    You can put down this record pretty easily without resorting to this sort of elitist anti-pop statement. Some of the most wonderful music ever created was manufactured pop that catered to teeny-boppers. And when it was made it was intended to be disposible too but some of it was beautiful enough to be indelible.

    I'm not arguing that this is a good choice for the list, but the reason it's not has nothing to do with how poppy it is, or even that it's "manufactured". It's that it's not musically interesting or very good. The Spice Girls aren't exactly Destiny's Child or the Supremes. And maybe, more to the point -- because this is supposed to be about influence, not quality -- musically it's hard to see them as influential, at least with respect to anything that makes it to our side of the pond. Although perhaps culturally they were quite so in the UK.

    But one thing to note is that this is the first record listed that was likely a pure "influence" choice without recourse to some notion of high quality -- it's a purer choice than most listed so far. All the other albums previously listed have been critically very highly regarded. Although maybe i'm the ignorant one here and in the UK this got great reviews. But I don't remember that being the case.

  4. #4
    Forum Regular MindGoneHaywire's Avatar
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    I think this choice makes absolute sense. It was a step down for teenybopper pop, and led the way for the megasuccesses of Britney Spears, boy bands like N*SYNC, Ashlee Simpson, et al.

    It's "50 Albums That Changed Music," not "Changed Music For The BETTER."

    I have no argument with this choice. If Britney Spears can't be traced to this, as opposed to the names that Darius mentioned, then what's an influence on her? Madonna? I don't know, I can listen to some of her records & consider her to be on a higher level than the Spice Girls. I don't care how nuts you guys might think I am for saying this, but I think so far y'all are reading this the wrong way.

    I don't like others.

  5. #5
    Forum Regular BradH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MindGoneHaywire
    I have no argument with this choice. If Britney Spears can't be traced to this, as opposed to the names that Darius mentioned, then what's an influence on her? Madonna?
    Ya think?

    The Spice Girls changed absolutely nothing. Sure, they introduced some intense marketing techniques that, maybe, hadn't been tried before. But guess what? I didn't see them on any soft drinks on this side of the pond. This was a British pop culture marketing success that did not change the face of music. There were pop tarts before, there were pop tarts after. Somebody said these were ranked in order of influence. If that's true then you'd think Madonna would've appeared before the Spice Girls. Maybe she did and I just blocked it out mentally because I think she's so stunningly overrated.

  6. #6
    Forum Regular MindGoneHaywire's Avatar
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    Hey, it's not like I'm a big fan of hers. My only positive comment on Madonna's music is that there are a few toons that I think are pretty good considering the type of dance pop it happens to be, for someone like me (& most around here) who are primarily rock-first types.

    Britney Spears' fame was built on a different type of marketing strategy. How many before her made a go of touring shopping malls? Does that happen without the Spice Girls? Perhaps not, but that's not something Madonna EVER was going to be doing. She wanted to be, and became, an urban sophisticate, who focused on those who were old enough to get into nightclubs before much thought could've been devoted to those who weren't.

    Leaving aside that this is, again, a British list, not an American one, if not for the Spice Girls, does Britney Spears do this? Was 'girl power' not something aimed at the same demographic that Spears' mall tours obviously connected with?

    Pop tarts were definitely different after the Spice Girls; and while there was no Soundscan in the days of the Supremes, I daresay they moved a few units. This is going to sound strange, but I almost think of Madonna as someone who influenced herself more than music. The last decade has seen a brand of teen pop that is in certain very important ways, very much different from the teen pop of the past. One of those ways, to my ears, is a relaxation, if not complete abandonment of quality controls, and another, to the rest of my senses, is the marketing. And the dancing. The Spice Girls were the first of the teen pop acts to capitalize on the first generation of THE EXTREMELY DIMINISHED ATTENTION SPAN.

    Arguing placement on the list is a different story, but according to the rest of how this article is put together, while I'd agree if someone said an equally valid list could be assembled without 'em, I don't see any reason why they shouldn't be there.

    I don't like others.

  7. #7
    Forum Regular BradH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MindGoneHaywire
    Britney Spears' fame was built on a different type of marketing strategy. How many before her made a go of touring shopping malls? Does that happen without the Spice Girls?
    You bet. I remember laughing about Debbie Gibson doing it in the early or mid 90's. There was some red-haired girl who got big doing that but I can't rememeber her name. Someone once told me Alanisse Morrisuck was a mall touring pop tart before she got all serious. It's true that Madonna took herself more seriously but this is about videos more than any touring strategy. It's all about image. I totally agree that Madonna influenced herself more than she influenced music. That makes sense because, for her, it was never about the music, it was about Madonna using music and videos to promote Madonna, something Brian Eno specifically cited as not being so great a sin of hers after all. Maybe. But, imo, there's no there there.

