Girl group

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Girl groups
Stylistic origins 1930s–1968: music hall, vaudeville, swing music, jump blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul music, gospel music, traditional pop
1968–2000s: disco, R&B, power pop, pop rock, EDM
2000s: pop, dance-pop, teen pop, pop punk, contemporary R&B, EDM, hip hop, indie pop, electropop
Cultural origins 1930s United States
Typical instruments Vocals, electronic backing, sampler, sequencer, electric guitar, bass guitar, drum kit, keyboard
Derivative forms boybands, twee pop, riot grrrl, indie pop, bubblegum pop, Yé-yé
Other topics
Motown Records, Eurovision song contest, camp (style), pop icon, teenybopper, postmodernism, consumerism, kitsch, pop culture, manufactured pop, teen idol, girl power, all-female band

A girl group is a popular music act featuring several young female singers who generally harmonise together.

The term "girl group" is also used in a narrower sense to denote the wave of American female pop singing groups who flourished in the late 1950s and early 1960s between the decline of early rock and roll and the British Invasion, many of whom were influenced by doo-wop style.

All-female bands in which members also play instruments are usually considered a separate phenomena, and these groups are sometimes called "girl bands" to differentiate, although this terminology is not universally followed and these bands are sometimes also called girl groups.[1]

The Andrews Sisters were the most successful of the early girl groups. The Supremes were the most successful of the wave of girl groups of the 1960s, holding 12 number-one singles on The Billboard Hot 100. In later eras the girl group template would be applied to disco, contemporary R&B, and country-based formats as well as pop. Of these later groups, the Spice Girls and TLC are considered the most successful,[2] with the albums Spice by the Spice Girls and CrazySexyCool by TLC being the best-selling albums of all time by a girl group.


During the music hall/vaudeville era, all-girl singing groups were mainly novelty acts singing nonsense songs in silly voices. One of the first major exceptions was the Hamilton Sisters and Fordyce, an American trio who successfully toured England and parts of Europe in 1927, recorded and appeared on BBC radio - they toured the US variety and big-time theaters extensively, and later changed their stage name to the Three X Sisters. The ladies were together from 1923 until the early 1940s, and known for their close harmonies, as well as barbershop style or novelty tunes, and utilized their 1930s radio success.[3] The Boswell Sisters, who became one of the most popular singing groups from 1930 to 1936, had over twenty hits. The Andrews Sisters started (1937) as a Boswell tribute band and continued recording and performing through the 1940s into the late-1960s, achieving more record sales, more Billboard hits, more million-sellers, and more movie appearances than any other girl group to date.[4]

1950s and 1960s[edit]

The Supremes became one of the most popular girl groups of the 1960s. Throughout most of the British Invasion, the trio rivaled The Beatles in popularity.

The Chordettes, The Fontane Sisters, and The McGuire Sisters were popular from the dawn of the rock era, if not earlier, with all three acts topping the pop charts at the end of 1954 to the beginning of 1955. The DeCastro Sisters' "Teach Me Tonight" reached number two at nearly the same time. The Lennon Sisters were a mainstay on the Lawrence Welk Show from 1955 on. In early 1956 the Bonnie Sisters were a one-hit wonder with "Cry Baby", as were The Teen Queens with "Eddie My Love". The Bobbettes lasted for 5 1/2 months with "Mr. Lee" in 1957, and The Chantels were charting from 1957 to 1963 (including 1958's "Maybe" and 1961's "Look In My Eyes"). However, the group often considered to have started the girl group genre is The Shirelles, who first reached the Top 40 with "Tonight's the Night", and in 1961 became the first girl group to reach number one on the Hot 100 with "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", written by Brill Building songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King.[5] The Shirelles solidified their success with five more top 10 hits, most particularly 1962's number one hit "Soldier Boy", over the next two and a half years. A Polish group Filipinki was established in 1959[6]

