Jan 14

SPICE GIRLS – “2 Become 1”

Popular64 comments • 9,755 views

#755, 28th December 1996

2b1 The last Number One about sex and its uses was “Fastlove”, and at first that record and this one seem very different creatures. “2 Become 1”, with its gentle singing and its Vaseline production, is about closeness, or at least an ideal of it – the very thing “Fastlove” flinched from. But the songs have more in common than it appears. Both are about sex as a repairing force. Where on “Fastlove” casual sex was a sticking plaster for some awful loss, in “2 Become 1” the promise is that sex won’t just mend a relationship, it’s a stepping stone to something more profound. “Set your spirit free / It’s the only way to be.”

It’s very vague and very Spice, a Girl Power mingling of sex-positivity and self-improvement. And “2 Becomes 1” ticks all the boxes their other singles have: a specific situation, an empowered protagonist, a bit of advice for the boys, and a useful knack for giving the key role in the song to the best singer for the job: Emma, in this case.

The situation, first – an encounter in which the guy is hesitant, maybe feels guilty, and certainly is in need of reassurance. (I’m assuming it’s a guy because of the “put it on” safe sex line, though the group sensibly dropped Geri’s clumsy “Boys and girls do good together” line from the LP mix.) This is an unusual setup for pop as we’ve encountered it: men present themselves as vulnerable, but its rarer to see that from a woman’s perspective. Refreshing, too: as with “Say You’ll Be There”, the Spice Girls have taken a classic pop premise and tweaked it to give themselves a lot more autonomy. The soft-focus strings and Tinkerbell keyboard twinkles code this firmly as “slushy romantic ballad” – and it is – but it’s one in which the woman is unwaveringly in control of the situation, and just trying to get her partner to come to the same conclusion she has about what’s going to happen next. It’s a ballad with no tension, just anticipation.

If the production makes it generic, and the songwriting makes that deceptive, it’s Emma Bunton who really makes “2 Beyond 1” live. The other Spice Girls can’t quite get the balance right between soothing and sexy, and end up landing on the former, Mel C sounding like she’s trying to calm a startled colt. Emma gets the toughest lines – the ones which have to sell the song as a seduction, not just a cuddle – and carries them off wickedly and playfully. Her “get it on” and “put it on” are the song’s most intimate moments, all the more so for being sung with a slight smile. It’s not difficult to make pop music about people who want each other – but often a harder trick to make you feel they like each other too.

“2 Become 1” is the Spice Girls’ third single, third Number One, and the first of three years at which they top the charts at Christmas. They don’t dominate pop music – for one thing, they still have no credible imitators at this point, and won’t through all of 1997. But they are the biggest game in a chaotic singles charts now, and this run of singles makes a good case they’re also the best.



  1. 1
    To Mewing! (@tomewing) on 31 Jan 2014 #

    The Spice Girls bring 1996 to a smoochy end on Popular. http://t.co/LisuRlhd6v

  2. 2
    flahr on 31 Jan 2014 #

    Love it. Catchy ballad, well sung, lovely bass in the prechorus (is it a prechorus?), exactly as good as “This Corrosion” by The Sisters of Mercy. I need some love: 8/10.

    Surprised that the “boys and girls…” wasn’t on the single version, because I’m pretty sure it’s there on the video – I shall check.

    EDIT: They do indeed change it. That’s good.

    Other thing I like: the way the chorus just sort of trails off dreamily and doesn’t quite resolve (it feels like it’s a line too short, but in a good way, if you see what I mean).

    Only Spice Girls #1 not to appear on a Now! album (although there’s a double-A side later which doesn’t appear in full); I presume this was an issue of timing more than anything else.

  3. 3
    Ed on 31 Jan 2014 #

    Their masterpiece. Irresistibly charming for all the reasons Tom mentions, so I was a bit surprised by the score. It has a gorgeous melody – the strongest of anything they did, I think – and the production is not *entirely* generic: the beat is lively enough to stop it dragging, and the string coda is lovely.

    This one of the songs where seeing the video makes a real difference, though, and I am not sure that I would feel quite so enthusiastic if I was hearing it cold for the first time on the radio.

    A minor work of genius, the video is worth a look, even if you think you remember it:

    The use of New York is inspired: it’s unfamiliar, exciting and potentially frightening, but the group are poised and calm and completely in control.

    And although the fawn at the end might be considered ever so slightly heavy-handed, it chokes me up every time.

    I like to think they got the idea from ‘Mad Dog and Glory’, which was out a few years earlier.

    De Niro: ” I don’t know where it came from. Maybe it swam over from Indiana, escaped from the zoo… but there it was, this, this deer. Me and this deer at 3:00 a.m. In the morning. Let me show you that photo of the deer.”

