Spice world

‘Record Redux: Spice Girls’ challenges pop stigma

By Joey Ferber

Photo: Author Quentin Harrison hails from Dayton; photo: Michael McAllister

Quentin Harrison grew up spending his days in Dayton record shops. When he wasn’t at work or in school, he was frequenting Second Time Around or Gem City Records (the site of what is now Omega Records). Harrison’s encyclopedic passion for music brought him to Atlanta, where he currently works as a professional writer. As of July, Harrison published the first of a 14-book series, entitled “Record Redux,” described by the author himself as a “a discography reference guide series that attempts to streamline [and] study the various catalogs of women musicians and singers who lack critical discussion or are misunderstood to the public at large.”

Harrison chronologically documents music releases, taking readers through the intricate development of successful pop music careers. The depth of his research brings the cultural setting of the music he writes about from the past into the present, so readers who may be generationally removed can gain insight into the social context of different pop culture eras. Harrison scrapes the veneer of pop-stardom, unsatisfied with the general glaze that mainstream culture paints over the genre for the sake of easy listening. This opening book to “Record Redux” demonstrates Harrison’s ability to be simultaneously “approachable and intellectual,” a quality he advocates for in writing and music. Harrison advocates for acknowledging the importance of learning the nuances of a pop artist before acting on the tendency to “put pop in a box.” Welcome to the colorful, insightful documentation of female empowerment; welcome to Quentin Harrison’s “Record Redux: Spice Girls.”

“I started with the Spice Girls because they were the first act to inspire me to study music,” Harrison says. “Additionally, with it being the 20th anniversary of their debut single (“Wannabe”) and album (Spice) in the United Kingdom, it felt timely; further, they’ve lacked a definitive study of their music.”

The cover of “Record Redux: Spice Girls” displays five animated Spice Girls, each garbed in a unique outfit. The lack of conformity relates to how Harrison discusses the groundbreaking achievement of the Spice Girls as musicians and celebrities, as iconic in their autonomy. Harrison details their unique ability to maintain creative control in the industry:

“They were incredibly focused on their craft as singers and songwriters, but weren’t afraid to wield the marketing medium in regard to promotion. They were always assured of themselves when it came to how they wanted their music to sound and how they wanted to come across to audiences. That ability to simply be themselves is what has fueled them collectively and individually over the course of their music and post-music careers.”

For Harrison, the Spice Girls embody the message that it’s OK to be oneself, describing the band’s music as “authentic.” He also clearly notes that not all listeners misunderstand the group’s impact: “Their message of independence and empowerment through their music still resonates today; you see it reflected in singers such as Adele, an outspoken fan of theirs. That someone like me is writing about their music 20 years removed from their genesis is proof of the reach of their sound and that there’s something there to be rediscovered.”

But how could a group remain authentic while experiencing such fame? Harrison simply assures, “As long as you are true to yourself, the audience will come.”

The book’s form and design frame the content, with the opening pages depicting a how to guide, explaining the book’s format and the best way for readers to navigate the hundreds of images of album art and music descriptions. Harrison’s writing is sharp; he iterates factual information about the music while offering concise, insightful synopses as context to individual tracks and sonic descriptions for the new-to-Spice readers. Toward the conclusion, readers will benefit from the timeline that depicts a general, consolidated look at the information of the initial 80-plus pages.

Harrison’s lifelong pursuit of knowledge is evident in this debut. “Record Redux: Spice Girls” is a visual and intellectual study of cultural force that will capture a range of readers from devoted Spice fans to enthused cultural critics. Harrison’s studies of the Spice girls began in adolescence and he credits their music with helping inspire the diligence in his work and maturity in his musical ear.

“Musically speaking, their own music set a standard for me when it came to listening establishing healthy listening habits. They drew on jazz, disco, R&B, dance, rock, and more, and that exposure encouraged me to move onward to other musical avenues to explore. Pop music is not supposed to do that, according to many, but I can state that the reason I listen to someone like David Bowie today is because of the musical education foundation the Spice Girls laid for me.

Harrison’s writing is motivated by “the idea of helping people grow, to help them see and listen to life in a bigger way than they might have previously [in order to] challenge people in a constructive way.” Come December, Harrison’s first professional writing publication will hit its 10-year anniversary. Fittingly, he covered the Spice Girls, as a freelancer for Dayton City Paper.

‘Record Redux: Spice Girls’ can be purchased as a physical copy on Amazon and digitally at QuentinHarrison.Selz.com. To reach Quentin Harrison or for more information, please find Harrison on Twitter at @TheQHBlend or submit questions to RecordReduxBooks@outlook.com.

Joey Ferber works out of St. Louis and Dayton as a musician and writer. You can hear him on electric guitar with St. Louis jazz-rap collective LOOPRAT at Looprat.Bandcamp.com and on his original theme song for the Dayton-based podcast series Unwritten at UnwrittenPodcast.com, for which he also contributed to as a scriptwriter. Reach him at
JoeyFerber@DaytonCityPaper.com. 

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Joey Ferber works out of St. Louis and Dayton as a musician and writer. You can hear him on electric guitar with St. Louis jazz-rap collective LOOPRAT at Looprat.Bandcamp.com and on his original theme song for the Dayton-based podcast series Unwritten at UnwrittenPodcast.com, for which he also contributed to as a scriptwriter. Reach him at JoeyFerber@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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