Other songwriters and producers quickly recognized the potential of this new approach and recruited existing acts (or, in some cases, created new ones) to record their songs in a girl-group style. Phil Spector recruited The Crystals, The Blossoms, and The Ronettes, while Goffin and King handled much of the output of The Cookies. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller would likewise foster The Exciters, The Dixie Cups, and The Shangri-Las. Other important girl group songwriters included Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. Motown labels also masterminded several major girl groups, beginning with The Marvelettes and later with Martha and the Vandellas, The Velvelettes, and The Supremes.[5] The Gypsies, later renamed The Flirtations, sounded like The Supremes. The Paris Sisters had success from 1961, especially with "I Love How You Love Me", to 1964. The Sensations, The Chiffons, The Angels, and The Orlons (after Stephen Caldwell left in 1964) were also prominent in the early 1960s. One-hit wonder The Jaynetts' "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" achieved a mysterious sound quite unlike that of any other girl group. In 1964 one-hit wonder The Murmaids took David Gates' "Popsicles and Icicles" to the top 3 in January, The Carefrees' "We Love You Beatles" scraped the top 40 in April, and The Jewels' "Opportunity" was small in December. Except for a small number of the foregoing groups and possibly The Toys and the Sweet Inspirations, the only girl group with any significant chart presence from the beginning of the British Invasion through 1970 was The Supremes.[7][8]

1970s to mid-1980s[edit]

From 1971 through 1974 the only two hits purely by girl groups peaking in the top 10 were "Want Ads" by Honey Cone and "When Will I See You Again" by The Three Degrees[9] (which had roots in the 1960s). Patti LaBelle and The Bluebelles was a US 1960s girl group whose image Vicki Wickham, their manager, helped remake in the early 1970s, renaming the group Labelle and pushing them in the direction of glam rock.[10] Labelle were the first girl group to eschew matching outfits and identical choreography, instead wearing extravagant spacesuits and feathered headdresses.[11][12] Later, during the disco craze and beyond, female acts included Silver Convention, Hot, The Emotions, High Inergy, Odyssey, Sister Sledge, Belle Epoque, Frantique, Luv' and Baccara. Then other groups later took advantage of the disco backlash and brought girl bands into pop and pop rock from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s; among the most successful of these were Pointer Sisters (continuing its string of hits from the 1970s), Weather Girls, Mary Jane Girls, and Bananarama. Fanny, The Go-Go's, and The Bangles each achieved success during this period but would be considered more as all-female bands, more indebted to 1960s garage rock, 1970s punk, folk, and 1960s psychedelia.

Late 1980s and 1990s[edit]

The Spice Girls became the best-selling girl group of all time.

Wilson Phillips were a trio of American vocalists who became the best-selling female group at the time with their hit 1990 self-titled debut album. Around the same time, other American girl groups such as En Vogue, Exposé and Sweet Sensation all had singles hit number one on the charts. Also in the early 1990s, a number of R&B-themed girl groups came onto the scene, including TLC, SWV, Xscape, 702, Total and Zhane. They were followed in the mid-1990s by Destiny's Child and Blaque.

In 1996, the American domination of the girl group scene was overtaken by the UK's Spice Girls, who had nine number 1 singles in the UK and US. With sold-out concerts, advertisements, merchandise and a film, the Spice Girls became the most commercially successful British group since The Beatles.[13][14] They were one of the biggest selling pop groups of the 1990s, and the best-selling female group in modern music history.[15][16] Their first album, Spice, is the best-selling album of all time by a female group, with 28 million sales worldwide.[17][18][19] In total, the Spice Girls sold in excess of 80 million records worldwide.[20][21][22] According to The Times, BBC News and biographer David Sinclair, they are the most successful girl group of all time.[23][24][25] Other groups included the British-Canadian outfit All Saints who were marketed as a rival and different style to the Spice Girls, Irish girl group B*Witched and Eternal who all achieved worldwide success during the decade.

In 2012 the Official Charts Company revealed the biggest selling singles artists in British music chart history with the Spice Girls currently placed 20th overall (8 million) and the only girl group act on the list.[26][27]

It the late 90s, Japanese group Speed sold a total of 20 million copies in Japan in three years.[28]


