Undoubtedly one of the most successful pop acts of the 1990s, the Spice Girls burst onto the music scene in July 1996. An all-girl group originally formed in 1993 as the result of an advertisement in The Stage1, their first single 'Wannabe' reached number one in 31 countries and topped the chart in the United Kingdom for seven weeks. A succession of hit singles followed, including three consecutive Christmas number ones, and two albums - Spice and Spice World - which were among the best-selling records of the decade. On Boxing Day 1997 the Girls even released a film, Spice World, directed by British comedy veteran Bob Spiers.
The group originally consisted of five members: Victoria Adams (Posh Spice), Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice), Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice), Emma Bunton (Baby Spice) and Melanie Brown (Scary Spice). In 1998 they embarked on a world tour, but during the European leg Geri Halliwell decided to leave the band. Six months earlier the Spice Girls had split with their manager Simon Fuller, amidst much negative publicity. Nonetheless, the group were determined to continue as a quartet and they completed their tour in the autumn with a sell-out concert at Wembley Stadium. By this time, two of the singers, Victoria and Mel B, had fallen pregnant. They were both in stable relationships at the time and each married their respective partner, though Mel B divorced her husband eighteen months later. The marriage between Victoria Adams and world famous footballer David Beckham is more enduring.
Around this time, the Spice Girls began to establish themselves as solo artists, with Mel C, Mel B and former band member Geri Halliwell all topping the UK charts. In April 2000, the four remaining band members came together to record their third album.
At the height of their success in late 1996 and early '97 there was scarcely a magazine or newspaper that did not feature one or all of the Spice Girls on the cover. The band wrote books, launched television channels, promoted polaroid cameras, deodorant and soft drinks, discussed politics and feminism in respectable journals (though their slogan 'Girl Power' was later much derided) and were heroes to an entire generation of pre-pubescent children. Inevitably, their popularity waned over time, and the media became increasingly critical, but for many people the Spice Girls remain the epitome of good popular entertainment.