Today is the 25th anniversary of the release of TLC’s debut album, “Ooooooohhh…On the TLC Tip”, and it got me thinking.
Ever since we’ve transitioned into the 21st Century, Female R&B groups have slowly dwindled into an afterthought, and quite frankly it’s disturbing.
Just to be clear, the solo artists have been holding it down the past 15 years like Beyoncé, 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, didn’t think so.
As an exuberant R&B lover, it’s tough for me to comprehend. As we celebrate TLC’s debut album, it’s 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, Destiny’s 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 702’s “Steelo” and Total’s “Can’t 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 wasn’t 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 let’s 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,” “I’m So Into You,” “You’re the One,” “Use Your Heart,” “You’re Always On My Mind” and “Downtown”.
There wasn’t a song from the trio that I didn’t 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 1960’s 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 Can’t Tell You Why” and soon became one of the most well-known female acts in the business.
Destiny’s Child - Despite all the changes with the group members, the final lineup read: Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. Even though most of the group’s 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 Beyoncé became…well you know – BEYONCE!
Jade - Tonya, Joi and Di didn’t 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 “Don’t 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 can’t 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 wasn’t bumping to Zhane’s 1994 club rocking song “Hey Mr. DJ” back in the day? Shoot, I’m still jumping off to it today. It’s 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 (“Can’t 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”.