    So far, this list has worked under the assumption that changing the "face of music" meant changing music itself. With the Spice Girls it seems the Guardian wants to include changing the image of music as part of the criteria, the literal face. Musically, I don't think the difference between two audiences, one with a diminished attention span and one with an extremely diminished attention span, indicates anything noteworthy. It's basically just more of the same. All of Britain was asking the question of the day: "Who's your favorite Spice Girl?" Everyone knew it was a joke and everyone had a favorite. It was just a continuation of the hollownes of Madonna's legacy.

    My favorite was Posh Spice.

  8. #8
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    Manufactured...

    ...pop stars have been around for quite a while...Fabian is one that comes to mind and I'm sure there were others that preceded him...One could even cite Rick Nelson, given the somewhat contrived exposure "The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet" afforded him...

    Of course nowadays you get the "star", the clothing line, the dolls, the happy-meal tie-in...

    jimHJJ(...it's just more overt, more a, er...extreme...)
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  9. #9
    Forum Regular MindGoneHaywire's Avatar
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    One thing about Madonna: her rise took place during a time when 'rock' was in decline; and although there was far less fragmentation in the marketplace when she hit than there was a decade later, 'rock' was already not the dominant force it'd been before Michael Jackson & Prince crossed over.

    When the Spice Girls hit, 'alternative,' though fragmented, and comprising everything from grunge to the Offspring to the Lilith Fair, was a fairly dominant force in the marketplace, rap still being a few years away from occupying so many top spots towards the top of the charts. The leading lights of teen pop in the years prior to them--Gibson, Tiffany, New Kids On The Block--were not the stars in the genre that existed a decade after them, period. They had hits, sure--big singles. Propelled by 'girl power,' though, Britney Spears sold well over 10 million albums. So I see a big difference between her mall tours & anyone else's.

    Three years earlier, before they hit the U.S., the Spice Girls managed a #1 hit in 21 countries. I don't know about straight-up comparisons to pop idols of the past, but when it comes to numbers, that sounds Beatles-esque to me. And I see no reason to look at it any way other than to accept that they paved the way for the unprecedented level of success that the next round of teen pop figures enjoyed.

    Someone please explain how it can be denied that the impact of their first album did NOT change music.

    I don't like others.

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    Influntial but in a bad way sound about right by me.

    They didn't really bring much new to the table as far as being a contrived pop group. But, their huge success, especially in the UK, was really a strong push for the record companies to keep moving in the direction of more and more mega-pop acts and leaving the other stuff to smaller labels to deal with. So, maybe they didn't bring much new to the table, but they were astill influential in a business sense.


    And, to be a bit of a dik...J...doesn't saying Madona's rise was while rock was in decline...which would have been in the 80..which was when the Replacements were going strong...kinda argue against you disagreement of the Replacements being a good rock band in a time with fewer good rock bands?

  11. #11
    Forum Regular MindGoneHaywire's Avatar
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    That's why I put 'rock' in quotes to indicate that I was referring to the business side, not the artistic side. The decline was as a commercial force, involving bands on major labels, not the outfits which were considered to be 'minor leaguers' by virtue of their presence on labels like SST, Slash, Twin/Tone, Touch & Go, etc. It also had to do with racial demographics, and the issue of people like Michael Jackson & Prince breaking through to MTV, crossing over, and eventually being as popular, and eventually more popular, as dinosaur rock bands & even Bruce Springsteen & U2.

    Not to mention that in 1985, when Madonna & the Replacements found themselves on the same label, one embraced videos, MTV, and publicity, and the other shunned it. So my position that 'rock' was in decline from a business standpoint is not in conflict with my contention that there was a decent amount of healthy competition for the Mats in the realm of fairly straightforward 'rock' that flew well under the radar of the rock audience.

    I don't like others.

  12. #12
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    Gotcha...and, frankly, if you include hardcore and new wave kinda stuff in the definition of rock...and industrial music later in the decade...much of my favorite stuff does indeed come outta the 80s.

