Spice

Following in the footsteps of Take That and New Kids on the Block — two other bubblegum-pop groups that were also huge in England — Spice Girls offer a watered-down mix of hip-hop and cheesy pop balladry. And like New Kids on the Block, Spice Girls are five attractive young things, each with a distinct personality, a la the Village People, brought together by a manager with a marketing concept.

One part of that concept has the Girls preaching, "Girl power!" — a co-optation more heinous than any riot grrrl's worst nightmare. Spice Girls' idea of power seems to be flaunting that they are all that, but the lyrics make Alanis Morissette's sound like Patti Smith's. A few nuggets: "If you want to get with me, better make it fast" ("Wannabe"); "I know you want to get with me" ("Last Time Lover"); "Show me how good you are" (Who Do You Think Your Are?). Despite their pro-woman posing, the Girls don't get bogged down by anything deeper than mugging for promo shots and giving out tips on getting boys in bed.

Wild Orchid are three hot-looking women — one of whom closely resembles Wendy Wilson of Wilson Phillips — singing melodramatic songs with flat melodies about their dysfunctional relationships. They're like the friends whom you want to slap upside the head while forcing them to read Women Who Love Too Much. They do have much better voices than Spice Girls, but at least the members of Spice Girls project lots of false confidence. I'll take cocky over whiny any day.