  4. 4
    Tom Lawrence on 31 Jan 2014 #

    I recall this song vividly because I was at primary school at the time, in my final year, aged ten. And at the time I was unusual among my classmates for having – shock – access to The Internet. And so a girl approached me to ask if I could get the lyrics of this song off the internet for her so her and her friends could perform it for the school.

    I don’t actually recall if I agreed (or if I actually carried it out if I did). I do recall being dimly aware that the song was probably inappropriate for a group of ten year olds to sing at a Church of England-sponsored primary school assembly, though.

  5. 5
    mapman132 on 31 Jan 2014 #

    I have to say this is my favorite Spice Girls song. I’m a sucker for a well-done ballad and the inherent gorgeousness of the video clinches it for me. This was a #4 hit in the US, although at the end of the summer of 1997 – we would finally catch up to the UK that fall after skipping the next bunny entirely. Notably this was also the last big mainstream hit the Girls would have in the US. While the record shows they have four US Top 40 hits to come, I’m only consciously familiar with one of them, although curiously I am familiar with two of their bunnies that didn’t make the Hot 100. Those stories will have to wait. For now, 8/10.

  6. 6
    Billy Hicks on 31 Jan 2014 #

    The second* song I remember thinking was a bit, erm, naughty. I was only eight years old but knew exactly what they meant with the whole two-becoming-one metaphor. Saying that this still seemed tame in comparison to songs which had the word ‘Sex’ in the title, which I’d be shocked to hear on the radio – none I remember in 1996, but the following year saw a certain 1975 hit re-issued which I remember being very embarrassed hearing, wondering if I’d get into trouble simply for my ears picking it up. Those were the days.

    I’m torn between this and a 1998 bunny as my favourite Spice song. I think the bunny just edges it but this, despite my continued irritation of them at the time as mentioned before (“they’re GIRLS! Ewww!”) is still really good, and takes me back to what I remember being a cold winter with lots of snowfall. My Christmas presents that year were dominated by both the film ‘Toy Story’ and its associated toy tie-ins that brilliantly worked *exactly* the same as their CGI counterparts, and most exciting of all, CD-ROMs for our recently bought Windows 95 computer. Music itself would remain strictly cassette tape only however in our household until I got my first CD player two years later.

    Apologies for the nostalgia ramble but it’s amazing how much one simple Spotify play can conjure up. 7 is about right.

    *The other, incidentally, was ‘Ooh Aah Just A Little Bit’. That and this were probably two of the ‘rudest’ songs I knew as of ’96, for now anyway.

  7. 7
    taDOW on 31 Jan 2014 #

    my fave spice girls as well and i would guess the hit of theirs you’re by far most likely to hear on the radio in america today. love love love that demi-coda where the strings (or ‘strings’) are permitted a touch of flourish. 8.

  8. 8
    swanstep on 31 Jan 2014 #

    I was hardly listening to pop music at all in 1996/1997 so barely remember this one from the time, but listening to (and watching the vid. for) 2B1 over the past few months it’s quickly become a favorite. At any rate, my sense is that 2B1 must have been the ‘resistance is futile’ moment for those who were paying attention (maybe functioning a little like ‘Time (Clock Of The Heart)’ did for Culture Club) – anyone with ears and eyes can agree that this is come-hither pop of a very high order, and if you’d scorned or otherwise been immune to ‘Wannabe’ well it was time to relent, get a little wiser baby, and long live love:

  9. 9
    Lee Ward (@mrleeward) on 31 Jan 2014 #

    Powerful nostalgia for the recent past: @tomewing The Spice Girls bring 1996 to a smoochy end on Popular. http://t.co/ynYSIpducd

  10. 10
    Martin on 31 Jan 2014 #

    As a slightly older (b.1970) American male who never habitually followed the pop charts, I have 2 questions about the whole SG phenomenon. The first is whether it seemed that the group had passionate female admirers of their own age, grown women who identified with the group? Like women once did here with Mary Tyler Moore? Or would that have seemed a bit much, that is, like it, sure but maybe not outright identification.

    The second question is how the romance of Posh and Beckham was perceived amongst discerning Britons at the time. Was it any kind of betrayal or merely a patently corporate move or on the contrary, a brilliantly seamless extension of her superstardom? Was there resentment or admiration or ennui?

    For the record I’d give the three singles a 9/7/7 in chronological order.

  11. 11
    Will on 31 Jan 2014 #

    Hi Mapman, obviously I can’t speak for all discerning Britons but initially I thought ‘good on ’em’. It was only as it became gradually obvious that both were more interested in celebrity for its own sake above all else that I slowly grew sick of the sight of them.

  12. 12
    Tom on 31 Jan 2014 #

    #10 I never minded them as a thing, though I won’t pretend I ever found them fascinating. The golden thrones/Beckingham Palace stuff did their rep no good – they became the poster couple for expensive celebrity footballer kitsch. Then Beckham’s reputation recovered somewhat – thanks to the tabloids crowning him the man Upon Whose Shoulders The Hopes Of A Nation etc etc. But Victoria’s never really did.

