Girl Power Struggle


by Marvin van der Weyde

Girl groups have long been the cause of much excitement and turmoil. Beauty, glamour and charm on the outside, but often complete with hate and conflict on the inside.

You frequently hear of girl groups splitting up - partly or completely, replacing members and carrying on as though nothing happened, desperately struggling for success. Is this the destiny of every manufactured girl group? Will girl groups of the new millennium follow the same path as those in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s? Are tacky copycats what works for the charts?

An average girl group usually consists of between three and five female singers, with one doing most of the job while the rest are used to get more attention, more press coverage, more TV airtime and, in effect, more money. But on the other hand, whoever considers putting a girl group together should have in mind that "mo' women" often means "mo' problems".

The Supremes Female pop groups are not a 90s invention. At first the industry brought us the Supremes, or rather the Primettes who later became the Supremes. Who doesn't know hits like "Baby Love", "You Can't Hurry Love" and "Stop! In The Name Of Love"? They have been an influence for many artists, and many girl groups follow the image and style the Supremes came up with.

Or rather the people responsible for their careers. In the beginning The Supremes were a close harmony group with all members sharing the vocals, but soon after Diana Ross started singing leads, taking the front position and all the attention. Gradually, the rest of the group changed into a less stable component, as the members were being replaced many times.

More soul girl bands
Of course there were many more girl bands around in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Good examples are Sister Sledge ("Lost in music", "We Are Family") and the Pointer Sisters. It wasn't only America who had the girl group thing going. Holland had girlgroups like Luv, who also didn't survive because of one singer getting the most attention. It turns out that in the past, girl groups were marionettes of the managers. Has anything changed since then? Take a look at the short story of girlgroups in the 90s.

En Vogue
American foursome En Vogue released their debut album, "Born To Sing", in 1990, which became a hit in the USA. The original line-up was: Dawn Robinson, Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron and Maxine Jones. They didn't only look extremely sexy, their voices were unique too. Their second album, "Funky Divas", went double platinum in the USA, and hits like "My Lovin" and "Free Your Mind" made them famous all around the globe. "Runaway Love" was the best selling EP ever, while 1993 saw an interesting collaboration with Salt-N-Pepa called "Whatta Man", after which En Vogue went quiet.

En Vogue In 1995 Terry released a solo album, "Southern Gal", which wasn't very successful. However, at the end of 1996 En Vogue made an incredible comeback with the classic "Don't Let Go (Love)". They had also recorded a third album, but during the works Dawn Robinson, who often took the lead vocals, left the band. "EV3", wich was clearly a snare to Dawn, contained a hit single "Whatever", written by Babyface, and on the whole was fairly successful. The divas released a Greatist Hits album in 1998, and also contributed to a soundtrack for "Soul Food".

While everybody thought En Vogue were over for the world of music, they have appeared recently once again. Cindy, Terry and Maxine, looking better than ever, brought us a brand new album "Masterpiece Theatre" along with a new single "Riddle" acompanied by a truly divalicious video, while Dawn has had her come back with Lucy Pearl.

The world's best selling female trio of all. They released their debut album in 1991, which was a big enough success in the US. In 1995 they conquered the world with "Crazy Sexy Cool", wich sold more than 10 million copies in the USA alone, "Waterfalls" and "Creep" being huge worldwide hits. A few 'minor hiccups' ensued, including money issues, and Left-Eye burning her friend's house and ending up in jail, which led to TLC declaring bankruptcy (incidentally that happened to label mate Toni Braxton too).

In the beginning of 1999 they returned with their great single "No Scrubs", wich was their biggest hit to date and also a track that started the men-bashing trend in the female R&B scene. "Fanmail" has been also a great chart success, empowered by the second big hit, "Unpretty". However, rumours say that TLC have come to an end.

This British R&B group's history might be the weirdest ever. They started as a foursome, then slimmed down to a threesome, before finally establishing themselves as a duet, comprising sisters Easther and Vernie Bennett. However it has always been Easther who took the lead vocals so sooner or later a split was to come.

Eternal Eternal have been the UK's best selling R&B girl group ever, bringing hits such as "Stay" and "Just A Step From Heaven". In 1995 Eternal have been reduced to three, as Louise left the band to pursue a solo career, but that didn't keep them from carrying on with their success.

The duet with BeBe Winans, "I Wanna Be The Only One", made them successful all over Europe.

However, some trouble was evidently brewing when it transpired that, while Easther and Vernie had left their management, Kelle was to remain. Shortly after that Kelle left the group. This may well explain the disappointing chart positions for both acts, once successful together, now divided and apparently weaker.

Spice Girls
They haven't been around long enough to notch up as many hits as Eternal, but they are world's best selling girl group ever. And a one with a history of conflict at that.

Discovered around '93/'94, the Spice Girls left their old management, and got in contact with Simon Fuller, who helped them to land a record deal with Virgin records. Their first single "Wannabe" was a number 1 hit in more than 30 countries, "Say You'll Be There" was a top 5 hit all over the globe, with "2 Become 1" repeating its same succes.

Having hits in the USA and Australia, "Spice" sold in huge quantities worldwide. In 1997 they released "Spiceworld", wich wasn't such a big hit as "Spice", but still it was a huge seller. Nobody could any longer deny that they'd made a mark on the global scene.

Then it happened. 1998 saw Geri Halliwell leaving the group, to pursue a solo career. Still enjoying No. 1 hits in the U.K. with "Viva Forever" and "Goodbye", the Spice Girls started solo careers, with Melanie C being the most succesful so far. Yet their new album as a foursome is expected later this year.

All Saints
Started by Melanie and Shaznay in 1995, their first hit in the UK was "I Know Where It's At" in 1997, wich was soon followed by the UK No. 1 with "Never Ever", wich also hit the charts in Europe, and due many airplay top 10 in the Billboard Hot 100. Their debut album went 5 times platinum in UK and platinum in the US. In 2000 they had a hit with "Pure Shores", but their movie featuring three members, "Honest", flopped. They've been cat fight rumours around, however All Saints haven't split up (yet?) but then again they've only released one album so far...

Destiny's Child Destiny's Child
And here we go again. Another R&B girlgroup. And guess what, another that didn't quite get along. At first the four members who knew each other since they were very little, Le Toya Luckett, La Tavia Roberson, Kelly Rowland and Beyonce Knowles appeared on the scene as a rap group, but they failed. Back in 1998 they hit the charts globally with "No No No", followed by the success of their debut album.

They also did a song for the movie "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" entitled "Get On The Bus". It was a hit in severall countries, but it was "Bills Bills Bills" from the praised-to-heaven "The Writhings On The Wall" album, that made them one of the biggest names in the industry.

Life seemed beautiful and we were being told how close the group is and how different they are from the rest, as they're not quite manufactured. Then suddenly the two backing singers, La Tavia and Le Toya, have been sacked. Or rather, as the girls confess, kept in the dark by the management about high-profile appearances such as the Grammy Awards and the Soul Train Awards, in an effort to bring in new members Farrah Franklin and Michelle Williams.

However Beyonce and Kelly with two new members (albeit miming to La Tavia and Le Toya's vocals in the post-split videos) have been topping the charts and smiling in interviews, trying to convince the public that everything was still perfect for Destiny's Child.

That is, until Farrah Franklin exited the group after being in Destiny's Child for only 5 months. It may seem ridiculous, but the group plans to continue their career as a trio.

Girl Groups
You would think that's a fairly grim image of girl groups' careers. The only girl group that'll probably survive the next few years are, erm... Hanson?!