The Spice Girls are Brilliant

#GeorgeOrwell

Mon, Apr 20th, 1998 03:00 by Jester ARTICLE

It’s fashionable now to bash the Spice Girls, which greatly puzzles me. If Einstein were to come back to life, would you make fun of his accent? If Socrates walked the streets of your present-day city and contemplated the nature of being, would you tug his beard or splash mud on his toga? Of course not. Like the Spice Girls, these people are some of the greatest thinkers the world has ever seen, and they deserve our respect.

The problem is, while the theories of Einstein and Socrates have been considered, examined, re-examined, indexed, expanded on, and deconstructed, nobody has taken time to get to the bottom of the complexity and genius that is the lyrics of the Spice Girls’ songs.

It is the purpose of this treatise to examine these lyrics and place them in their proper intellectual context. That no-one has done this before is a severe artistic oversight. It would be like leaving a play of Shakespeare unread. Like leaving a theory of Carl Sagan unexplored. Like not eating that pile of toppings that builds up at the bottom of the pizza box before you throw it out. You know--how sometimes you take a slice of pizza, and the toppings slide off and they get on that cardboard thing that looks like cardboard corduroy, and then solidifies?

Anyway, here is the Spice Girl signature song, a searing indictment of
Totalitarianism, called "Wannabe."

Wannabe

Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
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 zigazig ha.

Comment #1:

It is here the we first see the Spice Girls’ concerns over Totalitarian regimes. The theme does not develop fully until later in the song, but in retrospect, this verse takes on a sinister meaning.

In George Orwell’s masterpiece 1984, the nightmare regime of Ingsoc and Big Brother demanded citizens whose minds were utterly malleable. Their only knowledge was what the ruling party wanted it to be. In the final chapters of the novel, the protagonist Winston Smith, having been re-educated through gruelling mental and physical torture, is left completely as a party puppet. Winston’s knowledge is entirely dependent on what the Party tells him. When last seen, Winston cannot answer the question "What is 4+4?" because he didn’t know what the Party answer was. The lyrics of "Wannabe" play out an eerie echo of this scene. Here, there are two distinct voices. One is demanding what the other wants, the other is attempting to answer. However, the ultimate answer is a nonsense lyric "I wanna really really really wanna zigazig ha," suggesting that the second voice doesn’t know. In Orwell’s novel, Winston’s torturer O’Brien forces Winston say that he doesn’t know the answer to the question "What is 4+4?" This is the first step in Winston’s re-education. Eventually, O’Brien succeeds after much torture and the repetition of his question. The repetition in this opening verse "So tell me what you want, what you really really want," also suggests interrogation.

We speculate that they really want something, too.

If you want my future forget my past,
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

Comment #2:

Here, the idea of Totalitarianism as envisioned by Orwell becomes more prominent. "If you want my future forget my past." The residents of 1984 were frequently asked (told) to forget things. For weeks they would be told about a hated enemy, and how the armies of the Party were fighting valiantly against it. Then, suddenly, not only would the hated enemies be friends, but they always had been friends, according to the Party. Citizens were expected to accept these facts without question. Sometimes they would be told two entirely contradictory facts at once, and expected to see no incongruity. There was even a term for it-Doublethink.

"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," sounds suspiciously like a Big Brother-issued threat (i.e. "Conformity is the safest course of action, do it now.")

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
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 zigazig ha.

Comment #3:

See Comment 1. Note, though, the repetition.

CHORUS

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

Comment #4:

It is possible that "lover" is meant ironically. In 1984, there were ministries, each ironically named. The Ministry of Truth, for example, was charged with feeding the public the lies. The Ministry of Love was a centre of hate and torture. "If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends" could refer to the fact that O’Brien traps Winston Smith into revealing his subversive attitudes by pretending to head up a faction of resistance. Perhaps it was a subtle, coded warning from the Spice Girls. "Make it last forever, friendship never ends" could be a chilling and satiric commentary on O’Brien’s vision of human history as being a boot coming down on a human face-"forever."

What do you think about that now you know how I feel,
Say you can handle my love are you for real,
I won’t be hasty, I’ll give you a try
If you really bug me then I’ll say goodbye.

Comment #5:

If you picture this verse as being said by O’Brien as he reveals to Smith that he has always been on the side of Big Brother and is now about to become his torturer, asking if Smith can handle his "love" (bearing in mind the real purpose of the Ministry of Love), we see here the Spice Girls retelling the elimination of Wintston Smith’s rebellious thoughts.

"If you really bug me then I’ll say goodbye." Naturally, Big Brother had no qualms about eliminating subversives through force.

Yo I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
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 zigazig ha.

Comment #6:

See Comment #3. Again, repetition.

REPEAT CHORUS

So here’s a story from A to Z, you wanna get with me
you gotta listen carefully,
We got Em in the place who likes it in your face,
we got G like MC who likes it on an
Easy V doesn’t come for free, she’s a real lady,
and as for me you’ll see,
Slam your body down and wind it all around
Slam your body down and wind it all around.

Comment #7:

The language of 1984 was Newspeak, issued annually in a dictionary ("From A to Z"). Newspeak is unique in that it is the only language that got smaller as time went on. The Party wished to eliminate diverse thinking in order to reduce the intelligence of the population and the possibility of rebellion.

"We got Em in the place who likes it in your face"-could be another reference to O’Brien "boot on a human face" analogy, or to the harrowing torture scene where O’Brien threatens to let a rat into the cage covering Winston’s face. The use of initials in this verse also serves to demonstrate the purpose of Newspeak. Instead of using full names, such as "Emma" and "Victoria," they are given condensed versions-many of them one letter. In the book, the example of the word "good" is used to demonstrate the Newspeak in action. Rather than use the opposite term "bad," Newspeak uses the word "ungood," effectively excising a word from the English language, and very nearly the entire term. Think of the damage caused by the reduction of names to a single letter-"V" could be short for "Victoria," "Viola," "Violetta," any number of names. All of them are no more, thanks to Newspeak. It has succeeded in annihilating not just words, but personalities and individuals-just as the Party desires. We even see its effectiveness-the singer is unable to complete the "who likes it on an" line-she is confused, unable to make a coherent thought-again, precisely what the Party wants.

REPEAT CHORUS

If you wanna be my lover, you gotta, you gotta, you gotta,
you gotta, you gotta, 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 zigazig ah


If you wanna be my lover.

Comment #8:

The final line echoes the predicament of Winston Smith.Re-educated by Big Brother, he is unable to answer the question "What is 4+4?" Writing the question out, he is forced to leave it blank. The last line of the song is very similar. The question as to what one must do to be her lover is left blank. Another victim of the Party.

Conclusion:

As we can see, once the lyrics of the song are dissected, the true meaning becomes clear. While it might be hard to accept that five girls wearing strange shoes are capable of such insight, there it is, for any that care to look.

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