    Someone gave me as a birthday present Victoria Beckham’s autobiography, Expecting To Fly! I should dig it up and annotate these entries – as I remember there’s precious little about the actual records: the Morrissey autobiography is bad for this too.

  13. 13
    Tom on 31 Jan 2014 #

    #3 yes, the video is great!

    #8 I dunno about the “resistance is useless” moment – certainly among a lot of my friends there was a sense of, it’s the compulsory ballad *shrug*. That said, most of my friends were 20something male indie or art-rock fans, among whom balladophobia is a virulent infection, so our opinion should count for zero here (and I had to listen a lot to get past that archived sense of ‘skip this one’).

  14. 14
    Chelovek na lune on 31 Jan 2014 #

    It strikes me that, as well as Emma (obviously, and excellently), Mel B is on notably good form here. (and Geri almost absent?)

    This is sufficiently well done (touching, even) to let the ‘third single as ballad’ ploy seem…warranted, even.


  15. 15
    Cumbrian on 31 Jan 2014 #

    I think the “Posh and Becks” thing went through a number of phases with what I would term, the Daily Mail Middle Classes, to be honest. Initially, I suspect that it was “good for them”, swiftly followed by “how vulgar” as it seemed that both were simply in it for fame amplification. Opinion swung heavily on Beckham after the 2001 World Cup Qualifier in Greece, where by sheer force of will, he singlehandedly qualified England for the World Cup (probably one of the best performances by an England International midfielder I can remember, capped by a crucial last minute free kick to get England through). OK, he then went off to Real Madrid after a run in with Alex Ferguson but, by then, he was known as Goldenballs for a reason, as he was recognised as primarily a good footballer, rather than in it for the fame. At this point, Victoria was still seen as the one riding on his coat-tails but opinion started to swing on her, once it became clear that Beckham was cheating on her when in Madrid and she started to get a bit of sympathy. Since then, from my limited understanding of fashion, her clothes seem to be well received and she has come into her own a bit. Now that Beckham is no longer really in the public eye and Victoria is getting on with her own thing, they seem like part of the cultural furniture, without giving us endless photo shoots and drama and seem to be left to get on with their lives. This scrutiny will all, doubtless, start up again though if one of their boys turns out to be a more than decent professional footballer though, I would imagine. And that, I think, is the ballad of Posh and Becks, as I remember it.

    Is the title of Victoria’s autobiography an admission of a love of the works of Neil Young? Or The Bluetones?

    Oh yeah, there’s a record to discuss. The best bits, as far as I am concerned, have been correctly identified elsewhere. The string coda is great, reminds me a bit of Massive Attack or some of William Orbit’s production work for Madonna – which we will get to eventually – and Emma’s vocal is very good. Geri and Victoria still the weak links vocally but correctly minimised. The chorus is memorable and good for a sing-a-long. Not earth shattering for me but decent enough.

  16. 16
    Brendan F on 31 Jan 2014 #

    I don’t think Emma’s vocals lent themselves well to the group and she didn’t come into her own till after the split. Having to compete with the more forceful vocals of the Mels and Geri always seemed like a losing battle, so this one only really works for me when the interjections and harmonies of the other girls embellish her performance otherwise she tends to sound a little lost.

  17. 17
    Tom on 31 Jan 2014 #

    #15 To add, the early part of the romance coincides with David B’s all time reputational low after France 98.

    #14 Mel B gets the spiritual bits (this song divides singers by theme more than either of the others) and does very well with them, yes. Geri sung the “girls and boys” bit, was replaced by Victoria for the single (with a different lyric) and so is hardly on it. According to Wikipedia this was Geri’s idea as she realised the line was out of her range/key (the LP mix suggests she’s right)

  18. 18
    James BC on 31 Jan 2014 #

    The B side to this is great – a charming cover of Sleigh Ride complete with spoken bits where the girls chat about Christmas. At one point someone (Mel B?) shouts “FATHER CHRISTMAS DOESN’T EXIST!” and the others have to shush her.

  19. 19
    Cumbrian on 31 Jan 2014 #

    #17: Yes, the effigies being burned of him following him being sent off v Argentina in France 98 and the opulence of the opening part of their relationship probably didn’t help initial public reception.

    Nitpick on myself, shouldn’t have been in Greece – it was against Greece at Old Trafford.

    You can probably trace the DMMC perception of Posh and Becks via Alistair McGowan and Ronni Ancona’s comedy sketches. Initially, they were both portrayed as very thick and living a ridiculous lifestyle. Post the Greece game, there’s a sketch where Victoria is still pretty clueless and upset with the positive attention he is getting but when she leaves the room, it transpires that David is capable of playing Beethoven at the grand piano in their room. I think I am right in saying that they gave Victoria’s image a bit more of a polish as time wore on too (though I could be mis-remembering that).

