The time has come, friends, to celebrate a significant milestone of what is statistically and emotionally one of the greatest songs of all time. A song so important it continues to be every ounce as relevant and iconic as it was when it was first released two decades ago, despite being written in just thirty minutes. A song whose five-note keyboard riff changed lives and forced "zig-a-zig-ah" to become an official part of the public lexicon. We are talking, of course, about “Wannabe”, the debut single by British girl group and cultural phenomenon the Spice Girls - which was first released in the UK on July 8, 1996, and continued to champion the power of female friendship for the next twenty years.
Whether or not it is actually the Spice Girls best song is hard to say. If we’re talking raw data, though, it was their only number one single in America, topped the charts in 37 nations, and became the best selling single by a female group in the world. In 2014, actual scientific research claimed it was the most easily recognizable pop song of the last 60 years. So, yeah, pretty good then. Where Atomic Kitten, The Saturdays, and B*Witched sink further into their graves, "Wannabe" ascends closer toward immortality.
Because it's more popular than breathing, “Wannabe” has been interpreted into almost every art form by almost every kind of person - from girls to boys, dance groups to opera singers, metalheads to ska fans. Seeing as it's the 20th birthday of the track, and everyone deserves a gift for their birthday or at least a kiss on the forehead, we trawled the internet like a group of illegal fishermen to celebrate the inception of "Wannabe" with a selection of our favourite covers. Please enjoy. Please be powerful. Love your life.
1. THIS VERY EMOTIONAL “METAL” COVER
Dude, no. What the hell are you doing? This is like Justin Hawkins auditioning to be in Trivium, but like, even worse somehow. The idea of you peacocking across a dancefloor and earnestly pointing at my face as you scream the lyrics to one of the greatest songs of all time is giving me deep rooted stomach pains.
2. THE SKA COVER
Jesus fucking christ. Can you imagine these grinning, couch-surfing purveyors of ska playing at your wedding? Because it seems like a glorified wedding band is exactly what they are, since wedding bands are primarily invented to ruin some of the best songs ever invented. Weirdly though, the most offensive part of this - aside from the fact the woman is wearing two-tone earrings - it is that it opens with a slightly muted ska cover of Haddaway’s emotional dance masterpiece “What Is Love”, suggesting they covered that previously, which is like they’ve gained access to my nightmares.
3. THE PERCUSSIVE GUITAR COVER
This is the kind of guy you film on your phone at The Stone Circle at 4am, absolutely beside yourself impressed, then watch back the next day like “Oh… I swear he was… Why did I… Is that me cheering in the background?” *quietly deletes without showing anyone*
4. THE DRUNK COVER
I don’t know whether this guy is actually drunk or if he’s just extremely expressive with his hands. Either way, he does refer to himself as “Drunk Spice”, the invisible sixth member who never got her shit together enough to show up to anything. Which, ultimately, is the most relatable stereotype of all.
5. THE SPANISH COVER
If there’s one thing I didn’t know I needed in life it was six well groomed Spanish men performing a bilingual cover of “Wannabe” in a room decorated with an assortment of paper lampshades, but sometimes your true desires reveal themselves to you in mysterious ways.
6. THE MERRY CHRISTMAS ELECTRIC GUITAR COVER
Yeah “Wannabe” is one of the most catchy, recognisable and generation-defining pop songs of the past two decades, but don’t you think it’s a bit, well…meh? Like, it could be improved a little? With, like, some electric guitar? And maybe something a bit more, I dunno… Christmassy? Everyone loves Christmas, don’t they? CHRISTMAS IS FUCKING AMAZING. So this guy’s got the right idea. This guy, with his mirrored indoor sunglasses and Pamela Anderson pizza box and wide-legged trousers. Watch and learn. What a fucking badass tool.
