Mama (Spice Girls song)

Mama (Spice Girls song)
Single by Spice Girls
from the album Spice
A-side "Who Do You Think You Are"
B-side "Baby Come Round"
Released 3 March 1997
Format 12", cassette, CD single
Recorded 1995
Genre Pop
Length 5:03 (Album version)
3:40 (Radio version)
Label Virgin
Writer(s) Matt Rowe, Richard Stannard, Spice Girls
Producer Matt Rowe, Richard Stannard
Spice Girls singles chronology
"2 Become 1"
"Mama"/"Who Do You Think You Are"
"Spice Up Your Life"

"Mama" is a song by British pop group Spice Girls. It was written by the Spice Girls, Matt Rowe and Richard Stannard, and produced by Rowe and Stannard for the group's debut album Spice, released in November 1996. "Mama" is a pop ballad, that features instrumentation from keyboards, a rhythm guitar, a cello, and a violin, and its lyrics deals with the difficulties in the relationships between mothers and teenagers that appears during the adolescence.

The song and its double A-side, "Who Do You Think You Are", became the official single of the 1997 Comic Relief. Its Big TV! directed music video, featured the group singing to an audience of children and their own mothers. Despite receiving mixed reviews from music critics, "Mama" was commercially successful. Released as the album's fourth single in March 1997, it became their fourth consecutive number-one single in the United Kingdom, which made the Spice Girls the first act in UK chart history to have its first four singles reach number one. It was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). The single performed well internationally, reaching the top ten in many European countries and New Zealand, and the top fifteen in Australia.


Writing and inspiration

"Mama" was written by the Spice Girls with songwriting partners Matt Rowe and Richard Stannard. In an interview about the writing process between the group and the duo, Rowe credits Melanie Brown as the one who came up with the song's concept.[1][2] During the writing process, each member wrote a small verse in a different corner of the recording studio, while the chorus was finished around the piano with a guitar. Then, the producers added a gospel choir filled with the group's harmonies at the end of the song.[3] Brown explained the song's inspiration on the book Real Life: Real Spice The Official Story:[4]

We wrote 'Mama' when I was going through a bad phase with my mum. The sentiments are really that your mum's probably the best friend that you've got. Whether she's an over-protective mother or a bit of a landmine, she probably knows you better than yourself in some ways.

In the same book, Melanie Chisholm further elaborated: "'Mama's all about how you're such a cow to your mum when you're going through that rebellious teenage stage. Then when you get a bit older, you realise that whatever she was doing, she was only doing it for your own good. And you think: 'God, I was really horrible.'"[4] "Mama" was released in the UK and Ireland as a double A-side along with "Who Do You Think You Are" in March 1997, timed not only for the Comic Relief telethon, but also for Mothering Sunday.[2]


"Mama" is a pop ballad, written in the key of F minor, it is set in the time signature of common time and moves at a moderate tempo of 100 beats per minute.[5] The song is constructed in a verse-chorus form, with a bridge before the third chorus,[5] and its instrumentation comes from keyboards, a rhythm guitar, a cello, and a violin.[6]

It opens with an instrumental introduction, with a chord progression of D–E–Fm–E/G–A, that is used in the entire song.[5] Bunton and Brown sing the first and second verse respectively. The bridge and third chorus follow. Then a choir, arranged by Mark Beswick,[6] supplements the group during the last part of the song.[2] "Mama" ends with the group repeating the chorus until the song gradually fades out.[5] Lyrically, the song deals with the difficulties in the relationships between mothers and teenagers that appears during the adolescence, and it was dedicated to the group's mothers.[7]


Critical response

"Mama" received mixed reviews from music critics. The Daily Mirror criticized the song saying "Yuk! We don't want our Spice Girls sweet, ta very much. They should concentrate on the raunch and let Daniel O'Donnell take care of the mums."[8] Dev Sherlock of Yahoo! Music Radio called it a "glossy ballad that would do Mariah Carey proud".[9] Edna Gundersen of the USA Today said that their album Spice "is assembly-line dance-pop", adding that "only the funky 'Say You'll Be There' and touchingly cornball 'Mama' hint at depth".[10]