  20. 20
    lonepilgrim on 31 Jan 2014 #

    I enjoyed the video a lot and the song is finely crafted, even if it’s a little too polished for my taste. Geri being sidelined from the video is what caught my attention. Claims that it was her idea to cut her contribution sound like PR speak. In light of her subsequent defection I wonder whether she had already begun to question her place in the group.

  21. 21
    Erithian on 31 Jan 2014 #

    See also the Ali G interview where they showed a healthy capacity to laugh at themselves despite some pretty near-the-knuckle stuff. “Do you want Brooklyn to grow up to be a footballer like his dad, or a singer – like Mariah Carey?” wasn’t the half of it.

  22. 22
    Izzy on 31 Jan 2014 #

    As I mentioned before, I basically missed the Girls-as-phenomenon, so I only really know them for the records. Hence I’m perplexed at the emerging theme of Geri being the Alpha of the group. How can this be, how did it manifest itself?

    From my perspective she seems to have brought relatively little to the group, other than ambition (which shouldn’t be downplayed too much, especially in the early stages). I find it hard to imagine her being many people’s real favourite.
    Her solo career doesn’t shed much light either, she was no Robbie Williams.

  23. 23
    Tom on 31 Jan 2014 #

    #20 There’s at least one song we’ll be covering which feels VERY Geri – and there’s no sign of any marginalisation in the Spiceworld movie IIRC. She is hardly in the video either, though – maybe she was just having a bad day.

  24. 24
    Tom on 31 Jan 2014 #

    #22 the interviews linked on the Wannabe thread suggest it’s simply that she was louder and more forceful in interviews than any of the others, bar Mel B. The Union Jack dress probably helped too.

  25. 25
    thefatgit on 31 Jan 2014 #

    The ultimate Spice-ballad, although I’d pin my allegiance to their livelier songs, I think this suits them perfectly. Emma is the glue that holds it all together, of course. Mel C tones it down to something velvety. I’m willing to concur with Chelovek @14, Victoria and Mel B provide texture and Geri is barely there, mixed down but not quite out, as far as I remember it.

    “2 Become 1” sorta reminds of a #2 from 1983, by Roberta Flack & Peabo Bryson. “Tonight I Celebrate My Love” comes from the same place; the anticipation of some fine lovemaking. And it’s all good. Worthy of an 8 I reckon.

  26. 26
    sükråt tanned rested unlogged and awesome on 31 Jan 2014 #

    The role Geri plays in the film is (un)surprisingly subtle and complex:
    i: she’s one the who reads book and uses long words (some of which don’t really exist) and always has an opinion
    ii: the others affectionately tease her about this, bcz she kind of assumes she is better informed and capable then she mostly is (the scene i remember encapsulating this is when their friend — who had to not be a spicer bcz she was pregnant — goes into labour, geri is the one giving instructions, as she reads from a thick hardback book)
    iii: she is kind of the mumsy one (role shared with mel b, who approaches it very differently)
    iv: she is basically ALWAYS gung-ho — the others manifest reserve or reservations, tho in very different ways

    So Geri kind of becomes the designated spokesperson, if only bcz she jumps in with both feet (often into her own mouth).

    I ***love*** the film, if this isn’t obvious: and gave it a thumbs-up review in UK cinema’s journal of record Sight and Sound. I won’t say more as it’s presumably semi-bunnied.

  27. 27
    James BC on 31 Jan 2014 #

    I agree that this song is a good showcase for the softer side of Mel C’s voice. She’s best known as the belter of the group, but she does coy and playfully romantic very well here. Maybe not quite as well as Emma, though.

  28. 28
    ciaran on 31 Jan 2014 #

    My favourite Spice Girls single.Similar to Billy Hicks above it’s a close call between this and the 1998 bunny (if we’re thinking of the same one!)

    I liked this the most of the 3 Spice Girls Number 1’s by a distance when it was released as unlike the first 2 it wasnt as brash and loud and was easy to enjoy. A less is more approach working well.

    Sneaked into the end of the ‘Heroes and Villains’ episode of Only Fools And Horses late that year aswell.

    This is the girls at the very top of their game for me.8

    There’s a few nods to christmas with the ice rick and that but done differently it could have been the Spice Girls own ‘Stay Another Day’. Given the marketing and promotion behind it it seems like they missed a trick in not making a more festive video. Maybe they should have went all out videowise like S Club 7’s ‘Never Had A Dream Come True’ from 2000.

  29. 29
    anto on 31 Jan 2014 #

    Because of it’s time of release this song is often heard again around Christmas time despite having no real festive connection. It’s one song I always like to be re-aquainted with simply because I’m very keen on it – It’s a pretty song with a light production and attractive vocals. Well done to all involved.

    – The front cover – by the looks of things the two Mels and Victoria used up all the eye make-up at this photshoot.

