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  It's a celebration, motivation, generation next.... 

Life in Spiceworld: An Exclusive Interview with the Fab Five

Geri Halliwell should be exhausted. For the past 18 hours she's been handling messages from the Spiceflacks (in Spiceworld, a reporter learns quickly, everything is an emergency, and queries get a strict Ginger rating: Vaclav Havel merits a 24-hour callback, Prince William's calls go right through, Nike CEO Phil Knight gets put off indefinitely); when not field-marshaling the PR front, Ginger Spice checks returns from the "Spiceworld" movie, explains the finer points of Girl Power to reporters and argues with accountants about the box office take from their latest live show -- a benefit for the National Rifle Association, one of the Spicers' little-known pet concerns stateside ("Your Second Amendment is all about empowerment," says Sporty Mel C.)

But Ginger Spice shows no signs of taking a breather. Maybe it's the diet of Baby Spice potato chips; more likely Ginger knows that as media, governments and irate crowds combine for a backlash against HMS Spice, she's got to be twice as good as her enemies.

And if Spiceworld, which functions as a de facto soundtrack to the girls' piece de cinema, is any indication, the Spicers are still winning. From the laid-back adagio of "Too Much," the album's first bona fide hit, to the challenging polyrhythms of "Saturday Night Divas," wherein the girls emerge as veritable Brides of Funkenstein, to the absolutely authentic, dirty Dixieland of "The Lady is a Vamp," the Girls accomplish the superhuman feat of holding on to their original brand, while encompassing all of pop music. With this album, the Girls look over the Spiceworld, and see that it is good.

But is there a limit to the possibilities of brand extension? Spiceworld begins, Sgt. Peppers-style, with the self-declaring "Spice Up Your Life," and concludes with another recitation of the band members' nicknames and characters (the same technique employed in the Spicers' signature hit, "Wannabe"). In between, there is the call to arms "Move Over" ("Generation next, generation next," the girls sing, "Ah, generation next."), a line in the sand for the '90s girlwoman.

"Why shouldn't we be hitting the Spice brand again and again?" protests the ever dour Posh, when this reporter brings up the point. "The brand is all. The Brand is You. I read about it in that business magazine, you know, Fast Company."

"It's not like we're the first to establish our own identities in signature songs," chimes in Baby Emma. "The Monkees did the same fucking thing, you know? (singing) 'Hey hey, We're the Monkees.' It's establishing who you are, reinventing yourself, crafting your own identity. Band -- brand ... what's the difference?"

"Look," says Sporty, "A six-year-old girl last year fought off a kidnapper by imitating one of my kicks. That's what we're talking about when we talk about Girl Power. She's unlearning the lessons of being a polite little girl in a white dress. She's thinking for herself, you know? It's the whole learning/unlearning thing -- Lacan's principles put into practice. If a bunch of 30-year-olds want to try and make a joke out of us, if Letterman uses our names for punchlines, if bloody Time magazine has a death-watch out on us, that's all the better. They're ganging up on us because our message is threatening to the establishment. Our music isn't about being an old fogey. These shriveled-up former rockers, what's the point of them? Our music is just like it says, 'Generation Next.' You know, for kids."

Sensing that the rhetoric is getting too revolutionary, it's Scary Spice, of all people, who seeks to put me at ease. "We're really deep people with a lot of pain to express," she says. "Spiceworld is where we really get a chance to be introspective. I remember when that line came to me, in the middle of the night, when I was feeling sad: 'Never give up on the good times/ Livin' it up is a state of mind.' It's scary for me to push the envelope lyrically like that, but I needed to do it. And I knew I was speaking for a lot of people, and their pain. Like Alexander Pope said: 'What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed.' "

As for the persistent rumors of trouble in Spiceland, the girls assured me all was well -- though they don't count out the possibility of doing five solo albums, Kiss-style, to establish their extraspicular selves. "There are a lot of possibilities," Emma Lee Bunton blurts out, "but if you think we're not getting along, just check out the Spiceworld film." (Word from across the pond is that it's pretty radical stuff -- some scenes will feature the girls whooping it up in manic style, while stodgy authority figures stand around looking befuddled).

And we will see when the film makes its U.S. debut later this month. Whatever happens, it's already clear that reports of "disappointing sales" of the Spiceworld album were just wishful thinking on the part of those shriveled-up former rockers. As we begin year two of the age of Generation Next, we've all become subjects of Spice.

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