In a review of their album Spice, Ken Tucker from Entertainment Weekly called it "a fearlessly corny ballad", and added that it "will likely keep them from being one-hit wonders in America".[11] Melissa Ruggieri of the Richmond Times-Dispatch said that in the song, the girls "are sunny vocalists who harmonize with perfumey sweetness when called upon".[12] Daniel Incognito of Sputnikmusic said that in "Mama" the group "sing with heartfelt emotion", and added that "their somewhat amateurish singing is brought up and pushed along by the production crew, harmonising nicely into a stirring pop hook".[13]

Chart performance

The group performing "Mama" at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada, during the Return of the Spice Girls tour, with the backdrop screens showing a picture of their mothers.

"Mama" was released in the UK as a double A-side single with "Who Do You Think You Are" on 3 March 1997.[14] It debuted on the UK Singles Chart at number one,[15] becoming the group's fourth consecutive chart-topper.[16] This achievement made the Spice Girls the first act in UK chart history to have its first four singles reach number one, breaking the record set by Gerry & The Pacemakers, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers, and Robson & Jerome with three number ones each.[17] It spend three weeks at number one, nine weeks in the top forty, fifteen weeks in the top seventy-five,[15] and sold 672,577 copies,[18] earning a platinum certification by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).[19]

"Mama" was commercially successful in Europe. It peaked at number three on the Eurochart Hot 100,[20] and performed similarly in other European charts. It became the group's third number-one single in Ireland,[20] and peaked inside the top ten in Belgium (both the Flemish and French charts), Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland.[21][22][23] "Mama" was released as a standalone single in Austria, Finland, and Italy. In Austria, it was released on 23 March 1997, debuting on the Ö3 Austria Top 40 at number thirty-one. It peaked at number one in its ninth week, and remained fifteen weeks on the chart.[24]

In Oceania, its commercial performance was generally positive, though not as overwhelming as their three first singles. In New Zealand, it debuted on 23 March 1997 at number ten, while their three first singles were slowly descending from the chart. It peaked at number six and stayed fifteen weeks on the chart.[25] In Australia, it did not perform as well as their previous releases. On 27 July 1997, it debuted on the singles chart at number thirteen, but was unable to reach a higher position and dropped off the chart after fourteen weeks.[26]

Music video

The group in a studio singing "Mama" to an audience of children.

The music video for "Mama" was directed in February 1997 by Big TV!, and filmed in a studio in Ealing, London.[7] It features the group singing to an audience of children and their own mothers. The video alternated between this scenes and shoots of actors playing young versions of the Spice Girls doing various things all together, such as playing and practicing singing and dancing, though none of the group's members grew up together.[27] It also shows each mother of the girls holding a picture of their daughter.

About the shoot, Victoria Beckham commented: "It took such a long time to film the 'Mama' video, but it was nice that our mums were there and could see what we're doing. It's good, because they were actually knackered at the end of the day and I said to my mum: 'Ha! Now you know how I feel every day!" [7] Geri Halliwell commented: "I found it a bit bizarre bringing my mum to work with me on the 'Mama' video. You know: 'This is what I do—come and do it, too.' If you worked in Sainsbury's, you wouldn't get your mum to sit with you on the till".[4]

Live performances

The Spice Girls holding hands, about to perform the song at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, during the Return of the Spice Girls tour.

