10
Apr 14

SPICE GIRLS – “Too Much”

Popular48 comments • 2,669 views

#779, 27th December 1997

toomuch Their three Christmas number ones are as much to do with canny release date bagatelle as with enduring public love, but the Spice Girls still gave the impression of taking special care over their year-end singles. Or maybe they just had a knack for ballads. “Too Much” isn’t their most distinctive record – less lush than “2 Become 1”, less melodramatic than their later big weepies – but after the slapdash clatter of “Spice Up Your Life”, a bit of crafted stability might be no bad thing.

“2 Become 1” relied on Emma Bunton’s playful softness, which made its intimacy feel like a lived situation. “Too Much” is just as dependent on Mel C – in fact, the record’s main problem is that it feels like it’s marking time until she gets to sing. The song is more tenuously a pastiche than any of the singles around it, but “Too Much” still sounds to me like an attempt to Spicify a genre – the knowing, romantic, vintage pop of the swing era, which we met via Jo Stafford and Kitty Kallen.

“Too Much” isn’t the band’s only attempt to engage with this long-gone past: the Spiceworld LP ends with a wholehearted but fairly terrible big band number, and “Look At Me”, Geri Halliwell’s solo debut, picks up where that left off. But for “Too Much” to work it needs a singer who can vamp it up, and whatever Geri might have thought the Spice Girls only have one of those. Mel C was often described as having the group’s strongest voice, when really it’s just their most immediately distinctive – confident and sharp, cutting against the grain of any song it’s in. Vocally, she is the spice in the girls – often used just as an ad-libber to season what might otherwise be rather placid harmonising. Even though she stood out, it wasn’t obvious how a solo Mel C would work: she seemed to be a singer who relied on contrast.

“Too Much”, though, finds a way of using Mel C’s confidence that isn’t just seasoning – she takes the parts of the song which are pointing out that, sorry boys, even “good” isn’t good enough in the long term. In the pop this is nodding at, that might have found world-weary expression – that’s life, ladies – but the Spice Girls have always been about making demands, and the strident, rough edge in Mel C’s voice makes her sound more angry than cynical. Her lines at the song’s climax – “What part of no don’t you understand / I want a man, not a boy who thinks he can” – are the part of “Too Much”, that sticks, the best moment in any of their 1997 singles, and a reminder of what the Spice Girls did well, just in time for the British pop business to finally catch up with them.

6

Comments

1 2 All
  1. 26
    James BC on 11 Apr 2014 #

    Specifically, the 1985 song where the average score peaked was “Easy Lover”.

  2. 27
    James Masterton on 11 Apr 2014 #

    The Spice Girls (or rather Simon Fuller) invented the whole concept of deliberately targeting the Xmas No.1. Oasis attempted it in 1994 with the Christmas chart week release of Whatever, but it was Team Spice who pioneered topping the charts by default with a single released in the exact week of the seasonal chart, thus ruining it for everyone forever.

    Too Much was an even greater exercise in cynicism, as others have noted it was the opening song in the Spiceworld movie which was itself released into cinemas on Boxing Day 1997, a few days after the record had made it to the top of the charts. It was also the final exclamation point on Spice mania, their next single becoming their first not to reach the top and by the time they were back at the summit in the summer Fuller had been ditched as manager, Geri had done a Robbie and flounced and the end was in sight.

  3. 28
    tm on 11 Apr 2014 #

    #27: or maybe people need to start buying more better records more! (Cubist grammar intended)

    As an ex-teacher, I note that the scores are roughly analogous to the percentages required to gain different A level grades: 4 is E: a bare pass, scarsely more use than a fail for practical purposes, 6 is C, the lowest decent grade; you did what was required of of you but you hardly shone, 7 is B, a solid, above-average effort, 8 is A, you’re good at this and you went somewhat above and beyond, 9 is A*, among the very best and 10 is obviously some sort of distinction, an example of rare and remarkable talent operating at its very best.

    Like Tom’s grading system, grade boundaries are designed to award roughly equal numbers of each grade nationwide and year on year, hence the murky machinations of the UMS system (“this was a hard/easy paper so you get marked up/down according to non-linear and undisclosed formulae”).

    The exam grade analogy breaks down at the top end since, if you’re a remarkable student, equivalent to an artist with a string of 9/10 an 10/10 songs, there’s little in A Level courses for you to demonstrate the full extent of your talents. A good teacher will identify such students and provide them with engaging challenges lest they fall into bored complacency (“I sneeze and the hits come out” – I really wanted a better example since Courtney Taylor Taylor’s plainly a C-average student who occasionally stretches himself to a B!)

  4. 29
    wichitalineman on 11 Apr 2014 #

    Re 28: Fuller might have been the first to do it with the pinpoint accuracy of releasing a single in Xmas week, but it was surely intentional with the Beatles, once they’d scored their first Xmas no.1 in ’63. They had nothing ready for the 1966 Christmas market (presumably due to the multiple takes and studio jiggery-pokery on Strawberry Fields Forever, released in Feb ’67) so Parlophone threw out A Collection of Beatles Oldies But Goldies, their first compilation.

  5. 30
    Rory on 11 Apr 2014 #

    #28: Your Courtney Taylor-Taylor reference seems to be related to a deleted draft comment, but I’ll pick it up anyway. I’d dispute he was C-grade on the first four Dandy Warhols albums, up to and including Welcome to the Monkey House – wonderful stuff on all of those, lots of 8+ songs for me. But from Odditorium onwards, yeah, they’re a struggle. I’m not sure what happened. Even the “artists’ cut” of Monkey House was a dud, demonstrating that Nick Rhodes saved the thing. A great shame, I loved them at their best.