    – The fourth act to go to number 1 with their first three singles. All four acts have had a connection with either Merseyside or Yorkshire and in this case both. We’re a determined lot up North ya know.

  30. 30
    thefatgit on 31 Jan 2014 #

    Re: the cover photo, is Victoria rocking the proto-Winehouse look here?

  31. 31
    @biondino on 31 Jan 2014 #

    If you’ve liked music any time over the last 60 years but don’t read @tomewing’s awesome Popular series, rectify! http://t.co/VMqBBFILE0

  32. 32
    anto on 31 Jan 2014 #

    #12 – The least interesting part of the Morrissey book is the part about The Smiths which like so many of the other books written about them becomes bogged down in the boring details of their messy business affairs. As for the account of the high court case, a good arguement for putting a fast-forward switch on Kindles.
    The early part of the book describing his upbringing I found evocative, thoughtful and affectionate -Morrissey back to something like his best. There are some curious but somehow fascinating digressions as well, such as when he goes on for a page-and-a-half about the acting styles on ‘Lost In Space’.
    Actually considering it’s a muscicians autobiography a lot of the stories about famous encounters in it seem to involve thespians rather than pop stars.

  33. 33
    Tom on 31 Jan 2014 #

    I reviewed the Moz book http://pitchfork.com/thepitch/150-morrissey-autobiography/ – not sure I ever hyped this on FT so here it is.

  34. 34
    23 Daves on 31 Jan 2014 #

    #2 The way the chorus resolves itself (or rather doesn’t) isn’t something I’ve ever been able to quite deal with, to be honest. The slight instrumental meandering after the final line “It’s the only way to be” feels like a fudge, as if nobody could think of how to resolve the ending and get back to the verse so let it hang in the air instead. This has been bugging me for years so it’s interesting that one of the first comments on the single is how well that aspect works! It’s interesting how people will hear the same device in very, very different ways.

    Other than that, this is perfectly OK. I always preferred hearing it on the radio without seeing Emma performing it as (purely from memory) she did put a slightly twee, coy edge on her TV performances which suggested something the music and lyrics didn’t appear to agree with.

    As for Geri, she was always the most visually striking one, I’d say, and had an advantage over the others in that respect as well as being generally gobbier.

  35. 35
    Jon (@octojon) on 31 Jan 2014 #

    This is an 11/10 moment for me. Great write-up. RT @tomewing: Daytime repost for the “2 Become 1” Popular entry http://t.co/tv4rGOyIMU

  36. 36
    Mark M on 31 Jan 2014 #

    My favourite Spice Girls song, too. I think Tom is spot-on about why it works.
    A half-thought: I actually fall in the category of people (blokes) who tend not to like ballads by pop acts (whereas I love country weepies, old soul ballads, Yo La Tengo slow songs, etc), but this is a supple and light and charming, rather than a belted-out pseudo-Broadway showstopper or an Irish boyband sleeping cure.

  37. 37
    Alan not logged in on 31 Jan 2014 #

    I love this, it’s not quite a 10, but it still sounds slick. I liked most of their stuff, and ‘bought in’ at wannabe, but later detached re-listening of the spice-ouevre reveals lots of bits that are awkward in a flat way, not awkward in a ‘put it on’ way. Moral: sod to listening detachedly.

  38. 38
    glue_factory on 31 Jan 2014 #

    Re:34, I’ve also always liked the way the strings kind of meander after the last line. To me they sound like something from some distant AOR hit (Wichita Lineman, for example) playing on AM radio. I appreciate that almost no-one else will hear them like that.

  39. 39
    AMZ1981 on 31 Jan 2014 #

    #29 The fifth (Gerry and the Pacemakers, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Jive Bunny, Robson and Jerome).

    When 2 Become 1 shot its chart bolt it dropped to number six, becoming the first chart topper to fall straight out of the top five since Iron Maiden almost six years before. A further five records would go on to do this during 1997.

  40. 40
    Tom on 31 Jan 2014 #

    #39 that’s weird – it was #1 for 3 weeks (longer than most) – presumably an ultra-soft start of year masking sales declines.

  41. 41
    Weej on 31 Jan 2014 #

    Just about my favourite SG track, for the reasons laid out above. Emma’s performance is wonderful, so much nuance in every syllable, that drift from ‘put it on’ to ‘tonight’ in particular gives me occasional goosebumps. The others ae good too, but suffer from the comparison.

    Another plus is the outro, love the way those melancholy / seductive stabs of strings keep coming in, very dramatic – a film could make good use of a long mix of that section.

  42. 42
    Cumbrian on 31 Jan 2014 #

    41: Yes – a film. Now you mention that, it reminds me of the string stabs that you sometimes found on moodier bits of the incidental soundtrack (as opposed to the song based soundtrack CDs that did the rounds) of the pre-Nolan Batman movies.

