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The most misunderstood people in pop #5: Posh Spice

First of all it’s Victoria Beckham to you don’t you know? And she’s now the very rich, very successful and still very famous fashion entrepreneur Victoria Beckham. Well done her, not really anything to do with pop any more, and so nothing to misunderstand. Right?

I disagree…

In the highest echelon of the global pop universe lies pop royalty. The likes of Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Madonna, etc. Whether you are a fan of all or indeed any of their work is not the question, nor is whether you have any interest in their latest activities. The critical factor is they have had so many hits that have genuinely entered the cultural canon. So many that unless you are an uber-fan you won’t actually remember all of them at first. That’s how many they have.

Plus, if you ever actually met them, you would know for a fact it was one of if, not the highlights of your life, and you would recount the story (suitably embellishing over time of course) endlessly.

Very few people ever make it to pop royalty, but hovering just below them, in the royal waiting room, are the potential pop royals. These are the stars who have had an incredible career and if they can keep it up for another decade or two will be firmly established in the uppermost tier. I’m thinking the likes of Beyoncé, Rihanna, Coldplay, Robbie Williams, Ed Sheeran, etc.

And then floating around them are a very rare breed indeed. The pop geniuses. Don’t mistake me, all of the above are pop geniuses - you don’t get to such rarefied heights without having a deep and complete understanding of how to navigate the treacherous waters of pop fame and success.

99.999999% of pop hopefuls will fail. To succeed takes superhuman skills, determination, timing and luck. The pop geniuses haven’t scaled the pop royalty heights, but they have been right at the heart of the pop universe for a long time and skilfully navigated its treacherous waters with brains and guile.

The archetypal pop genius for my money is Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys, but there’s also the likes of Mark Ronson, Dolly Parton and all the Scandinavian mega songwriters and producers who you could be sitting next to on the bus and you’d have no clue who they were. And the reason why Posh Spice is misunderstood is that she is clearly a member of this exclusive club and doesn’t receive anything like enough recognition for that fact.

Let’s dial back a bit to the Spice Girls. If you were there you’ll remember just how incredible the Spice Girls cultural dominance was. They were without any question the most successful UK music export since The Beatles. Their debut single Wannabe brokered no resistance. The Spice Girls and their anthem conquered the hearts and minds of young pop fans pretty much everywhere.

Victoria Beckham did not actually sing on Wannabe.

The Spice Girls are not pop royalty. Yet. But they definitely still have a shot because of how utterly huge they were in their prime. During their imperial phase, covering the first two albums Spice and Spiceworld, they were everywhere. And what was especially noteworthy about this period is what was for the most part missing. The negativity. The backlash.

By and large, for the first couple of years of their all conquering time, the world enjoyed having the Spice Girls around. They were fun, sassy, entertaining, different. And yes female which is both incredibly relevant and also not relevant at all. No female band had ever been so successful so widely and yet they weren’t just doing well in the context of female bands, they were wiping the floor with every other band and artist at that time, male or female. No one else came close.

Sadly then things began to wobble. But that’s not the issue here.

Victoria Adams, soon to be Posh Spice, was never the best singer or dancer in the Spice Girls. Perhaps not the highest of bars to clear but that is neither here nor there. The Spice Girls were a bona fide pop phenomenon, indeed an exemplar of the concept, for several years, and among them all it was Posh Spice who truly grabbed this rarest of all gifts and ran with it once the Spice power began to falter.

It hasn’t been plain sailing for Posh Spice the pop star. Alone among her band members she never got a solo number one despite several heroic efforts. There have been times when many felt that it was David that was doing the heavy lifting for keeping the Beckham brand alive, relevant and valuable but it doesn’t feel like that any more.

After being a member of one of the biggest musical acts ever Victoria Beckham leveraged her fame, connections and knowledge to build a highly successful new business in fashion, an industry like all creative ones that’s not exactly known for throwing its arms out to welcome newcomers. But she did it.

Ever since the Spice Girls burst onto scene only Victoria, Posh Spice, has remained very famous and rich, highly successful and still relevant. The number of people who have been a member of a global musical phenomenon is very small indeed. Out of those, the people who have subsequently gone on to become genuinely successful in another creative field is very very very small indeed. Many have tried of course, but lightning rarely strikes twice. Sorry Liam.

Victoria clearly doesn’t enjoy singing live in gigantic arenas any more, if she ever did, so she has the confidence and smarts to sit things out in this next chapter of the Spice Girls. She’s wishing them well, leaving the door open for if she ever does want to return, but in the meantime she continues to own a piece of Spice Girls Inc and will make money from the upcoming tour. The one she isn’t taking part in.

She’s a smart one that Victoria Beckham. Pop genius in fact.

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