  6. 31
    punctum on 11 Apr 2014 #

    #27: Slade in 1973 (and Polydor) might have had something to say about that.

    #29: My feeling is that if “PL/SFF” couldn’t get past “Release Me” it almost certainly wouldn’t have got past “Green Green Grass Of Home,” the year’s biggest seller.

  7. 32
    Tommy Mack on 11 Apr 2014 #

    #30 – I was using CTT’s quote as an example of complacency of the talented: unfairly, I must say as, when he said it, in the unsettling and compelling film Dig!, he was quoting himself in a ‘what a brat I was back then’ vein whereas in the trailer it’s cut to make it look like he’s boasting to camera with no irony or self-awareness.

    I loved the Dandys back in the day and I still give Come Down the occasional spin but mostly they haven’t dated well for me. Only Godless and Sleep made it onto my iPod nano.

  8. 33
    Rory on 11 Apr 2014 #

    #32: Oh, I see – I’d forgotten that line from Dig! (Great film.)

  9. 34
    Kinitawowi on 11 Apr 2014 #

    #26: I did spot that, and thought about mentioning it, but “music has generally been on a progressive downward curve ever since Easy Lover” seemed a bit of a tragic conclusion. ;-)

  10. 35
    ace inhibitor on 11 Apr 2014 #

    so if i’m reading weej@24′s graphic rightly, the objective peak of pop greatness was november 66 (rosie/enitharmon was right all along…) with supplementary peaks in september 79 (I’ll endorse that one) and, more unexpectedly, november 83

  11. 36
    Tom on 11 Apr 2014 #

    We are not even 2/3 of the way through – plenty of time for future peaks I’d say.

  12. 37
    Steve Williams on 11 Apr 2014 #

    #31 Well, of course Merry Xmas Everybody was released a couple of weeks before Christmas, and now we’re in the era of singles peaking in their first week of release, it was far easier to release a number one with exact precision over when it would chart.

    I think it’s correct to say that this is when it started to turn against the Spice Girls because I remember this being the first time they started getting regular negative news stories. Their performance of this on Top of the Pops is a case in point, I remember the papers going on about them turning up late, requiring several retakes and annoying the audience, whereas up to then it had been almost all positive press from the papers.

  13. 38
    Tom on 11 Apr 2014 #

    Yeah, as I talked about in the Blur v Oasis entry, the idea of a “race” for number one – at Christmas or any other time – only really makes sense in the straight-in-at-the-top age (i.e. when losing the ‘race’ probably means your single never gets there). Before that the story was more often about injustice – “Vienna” or “Strawberry Fields” getting near their ‘rightful’ place to be blocked by something else.

    So from the mid-90s “chart battles” become a thing, and the Xmas No.1 does become a race – something more like the Grand National in the public eye (which raises its profile, too). This is why I think accusing Fuller of particular cynicism is unfair, he’d been paying attention in August ’95 as much as anybody.

  14. 39
    Tommy Mack on 11 Apr 2014 #

    #36 Is pop music going to stop when you catch up with it, then? ;-)

    More seriously, are you going to stop or at least take a break? I imagine it would be quite different to review the records in real time as they hit #1.

  15. 40
    Tom on 11 Apr 2014 #

    #39 There are a few ways I could stop that don’t involve me dying or getting bored of it.

    - Something gets to #1 which provides an irresistible narrative finish. This hasn’t happened yet.
    - The chart changes in such a way that I don’t feel it’s measuring the same thing.
    - Pop changes in such a way that I don’t think my perspective on it would be useful any more i.e. I get too old. (I think for this I would try and find a younger co-writer though).
    - I catch up. Probably what I’d do is stop at the end of whatever the last complete year is and then do yearly updates in January-March-ish.

  16. 41
    James BC on 11 Apr 2014 #

    I don’t think Tom should stop until he himself appears on a number 1 single.

  17. 42
    Cumbrian on 11 Apr 2014 #

    #40: Presumably, if you’re looking to do a book at some point, you’ll need to generate an artificial stopping point though. The obvious ones being end of decade or nice round number of #1s, I suppose – though I imagine you could come up with something much more creative and artistically satisfying than I would do, with my slavish attraction to whole numbers ending in 0.

  18. 43
    Will on 11 Apr 2014 #

    Re 37: Yes, the Spice backlash had begun in earnest by this point – negative stories, reports of their imminent demise etc. They also now had genuine competition too, in the shape of..well, I think they’re coming next, aren’t they?

  19. 44
    Tom on 11 Apr 2014 #

    #43 Yes :) Not till Sunday though.

  20. 45
    hectorthebat on 11 Apr 2014 #

    I always assumed you’d get to an arbitrary point (10 years ago, 5 years ago, etc) and then just review in “real time”.

  21. 46
    iconoclast on 11 Apr 2014 #

    @40: Or the concept of a “Number One” ceases to be meaningful in some way, such as the music charts themselves becoming suffficiently anachronistic, or something.

  22. 47
    ciaran on 11 Apr 2014 #

    For the most part there are some Spice Girls songs I once liked that I’m now less fond of and some I didn’t like that I now enjoy.

    Too Much is an exception.I didn’t like it then and don’t like it now. It’s the one spice offering that I have no time for at all.2 Become 1 was a charming record and was something that suited Christmas but this is far from a yuletide standard and lacking any of the bite of the early singles.

    3.

  23. 48
    Erithian on 12 Apr 2014 #

    Concerning their “genuine competition”, anybody spotting this post early enough can see something of interest at 9.40 this morning on BBC1 Breakfast!

1 2 All

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)

Required

Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page