Released: 13th March 2000
Writers: Andy Watkins / Geri Halliwell / Paul Wilson
Peak position: #1
Chart run: 1-4-8-19-28-27-26-39-45-68-71-x-x-71-55
By 2000, Geri Halliwell’s transition from Spice Girl to solo artist was near enough complete. And so, with the fourth and final single from her debut album, she promptly stuck two fingers up at her former bandmates and reclaimed “girl power”, whilst simultaneously dialing up the camp factor to an unparalleled extreme.
Geri had been quick to bring in Absolute to work on her debut album Schizophonic – the same team that helped co-produce Spice and Spiceworld. However, for the first few singles, Geri had largely avoided drawing direct parallels between her solo material and that of her former band. And whilst Bag It Up certainly has its own identity, it was her first that had definite hallmarks of the Spice Girls about it, sounding like an exuberantly pink evolution of Who Do You Think You Are and Never Give Up On The Good Times.
With its disco-pastiche production, Bag It Up explodes into life…and then immediately dials back on itself for the verses. You feel that’s out of necessity more than anything else; look, we love Geri Halliwell, but if her voice is her instrument then it’s long overdue a tune-up. And Absolute clearly knew this because they wisely opt for spoken – or should that be semi-seductively purred – verses. It sounds jarring against the initial flourish of production but means that Geri Halliwell never risks sounding out of depth on her own song – which you feel would be the case if the track had started with big verses (as you’d expect) and then tried to go bigger again for the chorus.
Lyrically, Bag It Up is themed around John Gray’s seminal book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus – which is actually so fitting as an inspiration for renowned self-help guru Geri Halliwell. The song is full of opposing relationship idiosyncrasies such as: “I like midnight, it’s when I’m in the mood, he likes the morning, that’s when he’s rude” and like so many other aspects of the track, the lyrics are an evolution of what came before – this is “girl power” that’s having sex and confidently asserting itself over the male species. Bag It Up sounds like it’s trying to rewrite the rule book – or in this case, the self-help book, with its pre-chorus refrain of: “All we need is a little respect, ‘cause men are from Venus and girls are from Mars”. Subtlety was never a trait that came naturally to our Geri.
What we can assuredly say about Bag It Up, nay, any Geri Halliwell song is that when she’s having fun, we’re having fun. Even the most stoic listener could not fail to be roused by the sheer ferocity of the vocals; they veer from the guttural “Tease him, please me, chase me, YEAH” to the joyous: “Who’s wearing the trousers now?” – the song might well have been autotuned a few times before it was released, but you still get a clear sense of the energy that Geri Halliwell brought to the studio that day.
If Bag It Up feels like a very pink song, then it’s largely due to the music video, which portrays the invention and manufacture of “Girl Powder” and adopts pink and purple as its primary visual pallet. We don’t want to criticise Geri’s management style or gender-reversed Playboy Bunny uniform policy, but it seems unlikely the factory would meet its manufacturing targets based on what we see here. Pink ears, small pants, and greasy six-packs look like a potential manual handling disaster that would see a workplace accident lawsuit before the first shipment of the product. All things considered, despite the sheer frivolity of it all, the video for Bag It Up was a notable moment for Geri Halliwell in terms of finalising her divorce from the Spice Girls. Because it’s here that you really sense her parting ways with the group and taking the “girl power” moniker with her.
And nowhere was that more evident than the 2000 Brit Awards, which forms a huge part of Bag It Up’s narrative. Geri’s performance alone was a headline-grabbing affair as she emerged from a giant pair of legs, danced around a pole and then tore around the stage shouting things like: “This is for all the ladies in the house!” (the only point at which her microphone was actually turned on, obviously). It was a performance full of bravado – a moment when one might almost concede that Geri Halliwell had the nous to be a dominating pop star in her own right. This was also the night that the Spice Girls were awarded their Lifetime Achievement award and accepted it as a quartet. We think it fair to say that by comparison, their appearance was more muted and a lot less fun. An acapella arrangement of Say You’ll Be There misses the point for us – and it didn’t help that visually, the group was a bit of a state, with Mel C in her short-haired rock phase and Victoria Beckham looking painfully thin. For both pop fans and Spice Girls fans, the Brit Awards was deeply troubling in that it essentially reaffirmed Geri Halliwell as the vibrant spirit of the group. The Spice Girls without her were now an altogether more serious affair.
Just a bad case of opposite sex
Have to look to the stars
All we need is a little respect
‘Cause men are from Venus and girls are from Mars
For all of its qualities as a pop song, Bag It Up was ultimately something of a self-limiting release for Geri Halliwell. Sure, the heterosexual male contingent of her fanbase was minuscule – but after this, it was going to be non-existent. It was utterly refreshing to see an act so unashamedly and unapologetically own her status as a gay icon, but one could argue that it was still quite early in the day for Geri to quite so actively pigeonhole herself.
Nonetheless, such worries could wait. Bag It Up debuted at #1 and helped Schizophonic rebound into the top ten for the first time in almost a year. What Geri would do next at this point was anybody’s guess, but there was no denying that she had concluded her debut album campaign in impeccable fashion.