  43. 43
    thefatgit on 31 Jan 2014 #

    As we’re delving into the production of “2 Become 1”, let’s give credit where it’s due to Biffco (chiefly Richard Stannard), who will for good and ill, loom large on the Popular horizon. They got the production and writing credits for “Wannabe” (2 Ivor Novello Awards) as well. They don’t get as many mentions as Xenomania in critical circles, but they’re probably just as prolific.

  44. 44
    iconoclast on 31 Jan 2014 #

    Contrary to the opinions of Tom’s indie-snob acquaintances, there’s nothing wrong with a slushy romantic ballad if it’s done well, and The Spice Girls’third single is very nearly that; indeed, if it had been released ten years earlier, it would no doubt have soundtracked hundreds of slow dances at school discos across the country.

    A dead cert for the Christmas Number One, it’s mostly a very pretty and well-made record, complete with tasteful acoustic guitar solo, even if the rhythmic backing is overfussy and some of the string section’s interjections are a bit obtrusive. The effect is however spoiled by the jarringly unconvincing “wanna make love to you baby” in the chorus, which surely constitute some of the least erotic invitations to coition ever recorded. It’s unclear, too, given the average age of their intended market, quite why there wasn’t an outcry to BAN THIS FILTH over the lyrics. All in all, though, it’s definitely the best of their first three singles, and it was decent of them to hold its release back to let Dunblane have its say. A high SEVEN.

    The video, by the way, fits very well with the song, but look closely at the blonde one at 2:38, shortly before she gestures the title with her fingers – does she check the lyrics off camera for a moment? And, even in 1996, were there no complaints about the same-sex couple who appear briefly in the guitar break?

  45. 45
    Kinitawowi on 31 Jan 2014 #

    Somehow falling between two Now! albums (their next bunny spans two of them), this is a peculiar absence in my collection. Peculiar, because it’s awesome.

    I said last time that I always preferred the Spice’s ballads, and it’s the way it goes with a lot of these sorts of acts – the songs I always tend to prefer are the ones where we actually get to notice how good some of the artists actually are as vocalists, rather than as products. We’re a few Popular years away from this really starting to hurt my head (hint: the Mickey Mouse Club have yet to break out), but for now this is as good as it gets. Everyone gets a go here; while it’s clearly Emma’s flirty playfulness that wins out, she doesn’t blow everybody else away. There are later bunnies, both for the Spices and one of the aforementioned Mouseketeers, where that will be a problem, but for the time being they remain a group keen to play to each other’s strengths.

    The video was odder; the Spice Girls were basically inescapable and even aloof sixteen year old boys had to have “the one they fancied”, and the vid for this does Victoria no favours whatsoever.


  46. 46
    thefatgit on 31 Jan 2014 #

    #44 Emma’s look away and back to camera is an affectation that suggests coyness rather than checking an autocue. In answer to your 2nd question, we’ve already had the Gary Barlow video in 1996 (lest we forget The Communards, Culture Club, FGTH and Dead Or Alive covered by this very blog when we were recalling the 1980s) and the closeted George Michael recalled by Tom in his review above. It’s widely regarded as a positive thing that same sex relationships can be promoted by mainstream pop acts with very few feathers being ruffled. I don’t recall many feathers being ruffled in 1996. Why should it be an issue?

  47. 47
    Andrew Farrell on 1 Feb 2014 #

    I’m not sure that those four score highly on “no complaints”, and as you say, George was firmly in the closet by this stage. The great finding of the Gary Barlow song IIRC is that no-one at all could remember it all – perhaps there were a few Angry of Tumbridge Wells who found themselves poised, pen in hands, certain that they sat down to complain about something…

  48. 48
    Andrew Farrell on 1 Feb 2014 #

    (Though I’m more struck by Emma and Geri cooing over each other at 2:54)

  49. 49
    JLucas on 1 Feb 2014 #

    For me this is the first of the three Spice Girls hits that I regard as completely perfect pop records. Suffice to say the other two are bunnies, so all I’ll say for now is that they’re all ballads.

    I cannot fault this song. Emma’s lead vocal is perfectly pitched – and as I mentioned in an earlier thread it isn’t just her lines in the verses – if you listen to the chorus this is her record through and through, with only Mel B challenging her with her lovely post-chorus lines.

    The instrumental is beautiful, like a mini-pop symphony. Thanks to the removal of Geri’s terribly-sung lines from the album version, I genuinely can’t think of a single thing wrong with it. An unimpeachable single from the greatest pop group of the era.

  50. 50
    Dano on 1 Feb 2014 #

    #15 The glorious (real) string coda is arranged by composer Craig Armstrong who had previously worked with Massive Attack and subsequently scored many movies (notably for Baz Luhrman).
    I remember being particularly surprised by his involvement and impressed by the use of real strings here – it showed a producer’s care and attention to detail missing from other pop hits at the time.
    Armstrong’s The Space Between Us album from ’98 has some great orchestrations of Protection-era MA tracks.
    I love the b-side Orchestral Version here (even less Geri!) but it could do with being longer.
    Gorgeous track – a 9 for me.

