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Jun 14

SPICE GIRLS – “Viva Forever”

Popular47 comments • 2,577 views

#797, 1st August 1998

spiceviva A single overtaken by events, “Viva Forever” found its modest theme – the embers of holiday romance – completely sidelined when it turned out to be the Final Spice Girls Single, meaning the last single by the founding quintet. Suddenly the pressure of attention warped just another enjoyable Spice ballad into a grand valedictory statement. “Viva Forever” still just about bears that weight, though “fleeting, doomed and bittersweet” wasn’t quite the emotional note the band would have picked for a send-off. And sure enough the remaining four members decided to take a second shot at mythologising the Geri Era (and the band), which we’ll get to in time, and means I can take this track at face value.

And it’s good – very good, their best ballad since “2 Become 1”. Like that song, “Viva Forever” takes a specific but common romantic situation and treats it simply and sincerely. This is a song for a particular moment – back at dreary home, sand at the bottom of your suitcase, precious memories of summer love fading at the edges. It’s wallowing, wistful music, with its Spanish guitar phrases vanishing back into mists of regretful backing vox. “Viva Forever” is only good, though: it does nothing unexpected, and it never makes a move when there’s a cheesier one available – castanets, “hasta manana”, the sands of time, it’s all here. But its straightforward seriousness is exactly right for its subject – it’s the song you might turn to when you want to be reassured that what you felt meant something, even as it admits it might not have.

And some would say that would have been an apt end for the group after all. Their own commercial grip had begun to slacken even as the UK charts were being remade in their image: what better time for an exit, before the spotlight moved on? When the time came to name the band’s short-lived jukebox musical, they went for “Viva Forever” – the Spice Girls as the persistent memory of a wonderful but brief affair. But at the time, as we’ll see, they had rather different ideas.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    JLucas on 5 Jun 2014 #

    An interesting point about the song (I don’t like all the discussion coming back to the dreadful musical that shares its name) is that it sold almost double what the preceding ‘Stop’ did. Obviously Geri’s exit gave the song massive publicity, but even so for the fourth single from a big-selling album it did exceptionally well.

    UK Sales figures for the Spiceworld singles (as of September 2007)

    Spice Up Your Life: 800,000
    Too Much: 657,000
    Stop: 331,000
    Viva Forever: 623,000

    Obviously those figures suggest Stop may just have been an aberration and Viva Forever returned them to the figures they’d come to expect (The four singles from the debut all cleared 600,000 too). Goodbye did even better – 853,000; but then that like Too Much was a Christmas #1, and a brand new track.

  2. 27
    thefatgit on 5 Jun 2014 #

    Thanks for the responses re: the musical. I have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to musicals and I was really trying to figure out if it was the artists or the songs that determines whether they sink or swim.

  3. 28
    Mark G on 5 Jun 2014 #

    Well, I never went but I got the impression it was the actual story that was the ‘problem’, and it was more that ‘Mamma Mia’ got it very right than the others ‘failed’ as such.

  4. 29
    Alex on 5 Jun 2014 #

    “Everlasting. Like the surn“. Christ.

  5. 30
    AMZ1981 on 5 Jun 2014 #

    Rather late in the day – this is the only Spice Girls song I’ll actually admit to liking; it has a beguiling melody and Mel C’s voice (not something I’m particularly keen on) is used to good effect on the chorus. It also gets a brownie point for blocking an absolute stinker from the top; Will Smith’s Just The Two Of Us (the tribute to his son where the advice includes holding open doors).

    I’d never actually seen the video until a few nights ago when I watched it on YouTube. What I found interesting is a curious lack of girl power – the Spice Girls always had a `girls night out with no boys` feel about them and the childhood friendship fading theme would have worked with two female protaganists. As with C’est La Vie a few entries ago I’m curious as to where the child actors are now.

    Finally, although Geri’s departure did gain the song more publicity than it might otherwise have got, credit has to go to the Spice Girls for taking and holding number one despite a six month old parent album being available – compare this to the trio of here today gone tomorrow chart toppers that preceded it.

  6. 31
    Tommy Mack on 6 Jun 2014 #

    Re: 29. I’m a sucker for elemental metaphors. I’d forgotten about VF until I did a SG spotify trawl when Popular first came to them a few months back. Made me cry a little bit if I’m honest. Make’s me think tangentially of The Who’s So Sad About Us (which is a lesser song “apologies mean nothing, when you’re down it’s no fun / but you can’t turn off my loving like you can’t turn off the Sun” – like I said, I’m a sucker for elemental metaphors. Although that is actually a simile, not a metaphor.)

    Gotta be worth more than 6, too. Instinctively, I’d say 8 but I realise this is Popular, not Q, so we don’t dole out 4 star ratings willy nilly but I’d still argue for at least a 7 for reasons others have outlined: the craft and poignancy.

    I can never tell the Spice Girls’ voices apart but then I couldn’t tell The Beatles’ or The Clash’s voices apart for years.

  7. 32
    JLucas on 6 Jun 2014 #

    #31: Emma sings the first verse, and is the highest in the mix for the pre-chorus and chorus. (As is usually the case on Spice Girls songs, particularly the ballads).

    Mel B sings the first half of the second verse, then Mel C picks up from ‘Slipping through our fingers/ Like the sands of time…”

    Victoria sings the middle eight (“Back where I belong now….”)