  13. #13
    Forum Regular BradH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MindGoneHaywire
    One thing about Madonna: her rise took place during a time when 'rock' was in decline; and although there was far less fragmentation in the marketplace when she hit than there was a decade later, 'rock' was already not the dominant force it'd been before Michael Jackson & Prince crossed over.
    For me, that story is less about the decline of rock and more about the rise of MTV. I didn't live here in Dallas at the time but I remember reading that there were certain sections of the area that didn't have access to cable television yet. I don't know which label Duran Duran was on but, when "Hungry Like The Wolf" hit MTV, they noticed the records were flying off the shelves in this town in the areas that had cable and collecting dust in areas that didn't. And there were record buying teens in all these areas. The impact of MTV was huge and Madonna was part of it. She's one of those people whose music is secondary to the image. I think of her as a pop video star rather than a purely pop music star, more so than even Michael Jackson.

    Quote Originally Posted by MindGoneHaywire
    Propelled by 'girl power,' though, Britney Spears sold well over 10 million albums. So I see a big difference between her mall tours & anyone else's.
    But what exactly was "Girl Power" other than a phony Spice Girls slogan? Is it a sound? Did Britney have it? Again, is this list about music or marketing strategies?

  14. #14
    Forum Regular MindGoneHaywire's Avatar
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    I don't have much time at the moment, but MTV is only part of what I was driving at. By late 1983, top 40 was flourishing on FM radio for the first time, and there was a big shift. It seemed like overnight 'rock' stations were folding left & right, and a lot of people were all of a sudden listening to top 40 who were sick of the Eagles & Led Zeppelin. Some of the dance pop was pretty decent, the new Prince stuff seemed more interesting than the new releases by warhorses like Santana & Fleetwood Mac, and, following in the wake of the crossover success of Thriller, Madonna emerged as arguably the most significant figure, all the more so if it's not entirely about the music (a point I agree with). I think there was a big audience who was just looking for something different at the time, and she, along with the others like Prince (who didn't sustain his level of success as consistently), fit the bill.

    Ten years ago, people weren't really looking for something different; they'd found it, or it'd found them by that time. That's why the Spice Girls stand out when you look at it from a 'music business' standpoint, as opposed to a purely music listener standpoint. They dominated during a time when the audience at large wasn't in the state of flux that they were when top 40 was overtaking 'rock' as a dominant commercial force and MTV was still in the process of defining itself during the time when they finally decided to bow to public pressure & play videos of acts that weren't white.

    And it doesn't matter whether you look at the Spice Girls as a marketing strategy or not. Maybe you could say it was the marketing strategy rather than the specific album that 'changed music,' but then you're getting into semantics, and the idea of assigning the album that much significance fits the piece so far as I can see. Not that I like the idea of dismissing this point of view merely on the basis that it's 'semantics,' but in this particular case, I don't think it rises to the level where it should disqualify the record which did pave the way for this very new & different & mega-successful strain of teen pop.

    I don't like others.

  15. #15
    Suspended 3-LockBox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MindGoneHaywire
    I have no argument with this choice. If Britney Spears can't be traced to this, as opposed to the names that Darius mentioned, then what's an influence on her? Madonna? I don't know, I can listen to some of her records & consider her to be on a higher level than the Spice Girls. I don't care how nuts you guys might think I am for saying this, but I think so far y'all are reading this the wrong way.
    I think you're way off.

    The whole phenomina of music companies targeting 9-12yr old girls with bubblegum pop (in both content and concept) started with The Archies way back when (thank you very little Don Kirshner). As far as girl power is concerned, Debbie Gibson and Tiffany made big bucks off of 'young girls' sales in the '80s (or at least their record compnies did) and musically speaking, this sort of prefab sh!t has been around since the Monkees. And if mega-stardom is the qualifier here, better example would be New Kids On The Block, who predate the Spice Girls by about five or six years, aimed squarely at the 9-12 year old girl market, and in reallity, blew the lid off the notion of tweenybopper girls being a huge part of the buying public. If anything, they held the door open for the Spice Girls.

    I understand that this is a juvenile attempt (on the part of the writers of the article) to be controversial, and I understand that their focus is, for the most part, British acts, but this time they're talking completely outta their arses.

  16. #16
    Forum Regular BradH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MindGoneHaywire
    By late 1983, top 40 was flourishing on FM radio for the first time, and there was a big shift.
    And that was directly attributable to MTV. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing but I think you're looking at this from too much of a "death of rock" aspect when, in reality, it was more about the death of radio as the dominant force at the time. The way I see it, top 40 reflected what was selling but MTV was driving the whole thing. The people who had interesting videos matched w/ the right music tended to sell the most records, no matter what the genre. Yeah, the old FM rock format was tired but people like Robert Plant, David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Yes and Genesis sold tons of new material in 83/84 because they had hot videos whereas, say, the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac simply did not. That's what it was really all about, the videos. Btw, this all led to the rise of hair metal bands because how can you have hair metal without actually seeing the hair?