In the United Kingdom, girl groups remained popular during the 2000s. Atomic Kitten had a string of hits, including their breakthrough number one "Whole Again" in 2000. Sugababes and Girls Aloud became popular during the early 2000s. Girls Aloud's "Sound of the Underground" and Sugababes' "Round Round" have been called "two huge groundbreaking hits",[29] credited with reshaping British pop music for the 2000s.[30] Sugababes have amassed six UK number one singles and fourteen additional top ten singles, as well as four platinum albums,[31] making them the most successful female act of the 21st century according to British Hit Singles & Albums. Girls Aloud achieved a string of twenty consecutive top ten singles (including four number ones) and two number one albums in the United Kingdom. All five of their studio albums have been certified platinum,[31] with their greatest hits album The Sound of Girls Aloud selling over one million copies.[32] Both groups have been nominated for multiple BRIT Awards, with Sugababes winning Best Dance Act in 2003 and Girls Aloud winning Best Single for "The Promise" in 2009. In 2008 pop English-Irish group The Saturdays entered the music scene; touring with Girls Aloud. They have so far released 4 Top Ten UK Albums and 13 Top Ten Singles, dominating the British Music Charts in Pop Music. They have sold over 4 million records worldwide. Stooshe are a three-piece British R&B girl group that originate from London, United Kingdom. They were nominated for the BBC's Sound of 2012 poll.[33] and have since had 2 UK top 5 singles. In 2012, UK group Little Mix gained popularity after winning the X Factor and managed to break the US charts with their debut album DNA.

Rouge is a Brazilian girl group.

In Asia, girl groups remain highly successful. Hallyu (Korean wave) and K-pop have become increasingly significant in the entertainment industry, with its influence breaking the confinements of Asia and spreading to America[34] and Europe.[35] Girl groups are one of the leaders of the "Hallyu" wave and a few groups have made themselves known in spite of the fierce competition. Namely, Girls' Generation (also known as SNSD) and 2NE1 are widely recognized as the top girl groups of South Korea. Other popular South Korean groups include: Brown Eyed Girls, Crayon Pop, T-ara, Secret, f(x), Sistar and After School.[36]

Japanese J-pop girl groups such as Speed, Morning Musume, AKB48 and SKE48 have appeared. Morning Musume are one of the most successful Japanese pop idol girl groups, they are the longest running female idol group in Japan, holding the second highest overall single sales (of a female group) on the Oricon charts as of February 2012, with the Oricon record for most consecutive top 10 singles (55) for any Japanese artist, and they have sold over 18 million copies in Japan alone. With over 60 members, AKB48 is currently recognized by Guinness World Records as the pop group with the most members. AKB48 currently holds the position as the best-selling female artists in Japan, according to Oricon statistics, having sold around 22 million copies of their singles by May 2013.[37] Several solo acts from members or former members of AKB48 have also reached the number one place on the singles chart. Perfume is another successful girl group in Japan - their musical style is focused on electronic dance-pop.

In the North American market, the 2000s saw a decline in girl group success, with a few exceptions such as The Pussycat Dolls and Danity Kane. Overall, girl groups have been less successful than solo acts and mixed groups such as The Black Eyed Peas. Despite the decline in popularity, the influence of classic girl groups from the 1960s has proven valuable for modern-day English-speaking pop-soul artists that have been met with international success, such as Amy Winehouse, Adele, Duffy and Melanie Fiona among others.


In Japan, Momoiro Clover Z is known for innovative performances.[38]

