“Wannabe” is the debut hit single by the British girl group the Spice Girls. Written by the group members with Matt Rowe and Richard Stannard during the group’s first professional songwriting session, it was produced by Rowe and Stannard for the group’s debut album Spice, released in November 1996. The song was written and recorded very quickly; the result was considered lacklustre by their label, and was sent to be mixed by Dave Way. The group was not pleased with the result, and the recording was mixed again, this time by Mark “Spike” Stent.
“Wannabe” is an uptempo dance pop/hip hop/pop rap song. “Wannabe” features Mel B and Geri Halliwell rapping. The lyrics, which address the value of female friendship over the heterosexual bond, became an iconic symbol of female empowerment and the most emblematic song of the group’s Girl Power philosophy. Despite receiving mixed reviews from music critics, the song won for Best British-Written Single at the 1997 Ivor Novello Awards and for Best Single at the 1997 BRIT Awards.
“Wannabe” was heavily promoted by the group. Its music video, directed by Johan Camitz, became a big success on the British cable network The Box, which sparked press interest in the group. Subsequently the song had intensive radio airplay across the United Kingdom, while the group performed it on television programmes and started doing interviews and photo shoots for teen magazines.
Responding to the wave of public interest in the group, Virgin released the song as the group’s debut single in July 1996, well ahead of the planned release date of the Spice album. “Wannabe” topped the UK Singles Chart for seven weeks and has received a double Platinum certification by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). In January 1997 it was released in the United States, topping the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks. It was the group’s only number-one single in that country. By the end of 1996, “Wannabe” had topped the charts in 22 nations, and by March 1997 this number had climbed to 37. “Wannabe” became the best-selling single by a female group in the world, with 1,360,000 and 2,910,000 copies sold in United Kingdom (by 2015) and United States (by 2014), respectively, and over 7 million copies worldwide by the end of 1997. In 2014, it was rated as the most easily recognisable pop song of the last 60 years.