‘Alo ladies and gents! I’m back at it again, and this time I’m taking you down memory lane. That’s right, we’re taking a trip to the musical time of the ’90s.
Now, I understand that some of you were just wee babies in the early ’90s, or some of you were too young to comprehend the greatness that was happening at the time because you were busy working on your Kindergarten finger paint masterpieces, but guess what? The ’90s is one of my favorite decades when it comes to music. The talent was OFF THE CHARTS, with people actually hitting high notes and not using that blasphemous auto-tune nonsense to make things sound better.
Furthermore, female girl groups were still all the rage in the ’90s before silly shows like Popstars and Making the Band made a mockery of them with the infusion of reality TV. And as of late, I’ve been feeling pretty nostalgic for music of my youth, what with a lot of the ladies growing older and turning to reality TV for relevancy. Sigh.
So, who made the cut for me? I have to say this was really hard because there’s sooooooo many good groups out there. But, being that this is a short listicle (so I won’t run off at the mouth), I turned up the following:
What I Love About Them: When I first heard Total, it was at the height of Bad Boys Records, when the Notorious B.I.G. was running things, Puff Daddy was holding it all together. The year was 1995 and the song was “Can’t You See.” Biggie did the intro with his unforgettable rap (the first one I was probably allowed to listen to), and the video featured the three singers — Kima, Keisha, and Pam — dancing on a smoky roof top. These women had (what is now called) swag and you had to have swag if you were rolling with Puffy and Biggie. This is what I loved most about them. Their swagger and ability to turn hard hip-hop beats into a foundation for their melodious vocals definitely made them a staple in the ’90s and if they weren’t featured on a rapper’s single (see: L.L. Cool J’s “Loungin’/Who Do U Love?”), they had rappers with serious flow on their hits.
Like most things of the ’90s, the ladies weren’t able to sustain their place in hip hop with the wave of pop music and solo artists flooding in, but they totally left a mark.
Tracks to Listen to: “Can’t You See,” “Kissing You,” “What About Us,” “Trippin,” “Sittin’ Home”
What I Love About Them: If you figure that these ladies were signed to Michael Jackson’s MJJ record label, then you know that there’s some serious talent behind them. With Nikki Gilbert murdering almost every song with her lead vocals, Maxee Maxwell dropping super-high notes all over the place, and Mimi Doby coming in the clutch to blend out their seriously amazing harmonies, it was truly a tragedy to see the group fade into a somewhat obscurity after only a few years (and a switch up in the lineup).
Tracks to Listen to: “If You Love Me,” “I Can’t Tell You Why,” “Grapevyne,” ” 5 Miles to Empty“
What I Love About Them: Let’s be serious: there isn’t a person that you know who doesn’t know the lyrics to SWV’s classic hit, “Weak.” Why? Because as timeless as things get, that song is definitely it. Their name really explains it all: Sisters With Voices. SWV was the group with the feel-good hits. They had a song for when you were sad, when you were happy, when you wanted to get it on (and told your man what to do, he he), and for when you just wanted to jam in the summer, sitting on your stoop on a cool night. Unfortunately tension between the members grew to such a pitch, that they had to just call it quits, but the ladies are making the rounds on the nostalgia circuit and are attempting a comeback (all on reality TV, of course).
Tracks to Listen to: “Weak,” “Anything,” “Downtown,” “Rain,” “Can We,” “If Only You Knew“
What I Love About Them: You can’t talk about girl groups of the ’90s and not mention En Vogue. Let’s face it, En Vogue was the Destiny’s Child of the early ’90s except for the small fact that each lady could (and did) sing lead vocals at any and almost every chance they could. Granted, there were some disparities when it came to certain songs, but the fact of the matter is that these ladies killed — no, murdered every single track they released. It was quite possibly impossible for En Vogue to sound bad. The harmonies, the solos, the hooks, the choruses, the music was just so well executed that these ladies deserve a place not only in best girl group of the ’90s, but of all time.
Sadly, the ladies couldn’t all get along. It got to the point where they actually split up and created different En Vogue groups (much like how there were like 10 Temptation groups). Truly a sad demise to such a great group. Hopefully the women will one day realize that their talent is too great to waste on squabbling.
Tracks to Listen to: “Hold On,” “My Lovin’ (Never Gonna Get It),” “Giving Him Something He Can Feel,” “Don’t Let Go,” “Free Your Mind“
What I Love About Them: They were the highest selling girl group of all time. How could they not make the cut, right? They weren’t at all about showing off vocal acrobatics, but they had tons of energy and their songs were usually fun. If anything, they were socially conscious speaking on any and everything from safe sex, STDs, risky living, body image, and personal relationships. I have to admit, I wasn’t a fan of much of the music they were pushing out when the 2000’s came around, and things weren’t at all the same when Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes died, but you can’t deny that these girls were all the rage in their hayday.
Tracks to Listen to:“Baby-Baby-Baby,” “What About Your Friends,””Creep” “Waterfalls,” “Diggin’ on You” “
What I Love About Them: Surprise! T.I.’s wife Tiny actually sang before jumping on the reality TV bandwagon, and she did it well. Along with fellow bandmate-turned-reality star Kandi Burruss, and two other members (LaTocha and Tamika Scott), Tiny made some great music. While LaTocha usually took the lead on the vocals (because she had the major pipes in the group), the other guys definitely added flavor to their Atlanta-based group and picked up a few Grammy Awards for it. Unfortunately, the “Girl Group Curse” hit these ladies hard with tension between singing lead and rumors splitting them apart for good. But they definitely gave tons of songs to chill to in the ’90s and was featured on one of my favorite ’90s MC Lyte hits (“Keep On Keepin’ On)
Tracks to Listen to: “My Little Secret,” “Feels So Good,” “Understanding,” “Who Can I Run To,” “Softest Place on Earth”
What I Love About Them: Here was two women… killing it with the vibes. Their music was always something to just bump to or vibe with and with minimal production. Their harmonies are some of the best I’ve listened too, and the best way to describe their sound was “chill.” To this day, I can’t hear “Hey Mr. D.J.” without jamming out.
Tracks to Listen to: “Hey Mr. D.J.” “Groove Thang,” “Sending My Love,” “Shame“
Now, of course there were other notable groups of the ’90s — Jade (“Don’t Walk Away“), The Braxtons (“So Many Ways“), 702 (“Steelo”), and eventually Destiny’s Child (“No No No“) to say the least. I think it’s safe to say that the ’90s definitely delivered when it came to collective female vocals. Sadly a great deal of these groups couldn’t stand the test of time, but thank goodness we have their music to keep us going!
Feeling my list of my ’90s Girl Groups? Talk about it in the comments or let’s chat about it on Twitter!