In Japan, girl groups remain very popular, topping the Oricon Singles Chart in 16 out of 52 weeks in 2011, in 16 out of 53 in 2012 and in 19 out of 50 in 2013. Momoiro Clover Z is one of the most popular girl groups. The group is known for energetic performances, incorporating elements of ballet, gymnastics, and action movies.[39] Although the girls' voices are not very stable when coupled with an intense dance, they never lipsynch.[40] A 2013 survey shows that it attracts the highest level of interest of all the female idol groups in Japan.[41] On the other hand, 7 of the 10 best selling singles in Japan in 2013 were by AKB48 related groups, including 4 by AKB48, 2 by SKE48, 1 by NMB48.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ For example, vocalist groups Sugababes and Girls Aloud are referred to as "girl bands" Meet the duo dressing Girls Aloud OK magazine, 20 March 2009; The nation's new sweetheart The Observer, 9 November 2008; while instrumentalists Girlschool are termed a "girl group" Biography for Girlschool Internet Movie Database; The Hedrons Belfast Telegraph, 19 January 2007
  2. ^ Thomas, Rebecca (2012-04-25). "TLC’s Left Eye Remembered: 10 Years Later". MTV (MTV Networks). Retrieved 2012-06-23. 
  3. ^ Reading Eagle - Google News Archive Search
  4. ^ "Swing It! The Andrews Sisters Story," John Sforza, University Press of Kentucky, 2000
  5. ^ a b Turner, Alwyn W. (2003). "Classic Girl Groups". In Peter Buckley. The Rough Guide to Rock (3rd ed.). London: Rough Guides. pp. 426–428. ISBN 978-1-84353-105-0. 
  6. ^ "Filipinki. W USA przecierały szlaki, w ZSRR czerwone dywany" (in (Polish)). Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1990). The Billboard Hot 100 Charts: The Sixties (4 January 1964 through 27 December 1969). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. ISBN 0-89820-074-1. 
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1990). The Billboard Hot 100 Charts: The Seventies (3 January 1970 through 26 December 1970). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. ISBN 0-89820-076-8. 
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1990). The Billboard Hot 100 Charts: The Seventies (2 January 1971 through 28 December 1974). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. ISBN 0-89820-076-8. 
  10. ^ "New England's largest GLBT newspaper". Bay Windows. 29 October 2008. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  11. ^ By Dan DeLuca (10 November 2008). "Patti LaBelle joins some old friends". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  12. ^ "Patti LaBelle's Back to Now". Time Out Chicago. Timeout. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  13. ^ "herNew Spice Girls documentary on BBC One". BBC Press Office. 19 October 2007. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  14. ^ "1998: Ginger leaves the Spice Girls". BBC News. 31 May 1998. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  15. ^ "Spice Girls announce reunion tour". BBC News. 28 June 2007. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  16. ^ “” (11 December 2007). "Victoria Beckham on Larry King". YouTube. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  17. ^ Biography - Spice Girls Rolling Stone; Spice selling some 23 million copies worldwide
  18. ^ Facts - Timeline Spice Girls
  19. ^ Timeline: Spice Girls BBC News, 28 June 2007
  20. ^ Spice Girls announce reunion tour BBC News, 28 June 2007
  21. ^ Spice Girls' London Tickets Sell Out in 38 Seconds People, 1 October 2007
  22. ^ Spice Girls announce extra concerts Times Online, 27 July 2007
  23. ^ "In pictures: Spice Girls through the years". BBC News. 28 June 2007. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  24. ^ "Guests - Show eight". Graham Norton's Bigger Picture. BBC. 6 November 2006. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
  25. ^ Sinclair, David (4 December 2007). "Spice Girls review they remain consummate entertainers". Times Online. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  26. ^ "The Official Top 20 biggest selling groups of all time revealed!". Retrieved 2012-11-03. 
  27. ^ "Beatles Top All Time UK Singles Sales | Rock News | News". Planet Rock. 2012-06-06. Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  28. ^ Herskovitz, Jon (11 October 1999). "Top Japanese girl group Speed coming to a halt". Variety. Retrieved 15 November 2008. 
  29. ^ Neil McCormick (13 August 2009). "Xenomania: how to write a hit song". The Daily Telegraph (London: Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 24 Nov 2009. 
  30. ^ Emily MacKay (November 2009). "End of Decade: Sound of the Overground". NME. UK: IPC Media. Retrieved 3 Dec 2009. 
  31. ^ a b "BPI Certified Awards". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 27 August 2009. 
  32. ^ "Take That shine among IFPI Platinum elite". Music Week. United Business Media. 29 Jan 2009. Retrieved 30 Jan 2009. 
  33. ^ "BBC - Sound of 2012 - Stooshe - Profile". BBC. 2011-12-05. 
  34. ^ "K-Pop takes America: how South Korea's music machine is conquering the world". The Verge. 18 October 2012. 
  35. ^ "K-POP Hits the Europe". The UOS Times. 31 August 2011. 
  36. ^
  37. ^ The asahi shimbun (2013-05-28). "AKB48 becomes best-selling singles female artist ever in Japan". The Asahi Shimbun Company. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  38. ^ "Momoiro Clover Z dazzles audiences with shiny messages of hope". The Asahi Shimbun. 2012-08-29. 
  39. ^ "進化するアイドル ももクロが凄いワケ". hotexpress. 2011-12-16. Retrieved 2013-03-28. 
  40. ^ "Live report: Summer Sonic 2012". Time Out Tokyo. 2012-08-23. Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  41. ^ "ももクロ、初のAKB超え タレントパワーランキング" (in Japanese). Nihon Keizai Shimbun. 24 June 2013. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  42. ^ "Oricon 2013 Yearly Charts : Singles". tokyohive. 6Theory Media, LLC. 2013-12-15. Retrieved 2013-12-16.