Anna Straker, Wannabe and the timeless magic of the Spice Girls

George Griffiths /
Feb 12, 2018 / Music

Ever since their formation in 1994, the Spice Girls have become legendary in every corner of the globe and forged a legacy that no other girl bands could ever hope hold a hairbrush too.

Truly redefining not only the genre of pop but the music industry itself, they arguably coined the phrase ‘girl power’ and it was not only the U.K but the entire globe that caught Spice Fever™.

Whilst you’ll be hard pressed to last a night in a karaoke bar without hearing at least one cover of Wannabe, Who Do You Think You Are or Spice Up Your Life, a professional artist taking on a track has always been a precarious move, in the studio or for satire alike.

A lot of power can be held, or lost, in a Spice Girls record.

While sometimes questionable and bordering on cardinal sin, such as the soap opera-style dramatic reading by Posh’s BFF Eva Longoria, there does exist a rare handful of daring and applaudable pure talent…

Think Say You’ll Be There covers and in particular moments from rising stars Anne-Marie and MØ, for example. And while Anne-Marie’s interpretation would fit right in cradling your eighth WKD in the R’n’B Room on a Saturday night, Danish native MØ’s dreamy and mysterious take excels in glamour, and is more suited for uptown Cocktail bars; whilst both providing solid evidence that Spice Girls songs are both timeless and can be channeled by new artists to prove rights to their own fame and fortune, they lack that extra drop of originality which is essential for any cover, let alone one sung collectively by four of the world-and-Mel-C’s famous british women.

2017 marked the 20 year anniversary since the iconic girl group’s first ever U.S. number one with Wannabe and finally the stars aligned; it seemed time for a worthy tribute to one of music’s most fun, intensely enjoyable and played-at-Popworld’s songs… the original, the debut, the start of it all.

Enter Anna Straker.

The 20 year-old Londoner is a little bit Allie X with a pinch of Charli XCX, bursting into sight in 2016 with single Late Night Swimming which is at once eerily-charming, sultry and retro. The Serious EP soon followed, establishing Anna as a get-what-she-wants, self-assured female (very fitting to the ‘Girl Power™’ mantra).

She has a habit of self-writing, producing and writing her work which makes her debut deserving of even more acclaim. Title-track Serious oozes discontent and warns of a woman not to be messed with, while Desert Floor takes us on a trip and stand-out How We Are is a party starter that’s as ballsy artistically as is it infectiously likeable.

There seems no better suitor then, to attempt the unthinkable and create a cover of Wannabe that is truly worth the title of best Spice Girls cover ever; This is the song, remember, that has since spawned a dynasty, responsible for the addition of the Union Jack as wardrobe staple, footage of Victoria Beckham driving a double-decker bus in heels (‘Sunday drivers!’) and Tesco’s sequel to Spice World: The Movie in the form of that Christmas advert. ‘Hold on to your knickers, girls!’, because she’s smashed it.

You’ll want to turn your volume up a little higher to get the full effect at first; dropped online in December 2017, the song’s is designed to dramatically rise throughout towards a euphoric crescendo that will literally send shivers through your skeleton… if you’re a crier, then expect tears.

A pensive and otherworldly triumph, Anna’s aptly titled ‘rework’ is so fresh and new that if you heard it while browsing in Urban Outfitters or catching up in Pret you wouldn’t liken it to the original in the slightest; that is, if the lyrics weren’t already engrained into your brain joining the likes of similarly groundbreaking debuts Just Dance and I Kissed A Girl (which were both coincidentally released in April 2008… how’s that for a month to remember?).

The enigmatic and understated beat adds an undeniably seductive synchronised swimming routine of harmonies, allowing Straker’s vocals to glide heavenly through the track while creating waves of emotion that ripple from ear-to-ear and tenderly lap at your heart with the echoey end of each line.

By the second chorus of the first listen you’re already stopping the tap, turning the speakers up and moving the coffee table to the wall… although for the best experience, get Alexa to throw it on in the bedroom one evening; trust me. Wannabe (Rework) fits right in the mature, elegant tone of similar comeback groups (All Saints’ One Strike and M.K.S’ ill-fated, but impressive attempt Flatline come to mind) and would be the kind of retouch the original five-some would record today if they were to try it themselves; it truly is a sublime, commendable effort, with tens across the board.

What could have been a catastrophic faux pas has perhaps become the pedestal on which Straker can establish a well-deserved career, no longer in the shadows providing backing vocals for Years & Years but in the pink-hued spotlight, centre stage and camera-ready.

She truly has claimed the track as her own and cemented her place in music history already, before even whisper of an inevitable debut album. Only Leighton Meester’s Your Love’s A Drug comes close (and falls short…just) to being so deserved of the title. Eva Longoria, eat your heart out.

Keep Strakers’ name on a post-it, you’ll be hearing it a lot more in days to come.

Words by George Griffiths

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