  51. 51
    Kinitawowi on 2 Feb 2014 #

    @50: I accidentally picked up a Craig Armstrong piece from the soundtrack to Layer Cake while looking for another song. It wasn’t a disappointment – Ruthless Gravity was brilliant (and also string-laden).

    The song I was actually looking for, Hayling by FC Kahuna (the one that plays over a load of the opening monologue from the film) was still a bit better, though.

  52. 52
    taDOW on 2 Feb 2014 #

    ha! i was going to write that this might be the closest popular got to trip-hop instead of ‘ready or not’ but i wasn’t able to listen to it again at the moment to see if that was a bridge too far, never would’ve guessed there was a direct connection to massive attack.

  53. 53
    E on 2 Feb 2014 #

    #44 – First of all, anyone who would have cried “BAN THIS FILTH” was crying it way before “2 Become 1” came out — the complaints about the Spice Girls being bad role models were based on what they wore, and how they behaved, and started as soon as “Wannabe” was released. At this point, anyone who was going to be offended by them was already offended by them. Second of all, the general “sex is special, do it safely with someone you love” message of the song was IMPORTANT to their intended audience — I was twelve when this song came out, and I remember talking with both my friends and my parents about how much it mattered to me that the Spice Girls were promoting safe sex and went out of their way to include same-sex couples in the song and the video. (And no, I don’t remember anyone being bothered by the same-sex couple in the video. I remember the opposite — as others have mentioned, there was enough grumbling about the “boys and girls feel good together” line on the album version that they changed it for the single.)

    I mean, I get that, given your name, you’re supposed to be a rebel or something, but maybe cool it with the affectations about how above-it-all you are. “The blonde one”‘s name was mentioned three times in Tom’s writeup and seven more in the thread before you commented — and if you haven’t managed to absorb enough about this band to know the blonde one’s name, consider that perhaps you haven’t managed to absorb enough about this band to have a good idea of what anyone thought about them at the time, either.

  54. 54
    iconoclast on 2 Feb 2014 #

    #53: Ouch! I’m perfectly happy to stand corrected; thank you for your elucidation. Those were musings-out-loud which in retrospect I should have been more decisive about editing out. The same thing happened with “the blond one” (sorry Emma): so as not to be influenced by anyone else’s opinions, I write my reviews before Tom’s go up, and her name inexplicably slipped my mind for some reason and I never got around to fixing it. I’ll try to be more careful in future :-(

    As for “supposed to be a rebel or something”: my choice of name merely reflects the fact that I approach these things from an idiosyncratic perspective which sometimes results in very non-congregational opinions. To be perfectly honest, I’m unsure to what extent these opinions are actually worth making public here, especially since I haven’t undergone the same sort of pop-cultural conditioning which everyone else has, and I’d be happy to shut up and stop spoiling someone else’s blog if I’m rocking the boat too much. Sorry if I caused any upset.

  55. 55
    Kat but logged out innit on 2 Feb 2014 #

    I think I finally realised that the Spice Girls weren’t going to go away during our (compulsory) Religious Education GCSE class, where poor old Miss Harris was trying to explain the concept of the sanctity of life according to the Roman Catholic faith to a class of unengaged teenagers, in her strong Welsh accent. “Come on, we did this last week. Two become wen? You know, like the Spice Gels? Wheredya think they got that line from in the first place, eh?”

  56. 56
    Izzy on 2 Feb 2014 #

    54: hey! Not upsetting at all!

    I’m not sure there’s really much in the way of pop cultural conditioning, though I do get suspicious if everyone agrees with Tom so dissenting views are very necessary imo. Even (almost especially) if they’re from a position of little knowledge – because then the assenters have to reëxplain basic things that might otherwise be taken for granted, which might make interesting gaps open up.

    In short: keep posting.

  57. 57
    Rory on 5 Feb 2014 #

    The third Spice Girls single is the second I barely recall having heard before, so I spent a bit of time with it before committing to a mark. My first listen and viewing of the video last week left me relatively indifferent – the instinctive balladophobia of a ’90s indie fan, no doubt – but I could tell there was more going on, and gave it a chance to rise from a 5. The second, with the video hidden, sounded much better, the lush orchestral backing and interplay of voices working well for me now, taking it to a 6. But that’s where I’m stuck a week later. I watched the video again to see if it would add more, but something about the five of them hanging out together in a New York street feels at odds with the intimate message of the song. (Why don’t we d-d-do it in the road?) Not that I would rather the video showed them hanging out in a bedroom. There were five in the bed, and the Baby Spice said…

