Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Best Of Girl Groups - part 1: 20 to 11

JUMP TO: Part 1 II Part 2 II Part 3

Originally posted in 2012. Updated in 2020.

Back in 2012, I counted down my top 20 boy bands, so it seemed only logical to do the same thing with my favourite girl groups - and I approached things in a similar format. We go through my top 20 in two parts, with the positions based on how much I've liked the groups' catalogue of singles. Then, in Part 3, I look at my top 5 female duos (because two people's not really a group, is it?) and remember some other worthy girl groups.

In 2020, I've revisited and updated this list, with one group (Precious) falling out of the top 20 and having its place taken by a girl group that winds up in my top 10.

Diana Ross and the Supremes

And although girl groups have pretty much been around since the dawn of the rock era (unlike the modern boy band), I limited my list to girl groups since 1979. Why? Well, regular readers will know that's when I first began to appreciate music so, like all things on this blog, that's my starting point.

Obviously, the likes of The Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas and The Shirelles are all great girl groups from before my time, but I'll leave it to someone else to talk about them. Oh, and once again, there'll be a no instruments policy, which rules out The Go-Go's and The Bangles, both excellent all-female bands. Let's make a start...

20. Sweet Sensation

Members: Margie Fernandez, Mari Fernandez/Sheila Vega, Betty LeBron
Years: 1987-1991
Top 3 best songs: "Love Child", "Hooked On You", "Each And Every Time"

Or New York's Sweet Sensation to give them their full name. The freestyle trio would have a string of club hits from their debut album, Take It While It's Hot, in 1988-89 but it would be their cover of The Supremes' "Love Child" (which features a great "there's something on my leg" dance move in the video) and monster ballad "If Wishes Came True" which would see them cross over in 1990, the latter even becoming a minor hit here in Australia thanks to American Top 40 play.
Like many a girl group, Sweet Sensation would undergo numerous line-up changes (the original version of the group is pictured above), but it's the trio of Margie, Sheila and Betty (who feature in the clip below) who would enjoy the most success.

19. Bardot

Members: Belinda Chapple, Sophie Monk, Sally Polihronas, Katie Underwood, Tiffany Wood
Years: 2000-2002
Top 3 best songs: "These Days", "Love Will Find A Way", "I Need Somebody"

Before Australian Idol, The X Factor or The Voice, there was Popstars - and in the first season of the groundbreaking reality series, Bardot was created, and then rejigged when original member Chantelle Barry was kicked out amid accusations of theft. The final line-up shot straight to number 1 with both "Poison" and their self-titled debut album, but, such was the fervour surrounding the show, just about anything would have sold by the truckload.
By their third single, "These Days", their music started to sell on the strength of the songs themselves and the trio of well-received singles they released from second album Play It Like That suggested they had a bright future on the pop scene. But, wouldn't you know it, the girls wanted solo careers.
Katie was first to jump ship, leaving on the eve of the release of "ASAP" for a new production of Hair which never eventuated and recorded two singles with Disco Montego. After the remaining foursome parted ways, Sophie Monk went on to be most successful - releasing a couple of solo hit singles, finding a degree of fame in the US (and was Benji Madden's fiancée for a time) and is now a reality TV staple back at home, but to my mind Bardot could have gone on to bigger and better things if they'd stuck together just a little bit longer.

18. B*Witched

Members: Lindsay Armaou, Edele Lynch, Keavy Lynch, Sinead O'Carroll
Years: 1998-2000
Top 3 best songs: "C'est La Vie", "Rollercoaster", "Jump Down"

Despite some appalling denim outfits, this Irish quartet (featuring Shane from Boyzone's younger sisters) had an impressive run of four number 1 singles in the UK in 1998-9, but that success stopped just as suddenly as it had begun, and the girls were dumped by Sony after album number two.
I can't think of another act who've gone from such highs to such lows in such a short amount of time (but I haven't tried very hard - there are probably loads), but the demise of B*Witched can basically be attributed to one thing: "Jesse Hold On". The annoying first single from Awake And Breathe signalled the beginning of the end. And even though their final single, "Jump Down", was one of their best, it was all too late by that stage.
I once saw B*Witched play a nightclub gig in London and can still picture how much energy they put into every song, but it just goes to show that if the songs aren't right, no amount of choreography and chirpiness can salvage things.  

17. En Vogue

Members (classic line-up): Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, Maxine Jones, Dawn Robinson
Years: 1990-2005
Top 3 best songs: "Don't Let Go (Love)", "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)", "Hold On"

Here's a girl group who make a statement with their music in an era when R&B vocal groups were a dime a dozen. En Vogue released a string of sassy, soulful tracks that had attitude and an opinion. From the songs mentioned above to "Lies", the sexy collaboration with Salt 'n' Pepa, "Whatta Man", and the in-your-face "Free Your Mind", these ladies had something to say.
Like so many girl groups, there's been a hard-to-follow series of member manoeuvres ever since their third album, EV3 (which was named to signal the first change from four to three singers), but that was also the last album that had major success, so those subsequent changes are really footnotes to a great initial run for the group.

16. Solid HarmoniE

Members: Elisa Cariera, Mariama Goodman, Melissa Graham, Rebecca Onslow
Years: 1996-1998
Top 3 best songs: "I'll Be There For You", "I Want You To Want Me", "I Wanna Love You"

I never realised it at the time, but this girl group had a rather complicated revolving door-style line-up. In fact, I didn't really know anything at all about Solid HarmoniE other than the fact that the capital letters in their band name spelt SHE (clever!) and they worked with pop maestro Max Martin (and his colleague, Kristian Lundin, at Cheiron).
And it's the Swedish songwriting/production team's work that really explains why Solid HarmoniE are so high on my list - all four of the singles from their self-titled album were among my 50 favourites from 1998.
Mariama would go on to be a member of Honeyz (who would have their own member switcheroo) and there would be subsquent versions of Solid HarmoniE, but once "To Love Once Again" had been released, it was pretty much all over.

