If Spice Girls history tells us anything, the just-announced Spice Girls - GEM splinter group is a risk. Remember when Geri Halliwell ducked out at the top of the group's success in 1998? The remaining four members did their best continue on Spice Girls brand, but their third (and would-be final) album Forever had a lukewarm response all around and eventually led to their indefinite hiatus.
Today, Geri, Emma Bunton and Mel B announced they were reforming as Spice Girls - GEM in celebration of the group's 20th anniversary—leaving out members Victoria Beckham and Melanie Chisholm who have given tepid responses to reunion questions. Some fans are jumping for joy, but others are thinking this could tarnish their legacy. There is a way this could work out for everyone, but we may have to look East for the answer.
As much as they tried without Geri, Spice Girls didn't feel complete without their Ginger Spice. A major reason why their 2008 reunion tour was such a success was due everyone going full on Spice—Victoria even dyed her hair back to a very Posh brunette. GEM garners some major concerns when it comes to continuing the Spice Girls' legacy, but that might not have to be a concern at all. What if GEM is an entirely separate chapter in the Spice Girls legacy?
In the K-pop industry—one that is currently wholly reminiscent of the late '90s/early '00s early that the Spice Girls led—groups are commonly broken into splinter groups (known by fans as "sub-units") to help spotlight more members or showcase different musical or performance inclinations.
Let's get into some examples. K-pop phenoms Girls' Generation have a splinter group titled Girls' Generation - TTS that brings together three of the group's top vocalists (Taeyeon, Tiffany and Seohyun, or TTS) for funk-pop tracks that showcase more vocals than a usual track by their full, nine-member lineup. Another Korean girl group, After School, is known for their commanding stage performances, but their quirky-cutesy Orange Caramel sub-unit is a 180 from their drumline-and-pole-dancing-inspired stages.
Meanwhile, BIGBANG's G-Dragon and TOP created GD&TOP for quirky hip-hop bangers, Sistar19 gave a more youthful take on Sistar's pop gems, INFINITE have INFINITE-H to let their two rappers dive deep into old-school rap, and the list goes to countless other girl groups and boy bands. But the most successful ones find a way to show a new side of the group they originated from and aren't just another iteration of the same group with the members that are free to record some new songs.
GEM could do the same. Instead of focusing on themselves as a
n embarassing tribute act, Geri, Emma and Mel could rework the Spice Girls discography with an R&B-soul tinge, opting for smaller, more intimate acoustic shows that emphasize the group's under-appreciated harmonies. Or maybe they could go full-on EDM with us and remix the group's hits into massive, arena-sized bangers. The girls did say, they "wanna celebrate and have a party" in their introduction video. Throw in a new song or two to show that, hey, they are still musicians, and you got a successful sub-unit.
Of course they can perform some of the hits in all their '90s shimmer—let's be honest "Wannabe" was all about Scary and Ginger anyway—but there needs to be a fresh element to keep this as exciting and respectable for everyone involved. Getting three Spices to celebrate the five-member group's birthday doesn't feel like much of a celebration. Doing it with a fresh element under a whole new guise could create a new era of girl-power excitement and keep the Spice Girls and their fans happy until everyone's ready for the next go-around.