7. THE 32-SECOND RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS COVER
For a single second there, I was almost excited about the prospect of a mid-90s Anthony Kiedis swinging his silly hair back ‘n’ forth to the bass-slapping sound of “Wannabe”. But then I pressed play, saw all those wrong words tumble out of his moustached face like a dad taking the piss out of his teenage daughter, and sank into a deep and empty-hearted hole of regret.
8. THE BATSHIT CRAZY RUSSIAN COVER
In case you were wondering what qualifies Russia to partake in the Eurovision Song Contest every year: this. This is why. This is like walking into the best house party of all time, where no one knows your name, half of the people can’t even speak due to inebriation, but everyone is on the same level. This is the sort of unity they teach you about at school.
9. THE EVA LONGORIA DRAMATIC READING COVER
What the fuck is this? This is like one of those horrific videos they play while you’re waiting to go on a ride at Disneyland, except it’s like some devil has shape-shifted its way into Eva Longoria’s body. This is either like every bad porno or every scene featuring Tobias from Arrested Development.
10. THE FRENCH COMEDY COVER
The French, eh? They’re a funny lot. I’ve been playing this on repeat for ages now, stony-faced, trying desperately to detect the humour, but it’s like all my laughs have drained away from my body and now exist separately, somewhere else, away from this video.
11. THE OI PUNK SNUFF COVER
What’s that? This doesn’t sound like “Wannabe”, you say? It sounds like five men being crushed in an industrial car crusher, you say? Well, lean in closer, and you will hear the zig-a-zig-ahhs. Yes, they may be muffled amongst the guttural walls of screaming and pummelling drums, but they are there, I assure you.
12. THE ZEBRAHEAD COVER
No. 13. THE BASS COVER OF THE ZEBRAHEAD COVER
14. THE SUPER RARE FOOTAGE OF ADAM ANT TAKING THE PISS COVER
Just because this is the dude who had cheekbones like razorblades and wrote some of the best new wave/post punk tunes of the 80s, doesn’t mean he sounds any less like your school mate’s drunk dad performing at the local street party with his old band.
15. THE SPICE GUYS COVER
Lol, guys look! Dudes! In wigs and crop tops! Lol! Farts!
16. THE COVER THAT HAS THREE MILLION VIEWS FOR NO DISCERNABLE REASON
Are you under the age of 20? Could you explain this to us? Is there something we're missing? Some in-joke? Some subtle form of layered irony? Should I find a new career path?
17. THE ADELE CARPOOL KARAOKE COVER
If you watch this with your left eye closed, it’s the best thing ever. If you watch it with your right eye closed, it’s the absolute fucking worst. If you keep both eyes closed but your ears open, it's not bad.
19. THE ALMOST FAMOUS COVER
Neon Hitch, who is like the middle ground between Amy Winehouse and Nelly Furtado, is one of those people with a billion cosigns who still lives in relative anonymity. Here is her sultry and Extremely 2014 cover of "Wannabe", which could have propelled her to fame had Kali Uchis not showed up instead. Sorry babes.
19. THE COVER THAT ISN’T REALLY A COVER AT ALL BUT IS AWESOME AND I’M INCLUDING IT ANYWAY BECAUSE IF THERE WAS A GOD THESE GUYS WOULD HAVE WON BRITAIN’S GOT TALENT
I can’t even stand up straight in high heels, let alone slut drop in them on a wooden Parisian bridge groaning under the weight of a million love lockets, so the only way this can be explained to me is magic. Definitely magic. These three men are wizards of modern dance thriving on the power of a song that inexplicably gets better with every listen.
20. THE ONLY GOOD COVER, POSSIBLY EVER
Finally, a cover that makes sense in the world. After all we've been through, please enjoy three and a half of the coolest minutes in punk history, wherein London trio The Tuts rip the flaming shit out of this classic four to the floor SST Records style do-over of one of the greatest commercial pop songs ever made with the gusto that both God and Geri's dress intended.
Thanks for the times, Spice Girls. Here’s to twenty more years.
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