    Quote Originally Posted by MindGoneHaywire
    Ten years ago, people weren't really looking for something different; they'd found it, or it'd found them by that time. That's why the Spice Girls stand out when you look at it from a 'music business' standpoint, as opposed to a purely music listener standpoint.
    Maybe in the U.S. but they came out of the U.K. music scene and ten years ago that scene was the very definition of flux and change. One minute it was Blur, then it was Oasis, then it was Pulp, then it was Radiohead, then it was Manic Street Preachers, then it was Robbie Williams, then it was the Spice Girls... or something like that. And yeah, the Spice Girls were far different from Supergrass or Ash but Robbie Williams showed pop wasn't going to leave the charts anytime soon. By the time the Spice Girls hit I'm sure everyone had forgotten how the tabloids used to camp out 24/7 in front of Damon Albarn's house. No, the Brits are always looking for something different. Some of these bands, like Blur and Oasis, were big on a world scale without America even knowing about it so it doesn't surprise me that the Spice Girls would do the same only more so. One thing's for sure, a lot of marketing venues and strategies for British acts had been fully fleshed out by the time the Spice's arrived on the scene.

    Quote Originally Posted by MindGoneHaywire
    Not that I like the idea of dismissing this point of view merely on the basis that it's 'semantics,' but in this particular case, I don't think it rises to the level where it should disqualify the record which did pave the way for this very new & different & mega-successful strain of teen pop.
    I'll give you that because I don't follow the business side that closely these days but, to my ears, it's meet the new strain, same as the old strain.

  17. #17
    Forum Regular MindGoneHaywire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3-LockBox
    I think you're way off.

    The whole phenomina of music companies targeting 9-12yr old girls with bubblegum pop (in both content and concept) started with The Archies way back when (thank you very little Don Kirshner). As far as girl power is concerned, Debbie Gibson and Tiffany made big bucks off of 'young girls' sales in the '80s (or at least their record compnies did) and musically speaking, this sort of prefab sh!t has been around since the Monkees. And if mega-stardom is the qualifier here, better example would be New Kids On The Block, who predate the Spice Girls by about five or six years, aimed squarely at the 9-12 year old girl market, and in reallity, blew the lid off the notion of tweenybopper girls being a huge part of the buying public. If anything, they held the door open for the Spice Girls.

    I understand that this is a juvenile attempt (on the part of the writers of the article) to be controversial, and I understand that their focus is, for the most part, British acts, but this time they're talking completely outta their arses.
    You're missing the point. I know about manufactured teen idols, and bubblegum pop aimed at pre-teens is something that probably existed just prior to the Archies, I do believe. (Sugar Sugar was the first record my parents ever bought me, by the way, and I'm not sure why it is that Kirshner deserves scorn for it, as I've heard FAR worse, in many genres)

    Take a look a couple posts back. The Spice Girls' debut album's success was buoyed by the achievement of placing a #1 hit in 21 countries. That's why it's on the list when it comes to a genre like teen pop they felt they had to prove their eternal hipness by including, not the names you mention. A #1 hit in many other countries means more, I do believe, to those in the UK than it does to us here in the U.S., where we could mostly care less about how well an act sells in other countries. Britney Spears was the direct spawn, but the impact that was felt in the UK is what's relevant to this article, not how much us well-informed rock fans choose to ignore that kiddy stuff.

    The Backstreet Boys & Britney Spears, et al, sold albums in numbers that dwarfed those of the names you mentioned, so that tells me there's some sort of fundamental difference between the teen pop before the Spice Girls, and the teen pop after the Spice Girls. Before them, the music business had no reason to look to teen pop as a steady source of acts that could sell more than 10 million units. New Kids On The Block had managed 8 million, slightly better than the Spice Girls, who sold 7 million here in the U.S. Tiffany (4 million) & Debbie Gibson (3 million) didn't open up the door for Britney Spears to top 14 million on one rec, 10 million on another. And none of those acts had the sassy attitude in conjunction with the dance moves & slick marketing that led directly to the climate that allowed BS to sell that many records. In some ways they were sort of like the Sigue Sigue Sputnik of teen pop, and it worked.