The song was performed many times on television, including An Audience with..., Live & Kicking, Top of the Pops, the 1997 Prince's Trust Gala, and the 1997 Comic Relief.[18][28][29][30] In October 1997, the group performed it as the thirteenth song of their first live concert at the Abdi İpekçi Arena in Istanbul, Turkey. The performance was broadcast on Showtime in a pay-per-view event titled Spice Girls In Concert Wild!.[31] However, the VHS and DVD release of the concert, Girl Power! Live in Istanbul, does not include the performance.[32] The song was also used during the climax of their 1997 film, Spice World.[33] In the scene, the group performs "Mama" at London's Royal Albert Hall, surrounded by the media and thousands of fans. The scene was included as a bonus performance in the VHS and DVD release of the movie.[34]

The group have performed the song on their three tours, the Spiceworld Tour, the Christmas In Spiceworld Tour, and the Return of the Spice Girls.[35][36][37][38] It remained in the group's live set after Halliwell's departure at the end of the European leg of the Spiceworld Tour. The performance at the tour's final concert can be found on the video: Spice Girls Live at Wembley Stadium, filmed in London, on 20 September 1998.[39] During the Return of the Spice Girls tour, "Mama" was performed as the second song from the show's fifth segment. All five girls stood together holding hands to performed it, while the LED screens in the background showed photos of their mothers holding baby pictures of the group, and a montage of them and their children.[40][41] For the British shows, fifty young girls from the Capital Children's Choir dressed in white came out from a platform and lined the stage against the backdrop screens to sing with the Spice Girls.[42] During some of the shows, the group brought their children onstage.[43]

Formats and track listings

These are the formats and track listings of major single releases of "Mama":

  • UK CD1/Australian CD1/European CD1/Japanese CD
  1. "Mama" (Radio version) – 3:40
  2. "Who Do You Think You Are" (Radio version) – 3:44
  3. "Baby Come Round" – 3:22
  4. "Mama" (Biffco mix) – 5:49
  • German CD
  1. "Mama" (Radio version) – 3:40
  2. "Mama" (Album version) – 5:03
  3. "Who Do You Think You Are" (Radio version) – 3:44

Credits and personnel

Published by Windswept Pacific Music Ltd/PolyGram Music Publishing Ltd.[44]

Charts and certifications

Chart positions

Chart (1997) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[26] 13
Austrian Singles Chart[24] 1
Belgian Ultratop 50 (Flanders)[21] 10
Belgian Ultratop 40 (Wallonia)[45] 7
Dutch Top 40[23] 2
European Hot 100 Singles[20] 3
Finnish Singles Chart[46] 15
German Singles Chart[22] 4
Irish Singles Chart[20] 1
Italian Singles Chart[20] 12
New Zealand Singles Chart[25] 6
Norwegian Singles Chart[47] 12
Swedish Singles Chart[48] 5
Swiss Singles Chart[49] 6
UK Singles Chart[16] 1


Country Provider Certification
Belgium IFPI Gold[50]
Germany BVMI Gold[51]
Netherlands NVPI Gold[52]
Sweden GLF Gold[53]
United Kingdom BPI Platinum[19]
Preceded by
"Don't Speak" by No Doubt
UK Singles Chart number-one single
9 March 1997 – 23 March 1997
Succeeded by
"Block Rockin' Beats" by The Chemical Brothers
Irish Singles Chart number-one single
15 March 1997 – 5 April 1997
Succeeded by
"Encore Une Fois" by Sash! featuring Sabine Ohmes
Preceded by
"Blond" by Rainhard Fendrich
Ö3 Austria Top 40 number-one single
18 May 1997
Succeeded by
"Blond" by Rainhard Fendrich