    Mel C does all the ad-libs towards the end, and Mel B does the very last chorus solo.

    Geri I *think* harmonises with Victoria in the second half of the middle eight too, but I’m not sure. She’s barely audible on this one at all really. She’s generally a bit of a sore thumb on their records, being by far the worst singer in the group (Victoria gets a lot of stick but while her voice is thin, it’s perfectly servicable compared to Geri who actively sounds flat most of the time.)

  8. 33
    tm on 7 Jun 2014 #

    Ta very much for that. I’ll have to give it a listen with the crib sheet in front of me!

  9. 34
    DanH on 7 Jun 2014 #

    @31: I believe you mean “Apologies mean nothing when the damage is done”…but yes, that line is one corker of a simile for a young broken heart, I love it.

  10. 35
    tm on 7 Jun 2014 #

    Ah, that’s a much better lyric! I’d misheard it all these years on my scratched second hand copy of A Quick One (the twofer reissue with The Who Sell Out). It is a great couplet, suggesting Pete Townshend had mellowed and matured in the year since writing the slew of anti-romance sentiments on the My Generation album.

  11. 36
    Ed on 8 Jun 2014 #

    @32 “Geri… actively sounds flat most of the time”.

    Aren’t we in the Autotune era by now? So if Geri does sound flat , it must be a deliberate musical choice.

    Or if not, she must be about the last singer ever to appear on Popular for whom singing off-key is an issue.

    Great fact from Wiki on Autotune: it was invented by an engineer working for Exxon, who was trying to develop new ways to process results from seismic surveys to find oil. The pop/hydrocarbon complex!

  12. 37
    lonepilgrim on 8 Jun 2014 #

    I believe we will be considering Autotune sometime soon

  13. 38
    Izzy on 8 Jun 2014 #

    I’m sure I remember Stephen Street saying they’d routinely use autotune to tweak Morrissey during The Queen Is Dead – not just the ‘By land, by sea’ but either. I don’t know the history to know whether this is remotely plausible/even possible though.

  14. 39
    Andrew Farrell on 8 Jun 2014 #

    I think there’s a distinction between something that just throws a sound up or down a fraction of an octave, and one which adjusts individual notes.

  15. 40

    autotune didn’t go on the market till 1997, which is bit late for tackling the smithsian mozafinado, but a family of devices called pitch-shifters had existed since the 60s if not earlier: these tended to be unleashed on octaves — which were easily controlled — and gave us alvin and the chipmunks and pinky and perky, but i think could be finetuned

    they weren’t auto-adjust though, they shift the pitch a pre-fixed amount — i imagine for helping a singer be in tune on an otherwise effective perf they were applied (afterwards, to the recording) in ad hoc fashion

    re geri: the production team do have to know and notice and mind that a singer is out of tune to decide it’s a good moment to wheel out technological aids of this kind

  16. 41
    JLucas on 9 Jun 2014 #

    With all due respect to Geri (and I do love her), she has a future solo bunny coming that suggests that if Autotune was available in the late 90s, there were limits to how much it could disguise…

  17. 42
    tm on 9 Jun 2014 #

    Oh, God, I think I know the one you’re talking about, Christ, it’s flat as a pancake.

  18. 43
    swanstep on 9 Jun 2014 #

    @41,jlucas. Isn’t the point that if your pitch is really off then (at least the original) autotune made you sound inhuman/like a robot as it curved you up or down as required. Geri probably wanted a relatively natural sound (unlike Kanye, Cher – whom it probably pained to have to sing out-of tune to get the effect -T-pain, etc.) which precluded using the autotune of the time. I assume that the tech’s probably evolved quite a lot since c. 2000 so the trade-off I’ve described (and remember reading things about at the time of Cher’s Bunnysaurus) may be able to be avoided these days.

  19. 44

    We should probably save any extensive discussion for the near future, but auto tune really was was designed as invisible mending, and the very evident non-invisible (meaning non-inaudiable) “robotic” effect is created by exploiting extreme settings at the ends of the various knobs — in particular the speed of adjustment portamento (i.e. the sliding between notes: unnaturally fast); and the sensitivity of *when* it adjusts, such that where an ordinary vibrato or turn in the voice — which lots of singers use — pushes the pitch microtonally up, it goes (if autotune’s set very sensitively) into the zone where the pitch-switching effect kicks in. There’s presumably also a decision-mechanism for which direction it corrects in, up or down: the robotic effect comes from large fast corrections in unexpected directions — which humans can’t make, but autotune on deliberately eccentric settings can

  20. 45
    tm on 15 Jun 2014 #

    Paris Lees wiriting in Vice about Spice Girls nostalgia: http://m.vice.com/en_uk/read/spice-girls-paris-lees

  21. 46
    swanstep on 15 Jun 2014 #

    @TM. Thanks for that link. It led me immediately to:
    http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/Englands-World-Cup-Cocaine-Shortage.

  22. 47
    ciaran on 1 Jul 2014 #

    Normal Number 1 service resumed after ‘Stop’. then.This would have been the perfect single to end the Spice Girls story. This is the one I immediately think of as the beginning of the end rather than the follow up.

    Whatever the circumstances VF is the best thing they did after the first album.My 2nd favourite SG song behind ’2 Become 1′. Despite the energetic appearances and more up tempo stuff some of the slower stuff is much more appealing.

    7.

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