Today is the 25th anniversary of the release of TLCs debut album, OoooooohhhOn the TLC Tip, and it got me thinking.
Ever since weve transitioned into the 21st Century, Female R&B groups have slowly dwindled into an afterthought, and quite frankly its disturbing.
Just to be clear, the solo artists have been holding it down the past 15 years like Beyonc, Alicia Keys, Keyshia Cole, Jennifer Hudson, Ciara, Mary J. Blige, Ashanti, Rihanna, and Mariah Carey, just to name a few, and we thank them for it.
Yet, the female groups have vanished. Can you even name one current female R&B group who is actively making chart-topping hits? Yeah, didnt think so.
As an exuberant R&B lover, its tough for me to comprehend. As we celebrate TLCs debut album, its only natural to think about what happened to that dynamic, when we also had other 90s groups like Xscape, Brownstone, SWV, Total, Jade, En Vogue, Destinys Child, Zhane and many others
These soul-singing African-American sisters graced the 90s with their flawless talent, mind-boggling beauty, distinctive styles and stupefying voices. They brought the music world imaginative videos and hit after hit that had us singing to the top of our lungs in the shower, like 702s Steelo and Totals Cant You See.
A plethora of female groups emerged throughout the decade, and here are some of the top groups that stood out and defined R&B music in some way, shape, or form in the 90s:
TLC – The second-best girl selling group of all-time behind the Spice Girls. T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye combined to become the most commercially successful female R&B group of the 90s and it wasnt close. TLC was the ultimate trendsetter for future girl groups.
They came out the gate rocking the tomboy look – baggy pants, long colorful shirts, and in-your face swag- then soon transformed into a more sophisticated, sexier, confident and grown-up group that took the music world by storm. In my opinion, no girl band personified creativity the way TLC did.
Xscape – Man, these ATL honeys could blow your minds away on the mic. Tamika, her sister, LaTocha, Kandi and Tiny brought a strong, soulful, hip-hop and incredible vocalization edge to R&B that touched a lot of young females growing up. Like TLC, Xscape pulled off the baggy jeans and hardcore look, while still maintaining their sex appeal in their early days. They also rocked the bandanas which gave them a little gangster appeal.
Hits like Understanding, Love on My Mind, Who Can I Run To and Do You Want To are all firm songs of female empowerment and messages to us fellas to treat me right, love me better, can I trust you with my heart and If we are going to be in this relationship, then lets get on the same page. Females speaking from the heart.
SWV – Love this group and always have. From 1992-1997, Coko, Lelee and Taj had one hell of a run. The trio busted out numerous hits that you could jam to, bounce to, get emotional to, or slow jam to such as Weak, Right Here/Human Nature, Im So Into You, Youre the One, Use Your Heart, Youre Always On My Mind and Downtown.
There wasnt a song from the trio that I didnt like. Each chart-topper produced something different and catchy that always made me feel good.
En Vogue – If there was ever a girl group that exemplified classy and elegance, then it was no doubt the ladies from En Vogue.
The quartet had a 1960s modern-day female group feel to them similar to The Supremes during the height of the Motown era. These women proved to be truly gifted, super-talented and one of the best female vocal groups of all-time.
Brownstone – This high-pitched, loud, smooth group bursted onto the scene in 1995 with mega hits like If You Love Me, Grapevyne and I Cant Tell You Why and soon became one of the most well-known female acts in the business.
Destinys Child – Despite all the changes with the group members, the final lineup read: Beyonc Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. Even though most of the groups worldwide success occurred in the early-to-mid 2000s, they started and made a name for themselves in the late 90s and soon became one of the most accomplished, acclaimed and best-selling female groups ever. And this was all before Beyonc becamewell you know BEYONCE!
Jade – Tonya, Joi and Di didnt produce the long career that many of the other female bands did, yet they brought a great mixture of hip-hop and R&B to the table that elevated into top 10 hits I Wanna Love You and Dont Walk Away. One of the underrated groups of the 90s.
702 – One of my faves. The Las Vegas quartet turned troika came out smoking, hitting the airwaves with songs like Steelo and Get It Together, plus their combination of street rap and urban soul added a new touch to the R&B game.
Oh yeah, and you cant forget about the female anthem smash hit Where My Girls At? I bet the ladies are still bobbing there heads to that joint.
Zhane – Who wasnt bumping to Zhanes 1994 club rocking song Hey Mr. DJ back in the day? Shoot, Im still jumping off to it today. Its probably the best hip-hop party anthem ever. They had some other upbeat tunes (Sending My Love and Groove Thang) but Hey Mr.DJ alone propelled them into being one of the top lady groups of the decade.
Total – The former Bad Boys trio inserted a level of hip-hop sound in their R&B songs that turned them into a group sensation. The girls worked with Biggie (Cant You See), LL Cool J (Loungin/Who Do U Love), Foxy Brown, Lil Kim and Da Brat (No One Else Remix), Mase (What You Want) and Missy Elliott (Trippin) and usually punched in top 10 hits like it was a routine. Kima, Pamela and Keisha could do no wrong in the 90s.
Changing Faces – When the New York duo sparkled us with their first two singles Stroke You Up and Foolin Around then the R&B fanbase was instantly hooked. Their precise vocals and stirling voices made them a success in the mid-90s and in 1997 they produced their biggest hit with G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T. The only thing fans were screaming after those blockbusters was Keep it coming ladies.
Kut Klose – These females sang from the heart and you can hear it in their soulful voices. The Keith Sweat discovered group gave us some excellent songs throughout the decade like I Like, Surrender, Get Up On It featuring Keith Sweat and Lovely Thang that illustrated what lovemaking should be and how amazing it could be. Sing on girls, Sing on. You got my attention.
Blaque – The group had a brief stint atop the charts but it was sure worthwhile. The Lisa Left Eye Lopes signed group gave us songs 808 and I Do, yet none of them came close to touching their biggest hit in Bring It All To Me.