The Best Girl Groups of the '80s and '90s

En Vogue
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Mick Hutson/Redferns

This week on My Classic Soul podcast, Soulmusic.com founder and host David Nathan chats with A&R specialist Darone Bowers to pay tribute to En Vogue, Destiny's Child, TLC and more beloved girl groups of the 80's and 90's. Tune in below and let us know who your favorite girl group is! 

ON WHO COMES TO MIND: 

BOWERS: "The first name and the main name that comes to my mind is En Vogue."

NATHAN: "It's funny how, how we have a different perspective in that respect. When I think of girl groups of the 80s and 90s, particularly the '90s, I immediately go to SWV and TLC."

ON EN VOGUE: 

BOWERS: "The 80s didn't have a lot of girl groups, if any. The 70s did with The Emotions and The Pointer Sisters and all those types of things, and then The Pointer Sisters had such success in the 80s, but they were the only ones from the 70s. When En Vogue came, I remember sitting on my grandmother's floor in the den, watching Video Soul (BET Countdown) and "Hold On" debuted at No. 9."

"They started with that "Who's Lovin' You" acapella and then it went into "Hold On" which, the break beat was similar from "The Boomin' System" from LL Cool J and you saw these beautiful women with these crazy harmonies and I was floored just from the video. And then when I heard the album, each of them took turns singing lead. There was not one vocal out of place. The beats were very new jack swing at the same time, retro at the same time, traditional R&B. I had never heard anything like that in my lifetime, that was just so on."

"They were all very beautiful women, but they were very respectful - 'you need to respect me.' They were very vulnerable and their there, their vocals were pitch perfect. There was nothing out auto-tuned or studio about it. And that just left an impression on me from that very first album to today. And I think everything that came after it was kind of either patterned off of it or was influenced by it. So En Vogue was the epitome of that era of girl groups and they stand in my top two girl groups of all time."

ON THE SUPREMES:

NATHAN: "Your reaction reminds me of the reaction that I remember in the 60s that people had the first time they saw the Supremes. It was kind of like a breakthrough moment for a lot of people. Although the differences, of course, the Supremes had a defined lead singer and it wasn't the same way En Vogue where each of them could have been a lead speaker, so to speak. But the thing, that same impact was a visual thing."

"As well as of course, those records of the Supremes and other groups of female groups of that time, Martha and the Vandellas, were very much in a particular style. What I'm interested in though, is when you mentioned En Vogue, because I remember specifically working with them in terms of doing interview."

"I, in fact wrote the first bio - I should tell people when I say bio, what do I mean? Cause sometimes people say, 'what do you mean when you say bio?' Essentially, the biography that goes with a record. When a record comes out, you know, we would update people's bios,.... Then the record company would hire someone like myself, journalist, writer, to interview the group and to write about the history and to talk about the new record. That's what I mean by bio, and I did their first one.

"The thing that's really interesting about En Vogue, too, is that because they were handpicked sort of by the producers, Denzil Foster and -  I always get them. I always say the names wrong..." 

BOWERS: "Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy."

NATHAN:  "They would, they would truly not be happy that I couldn't remember which one was which, but anyway, but the fact is that first album was very, I think, very methodically created and it was intentional to create something that would continue that tradition, that starts with the Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas and the groups of the 60s and moves on through the 70s. You made a great reference there to The Emotions, in particular, but there's other groups of the 70s, of course, The Pointer Sisters. And, of course, the group Labelle that came out of Patti LaBelle & The Bluebelles. So there is this whole tradition. And I think, you know, I'm right there with you. I think En Vogue represented the first of another era of female harmony groups, and distinct, because of course, again, they all sang lead on different tracks on that album."

Listen to the rest of the podcast here

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