  58. 58

    […] In the introduction my list of best singles of 1997, published in my college paper, I praised “2 Become 1″ as the best of the three top five Spice Girls singles. Then and now I prefer uptempo numbers except when they’re as good as this. I’m happy Tom Ewing agrees: […]

  59. 59
    Lazarus on 25 Oct 2014 #

    2 becomes 1 tonight, don’t forget

    (OK, so I caught a look at the Yahoo homepage)

  60. 60
    Mark M on 16 Dec 2014 #

    With the video getting Christmastime play, I’ve struck by how vampiric they look in it. Posh, obviously – she looked like that anyway back then (see the single cover above), and she’s wearing a long, cape-like black coat, but the others – barring Mel C, I suppose – have an undead-chic vibe. But I can’t imagine it’s deliberate.

  61. 61
    flahr on 16 Dec 2014 #


  62. 62
    James Silkstone on 9 Oct 2015 #

    I was born in 1995, so whilst I was alive during Spice mania in the late 90’s I was a little too young to be really swept up in it. If my mother is to believe, I was fond of ‘Stop’ whenever it came on the radio and the video for ‘Spice Up Your Life’ used to scare me (it’s also the song that was at number one when my sister was born) but that’s about all I’ve been able to find out in regards to how I felt about the Spice Girls when they were at their peak. By the time I really got into pop music in late 2003, the Spice Girls had long gone and the girls solo careers were also beginning to dwindle somewhat so it wasn’t until the fuss over their reunion in 2007 that I really dove into their back catalogue. There were, however, two songs of theirs that I was familiar with by this point; “Wannabe” was its iconic and most people know and “2 Become 1” which is played a lot near Xmas time and was a favourite of my mothers. I grew up with ‘2 Become 1’ as opposed to the Spice Girls themselves so it does hold a bit of a special place in my heart whilst a lot of their other songs leave me a little cold as they don’t have that nostalgia attached.

    Like it says above, I was a bit blindsided by childhood nostalgia so the true meaning of the song did not occur to me until I was literally fifteen. In a way, you’d think this would taint the song for me in some way as those precious, innocent childhood memories could now be seen as having been tainted by the images of sex and protection – but on the contrary, realizing the meaning of and message to the song only made me love it more. I love the soft but firm approach the song takes towards protection and how it really does promote sex as a loving action between two people; I feel like my generation has become very desensitized to sexual content with the rise of internet porn that’s disturbingly easy to access as well as the constant objectification of women in music videos so a soft, realistic gentle approach to the act that also promotes safety in it is absolutely fine by me. Songs about sex tend to be about the pleasure, the experience of sex has some kind of overly erotic romp and seem to completely miss the part of sex that is about communication and love between two people. Of course, I’m not naïve enough to suggest that everyone who has sex is in love with the person they’re having sex with but a song using sex as a pleasurable but gentle act is a very good thing in my book

    Making the whole thing what it is, of course, is Miss Emma Bunton. I’ve heard people say Mel C is the most talented Spice Girl and I’d certainly agree that some of her solo material is fantastic – but for me, Emma is the most talented and has had the best solo career. Quite like Harry Styles, Bunton’s clearly natural grace and charisma are perfectly represented through her voice and that comes across on many Spice Girls singles and singles of her own but none more so than in ‘2 Become 1’. Her voice is perfect here for the tone and mood of the song; sweet and playful, almost teasing and coy whilst making absolutely sure that her lover is going to ‘put it on, put it on’. Yet, as I said before, the whole thing feels rather tinged with a sense of melancholy – maybe that’s retrospective melancholy; the images of the twin towers in the music video of such a beautiful, toned down song feels rather poignant and sad. The song seems to be the conclusion of a journey for me – like this girl has been looking for the right kind of love for so long and has just found it. I absolutely adore the melancholic feel too it – in a way, it’s kind of the perfect Christmas song even if it has nothing to do with the holiday.

    My favourite Spice Girl single, and by quite some distance.

  63. 63
    Lee Saunders on 19 Jan 2019 #

    Query time

    So in early ’97, during this song’s final week at #1, Orbital entered at #3 with Satan Live, one of the most forgotten of all top 3 hits, but there were no fewer than three different CD formats for it (interestingly the live version never featured on any compilations at the time, but it was over 7 mins long). However, there was also a 12″ that had to a chart as an album (where it reached #48) because it was too long.

    I’m wondering what sales were like that week and also if anyone knows how much the 12″ sold. I’m just curious to know that – if the 12″ had been eligible – whether it would have actually climbed to #2 (where Professional Widow was waiting).

    Very trivial I know (also just as this and the Saint were Orbital’s equal highest charting hits three months apart, this is also about the time the Orb had their highest charting with Toxygene, again oddly under-represented on comps at the time).

  64. 64
    Gareth Parker on 31 May 2021 #

    Er, not my sort of thing I’m afraid. 4/10.

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