15. The Pussycat Dolls

Members: Carmit Bachar, Ashley Roberts, Nicole Scherzinger, Jessica Sutta, Melody Thornton, Kimberly Wyatt
Years: 2003-2010, 2019-present
Top 3 best songs: "I Don't Need A Man", "Hush Hush; Hush Hush", "Hot Stuff (I Want You Back)"

A burlesque troop long before anyone thought of them invading the pop charts, The Pussycat Dolls really owe their music success to lead singer Nicole Scherzinger and the army of songwriters and producers that supplied the hit tunes for her to sing.
Sure, the other girls contributed in some way to the appeal of the group - after all, Nicole has had significantly less success as a solo artist (especially in the US), so it can't be all about her. I guess it proves that sexy dance routines and pretty backing vocalists sometimes make all the difference.

In 2020, a slightly reduced line-up - Melody is missing - will visit Australia as part of their reunion tour.

14. TLC

Members: Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins
Years: 1992-2004
Top 3 best songs: "No Scrubs", "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg", "Hat 2 Da Back"

Like En Vogue, TLC were another American act that launched in the 1990s with a really strong image and musical style. And even though that image evolved over their career - from the condoms as accessories look of Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip to FanMail's futuristic styling - it always felt like a natural progression and totally in keeping with everything the group was about.
And then there were the songs - fresh, adventurous and streetwise tunes like the ones mentioned above, "Creep", "Unpretty" and "What About Your Friends". I was never a massive fan of "Waterfalls", but its cultural impact (especially the music video, which tackled the issue of HIV infection) can not be understated.
There was talk of T-Boz and Chilli using a reality show to find a replacement for the late, great Lisa "Left Eye" but I'm glad that never eventuated - instead the winner of series R U The Girl merely got to perform and record a track with the two surviving members of the group. Some things are best left as a happy memory - and there are plenty of those when it comes to TLC's back catalogue.

13. Sister Sledge

Members: Debbie, Joni, Kathy and Kim Sledge
Years: 1971-1986
Top 3 best songs: "We Are Family", "He's The Greatest Dancer", "Got To Love Somebody"

They started their career in the early '70s, but it was during the disco era that the four Sledge sisters (nothing like a literal group name) hit the big time, with a string of classics like "Lost In Music", "Thinking Of You" and "We Are Family", which would then go on to be regularly remixed and re-released over the next decades.
Then, in 1985, just when it seemed like the group's fortunes were winding down, they returned with one of their biggest singles of all time: "Frankie". That was their last new hit, but they still perform and release music from time to time.

12. Mis-teeq

Members: Alesha Dixon, Zena McNally, Su-Elise Nash, Sabrina Washington
Years: 2000-2003

Top 3 best songs: "Scandalous", "One Night Stand", "All I Want"

Until writing this, I didn't even realise Mis-teeq was originally a quartet, with Zena making a swift departure after debut single "Why?", but for the majority of their chart run, the group was a three-piece and, at the time, felt like a breath of fresh air in a rather crowded British girl group market.

Their point of difference? Alesha's feisty raps and many of their songs' 2-step production, which gave Mis-teeq an edge over their contemporaries. They were even unique enough to make a small impression in the States and I would've been interested to see how their career would have progressed, but the girls split in 2005.
Alesha went on to enjoy a moderately successful solo career in the UK and an even more successful career as a reality TV show judge after winning her season of Strictly Come Dancing (the series on which Dancing With The Stars is based). The other two? The odd TV appearance and talk of solo albums and a Mis-teeq reunion that have yet to eventuate.

11. Destiny's Child

Members: Beyoncé Knowles, LeToya Luckett/Michelle Williams, LaTavia Roberson/Farrah Franklin, Kelly Rowland
Years: 1997-2005
Top 3 best songs: "Say My Name", "Bootylicious", "Independent Women Part 1"

Much of the drama often associated with girl groups comes when they are at the top of their game - the success fuelling thoughts of solo careers and sometimes creating infighting. For Destiny's Child, a major shake-up occurred just as the group was starting to make its mark, and immediately prior to the release of breakthrough single "Say My Name". After being part of the group right back to its inception as Girl's Tyme, LeToya and LaTavia suddenly found themselves dumped in favour of new arrivals Michelle and Farrah (who wouldn't last very long herself). 
Whatever really went down (and getting to the truth involves navigating a complicated round of "she said, she said"), the member swap provided some added publicity for the group, who proceeded to have a succession of international hits before the inevitable solo careers commenced in 2003. But Destiny's Child weren't through, with Destiny Fulfilled released in 2004 before the group ultimately announced their break-up in 2005. 
Musically, Destiny's Child was always on the cutting edge of pop/R&B and although Beyoncé was clearly the superstar-in-waiting, it was nice that the vocals were frequently split evenly between her, Kelly and Michelle, since there's no point being in a group if you want to hog the limelight.

Who does that leave for my top 10 girl groups? I'll tell you this much: one comes from the US and the rest are from the UK (sorry, Girlfriend). See you in a couple of days to count down to number 1.


  1. I liked Precious and thought they had potential.
    All Saints were amazing and very fresh and unique with great songs.
    TLC were great too and agree totally about The Saturdays they seem to just be there without challenging themselves or providing that signature hit.
    B*Witched like you say were good for one album but just ok overall.
    Vocally out of the list En Vogue are superior but their songs bar 'Don't Let Go' never interested me.

    1. My other issue with The Saturdays is that they seem to jump from style to style, whereas I feel like there was a Girls Aloud sound that was distinctly them (well, their producers).