Stannard and Rowe began writing with the group in January 1995, and the first song they wrote was called Feed Your Love, a slow, soulful song which was eventually recorded and mastered for the Spice album – but not used because it was considered "too rude" for their target audience. Having completed that one, the girls wanted to write something a bit more uptempo.
Geri wrote in the group's first official book Girl Power! that Melanie Brown and Emma Bunton came up with the song's chorus, and was in that moment that they realised they had something good. They also came up with "chanting, rapping and singing" which they "sewed it together".After working for a week only half was finished by Friday night, so the group and the producers decided to continue during the weekend. Victoria Beckham traveled that weekend to Torquay to attend the wedding of a friend of her then boyfriend Mark Wood and missed most of the writing session. She communicated with the other girls with a mobile phone she and Geri Halliwell recently bought.
The song was finished and by the time they were going to record it, every solo part was already divided between the four girls. Beckham only participates during the chorus of the song.
While other tracks on the album each required two or three weeks of studio time, the group was able to record Wannabe in under an hour as Mel B describes as a "sudden creative frenzy" – mainly because they had already written parts of the song beforehand.
For Stannard the rhythm brought to mind the spirit of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John performing You're the One That I Want in Grease. Then the girls added their own contributions into the mix, as Rowe remembers:
"They made all these different bits up, not thinking in terms of verse, chorus, bridge or what was going to go where, just coming up with all these sections of chanting, rapping and singing, which we recorded all higgledy-piggledy. And then we just sewed it together. It was rather like the way we'd been working on the dance remixes we'd been doing before. Kind of a cut-and-paste method."
During the session, Mel B and Emma Bunton came up with the idea of making a rap during the bridge, at this point the group got very motivated and adapted the word "zigazig-ha" into the song. Melanie Chisholm talked about it with Billboard magazine:
"You know when you're in a gang and you're having a laugh and you make up silly words? Well we were having a giggle and we made up this silly word, zigazig-ha. And we were in the studio and it all came together in this song."
Recording and productionEdit
While most of the other songs on the album required two or three days of studio time, Wannabe was recorded in under an hour. The song was finished and by the time they were going to record it, every solo part was already divided between Brown, Bunton, Chisholm and Halliwell. Beckham—who missed most of the session—only did a few backing vocals and sings during the chorus. Rowe stayed up all night working on the song, and Stannard found him the next morning in a sleeping bag on the vocal booth floor. A post-it note was on the deck saying "Press Play", Stannard turn up the volume and Rowe woke up to the sound of the opening bars of the song. The original mix of "Wannabe" was considered lacklustre by Virgin's executives. Ashley Newton, who was in charge of A&R, sent the song to American producer Dave Way to mix it; the sound was not what the group had hoped to achieve, as Halliwell later described it, "the result was bloody awful". She further elaborated about this in her second autobiography, Just for the Record:
"Right at the beginning of the Spice Girls, [...] Ashley Newton, had tried to turn us into an R&B group. He sent "Wannabe" over to America to be remixed by some hot R&B producers. He brought us jungle versions and hip-hop mixes and I hated them all. Altought Mel B was a big fan of R&B, she agreed with me that these versions just didn't work so we exercised our Spice veto!".
Eventually Simon Fuller—the group's manager—gave the song to audio engineer Mark "Spike" Stent, who thought that it was a "weird pop record". Stent remixed it in six hours, in what he described as "tightening it up" and "getting the vocals sounding really good".
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