  1. ^ Sinclair, 2004. p. 52.
  2. ^ a b c Kutner, Leigh, 2005. pp. 361–362.
  3. ^ Canfield, Hansen, Geffen, Dozier, 2009. p. 24.
  4. ^ a b c Cripps, Peachey, Spice Girls, 1997. p. 99.
  5. ^ a b c d Spice Girls, 2008. pp. 9–13.
  6. ^ a b (1996) Album notes for Spice by Spice Girls, p. 6 [CD booklet]. London: Virgin Records (CDV2812).
  7. ^ a b c Spice Girls, 1997a. pp. 42–43.
  8. ^ "See the Spice Girls Live in Scotland!; Ticket Contest". Daily Mirror (Trinity Mirror). 2 March 1997. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  9. ^ Sherlock, Dev (4 February 1997). "Album Review > Spice". Yahoo! Music Radio. Yahoo!. Retrieved 24 July 2010. 
  10. ^ Gundersen, Edna (4 March 1997). "'Lost Highway' a find; Spice Girls add little to pop mixture". USA Today (Gannett Company).'Lost+Highway'+a+find%3B+Spice+Girls+add+little+to+pop+mixture&pqatl=google. Retrieved 25 July 2010. 
  11. ^ Tucker, Ken (26 September 1997). "Music Review: Spice (1997)". Entertainment Weekly (Time Warner).,,289571,00.html. Retrieved 26 July 2010. 
  12. ^ Ruggieri, Melissa (6 February 1997). "Spice Girls' Album is Surprisingly Bland". Richmond Times-Dispatch (Tribune Company).'+ALBUM+IS+SURPRISINGLY+BLAND&pqatl=google. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  13. ^ Incognito, Daniel (5 October 2006). "Spice Girls: Spice". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  14. ^ Sinclair, 2004. p. 298.
  15. ^ a b "Chart Stats – Spice Girls – Mama/Who Do You Think You Are". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  16. ^ a b "All The No.1 Singles: Spice Girls – Mama/Who Do You Think You Are". The Official UK Charts Company. 15 March 1997. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  17. ^ McGibbon, 1997. p. 128.
  18. ^ a b "Red Nose Day – 1997 Small change, big difference". Comic Relief. 3 March 1997. Retrieved 1 August 2010. 
  19. ^ a b "Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. 1 March 1997. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  20. ^ a b c d e "Hits of the World: Eurochart Hot 100 (Music & Media) 03/27/97". Billboard (Nielsen Business Media) 109 (14): 49. 5 April 1997. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  21. ^ a b "Spice Girls – Who Do You Think You Are/Mama (Nummer)" (in Dutch). Ultratop. 17 May 1997. Retrieved 9 September 2009. 
  22. ^ a b "Chartverfolgung: Spice Girls – Mama" (in German). Media Control Charts. 19 May 1997. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  23. ^ a b "De Nederlandse Top 40" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Radio 538. 1997 – week 14. Retrieved 9 September 2009. 
  24. ^ a b "Spice Girls – Mama (Nummer)" (in German). Hung Medien. Ö3 Austria Top 40. 17 May 1997. Retrieved 9 September 2009. 
  25. ^ a b "Spice Girls – Who Do You Think You Are/Mama (Song)". Hung Medien. Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. 6 April 1997. Retrieved 9 September 2009. 
  26. ^ a b "Spice Girls – Who Do You Think You Are/Mama (Song)". Hung Medien. Australian Recording Industry Association. 27 July 1997. Retrieved 9 September 2009. 
  27. ^ Spice Girls, 1997a. pp. 8–9.
  28. ^ De Ribera Berenguer, 1997. p. 38.
  29. ^ Wright, Matthew (10 November 1997). "We're Spice Boys!; Fab Five make celebrity Wannabes stars of their TV show". The Mirror (Trinity Mirror). Retrieved 31 July 2010. 
  30. ^ Mulchrone, Patrick (9 May 1997). "Spice Babes". The Mirror (Trinity Mirror). Retrieved 26 July 2010. 
  31. ^ "Spice Girls Go Pay-Per-View". MTV (MTV Networks). 3 December 1997. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  32. ^ Spice Girls (1998). Girl Power! Live in Istanbul (VHS). Virgin Records. 
  33. ^ Spice Girls, 1997b. p. 64.
  34. ^ Spice Girls (1998). Spice World (VHS). Columbia Pictures. Retrieved 6 August 2010. 