    This is an awful lot of verbiage to spill on the likes of the Spice Girls, but I've known for weeks that there would be opposition to this choice, and I don't agree with it. The fact is, teen pop went from topping out at 8 million, to 14. That's almost double, and the view from the UK points to this rec as a big difference maker, one that 'changed music.' How am I way off again?

    I don't like others.

  18. #18
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MindGoneHaywire
    It's "50 Albums That Changed Music," not "Changed Music For The BETTER."
    Well...when you phrase it like that, it's kind of hard to argue.

    I stand by my initial reaction all the more strongly for this.
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  19. #19
    Suspended 3-LockBox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MindGoneHaywire
    This is an awful lot of verbiage to spill on the likes of the Spice Girls, but I've known for weeks that there would be opposition to this choice, and I don't agree with it. The fact is, teen pop went from topping out at 8 million, to 14. That's almost double, and the view from the UK points to this rec as a big difference maker, one that 'changed music.' How am I way off again?
    Then all I got to say is where the Garth Brook's album on this list, cuz based on your reasoning, he belongs here too.

    This list still sucks.

  20. #20
    Forum Regular MindGoneHaywire's Avatar
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    I don't recall ever hearing much about the impact of Garth Brooks in the country where this article was published. The sales figures I quoted were for the U.S., but I did that because they're relevant to why a Spice Girls album was chosen as one that impacted music. It opened floodgates all over the world. I suspect that if Brooks had in fact had a major impact in the UK as well as the US, he'd be on the list.

    You might want to avoid this list for the next few weeks...you probably won't hate the choices as much as this one, but you will probably question the validity of the picks. And some of them will involve impact that didn't cross the pond.

    Should be interesting.

    I don't like others.

  21. #21
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    Actually, Garth Brooks had a gigantic impact on modern country music. His pop/rock/country...that sounded little like country, really...turned the country music business on its ear and led the way to the types of massively popular country acts you still see today. Again, I'd go with negative influence, but hugely influential nonetheless.

  22. #22
    Man of the People Forums Moderator bobsticks's Avatar
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    This has developed in to a much deeper and more poignant tete-a-tete than one would have thought possible given the topic; good show all around...

    ...but a pox on all your houses for even mentioning Sigue Sigue Sputnik in the same thread as the Spice Girls

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    I should say two things:

    One, I'm pretty well convinced by the main thread of MGH's (J's) arguments, and find myself largely in agreement with him on his main point after digesting the thread. (One problem with discussions like this on our board is that we at our ages tend to have ignorance about the influence of stuff that hits people much much younger than us.)

    Two, I note that several of the posts in this series by Swish (and not always the ones you'd predict) have resulted in good discussion about music, and this one is no exception. So thanks again to Swish for continuing to post these.

  24. #24
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    A lot of credit has been given to MTV for helping to recognize the 9-12 year old girls as an emerging demographic that had some music consuming clout. But I wonder how much of this emergence can be attributed to the compact disk? Which made music consumption more accessible to a younger audience because of it's ease of use as opposed to an LP which required equipment that wasn't as user friendly, especialy to young hands. Without the CD, maybe this market would have continued to be marginal at best, as it was when the Archies and Bobby Sherman were their poster boys.
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  25. #25
    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    What a horrifying choice.

    Yet, still, I'm gratified that there is finally something on this list that we can ALL agree on . . . except MGH. (yes I'm messin with ya)

    3LB nailed my feelings on this when he invoked The Archies, Monkees, Tiffany, Back Street Boys etc.

    Yes, Spice Girls made more $ than all those others combined, but the reason for that is not because they were better than everyone else making music in the 90s. It's because the media marketing machine was SO well tuned by that point that it was able to create mass hysteria about this musically derivative and inconsequential group. The hype machine is so strong now that if it gets behind ANYTHING (Richard Hong, anyone?), it's guaranteed to sell millions. The Spice Girls' clothing was more important to their fans than any of the music they made.

    The Spice Girls did not change music with their music. It could be argued that their MARKETING Svengali's changed music, but the reality is that they took an already established marketing strategy (see: The Archies, Monkees, Tiffany, Back Street Boys etc.) and simply spun it into overdrive utilizing the relatively new, all pervasive, world-wide media machine.

    By a considerable margin, the worst/most misguided item on this list to date.

    When I worked for Galoob Toys in the 90s we did Spice Girl dolls. Barbie sized dolls. I still have a quart-sized jar of spicegirl heads on my shelf right here next to me.

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