  35. ^ "See the Spice Girls Live in Scotland!; Ticket Contest". Daily Record (Trinity Mirror). 19 March 1998. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  36. ^ Graham, Brad L. (4 August 1998). "Spice Girls Show Mixes Glitz and Fun". St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Lee Enterprises). Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  37. ^ Horan, Tom (6 December 1999). "The Spice Girls wrap up Christmas". The Daily Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  38. ^ "Set List; The Return of the Spice Girls". Sunday Mirror (Trinity Mirror). 16 December 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  39. ^ Spice Girls (1998). Spice Girls Live at Wembley Stadium (VHS). Virgin Records. 
  40. ^ Derdeyn, Stuart (2 December 2007). "The Spice Girls are back!". The Mirror (Trinity Mirror). Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  41. ^ Hudson, Polly (4 December 2007). "Spice Girls kick off world tour in Vancouver – fans get what they really, really want". National Post (Postmedia Network Inc). Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  42. ^ Bray, Elisa (17 December 2007). "Girl Power back to give fans what they really really want". The Independent (Independent Print Limited). Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  43. ^ "Spice Kids: It's a family affair as Posh and co bring their children on stage". Daily Mail (Daily Mail and General Trust). 26 December 2007. Retrieved 5 August 2010. 
  44. ^ (1997) Release notes for "Mama" by Spice Girls (UK CD1 Single liner). Virgin Records (VSCDG 1623).
  45. ^ "Spice Girls – Who Do You Think You Are/Mama (Chanson)" (in French). Ultratop. 10 May 1997. Retrieved 9 September 2009. 
  46. ^ "Spice Girls – Mama (Song)". Hung Medien. YLE. 1997 – week 14. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  47. ^ "Spice Girls – Who Do You Think You Are/Mama (Song)". VG-lista. Verdens Gang. 1997 – week 17. Retrieved 9 September 2009. 
  48. ^ "Spice Girls – Who Do You Think You Are/Mama (Song)". Hung Medien. Sverigetopplistan. 16 May 1997. Retrieved 9 September 2009. 
  49. ^ "Spice Girls – Who Do You Think You Are/Mama (Song)" (in German). Hung Medien. Swiss Charts. 18 May 1997. Retrieved 9 September 2009. 
  50. ^ "Singles Wallonie 1997" (in Dutch). Ultratop. 1997. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  51. ^ "German certifications – Spice+Girls – Mama" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  52. ^ "Goud/Platina – The Spice Girls – Mama/Who Do You Think You Are" (in Dutch). NVPI. 1997. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 
  53. ^ "Guld-Platina 1987–1998" (in Swedish). Swedish Recording Industry Association. 4 August 1997. Retrieved 28 July 2010. 


  • Canfield, Jack; Hansen, Mark Victor; Geffen, Jo-Ann; Dozier, Lamont (2009). Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story behind the Song. Chicken Soup for the Soul. ISBN 1935096400. 
  • Cripps, Rebecca; Peachey, Mal; Spice Girls (1997). Real Life: Real Spice The Official Story. Zone/Chameleon Books. ISBN 0233992995. 
  • De Ribera Berenguer, Juan (1997) (in Spanish). Colección: Ídolos del Pop-Spice Girls. Editorial La Máscara. ISBN 8479742364. 
  • Kutner, Jon; Leigh, Spencer (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits. Omnibus Press. ISBN 1844492834. 
  • McGibbon, Rob (1997). Spice Power: The Inside Story. Macmillan Publishers Ltd. ISBN 0752211420. 
  • Sinclair, David (2004). Wannabe: How the Spice Girls Reinvented Pop Fame. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0711986436. 
  • Spice Girls (1997a). Girl Power!. Zone/Chameleon Books. ISBN 0233991654. 
  • Spice Girls (1997b). Spice World: The Movie. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0609803387. 
  • Spice Girls (2008). Spice Girls Greatest Hits (Piano/Vocal/Guitar) Artist Songbook. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 1423436881. 

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