||This article may contain original research. (November 2012)|
|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|
|Motown Records, Eurovision song contest, camp (style), pop icon, teenybopper, postmodernism, consumerism, kitsch, pop culture, manufactured pop, teen idol, girl power, all-female band|
Girl groups emerged in the late 1950s as groups of young singers teamed up with behind-the-scenes songwriters and music producers to create hit singles, often featuring glossy production values and backing by top studio musicians. Some acts had certain members taking the lead vocalist position with the other members as supporting vocalists. In later eras the girl group template would be applied to disco, contemporary R&B, and country-based formats as well as pop.
Spice Girls and TLC are considered the best-selling girl groups of all time. Both of their sales records have surpassed any other girl group in the world and their albums (Spice Girls' Spice and TLC's CrazySexyCool) are 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 later changed their stage name to the Three X Sisters (the ladies were together singing from 1923 until the early 1940s) known for close harmonizing, as well as, barbershop style or novelty tunes, and utilized their 1930s radio success. 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.
1950s and 1960s 
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 #2 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 #1 on the Hot 100 with "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", written by Brill Building songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King. The Shirelles solidified their success with five more top 10 hits, most particularly 1962's #1 hit "Soldier Boy", over the next two and a half years.
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. The Gypsies, later renamed The Flirtations, sounded like The Supremes. The Sensations, The Orlons, The Chiffons, and The Angels 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. A few months later, one-hit wonder The Murmaids took David Gates' "Popsicles and Icicles" to the top 3. The Jewels' "Opportunity" was small in late 1964. 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.
1970s to mid-1980s 
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 (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. Labelle were the first girl group to eschew matching outfits and identical choreography, instead wearing extravagant spacesuits and feathered headdresses. 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. The Bangles and The Go-Go's 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 
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, Expose 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.
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, including "Wannabe", "2 Become 1" and "Spice Up Your Life". With sold-out concerts, advertisements, merchandise and a film, Spice Girls became the most commercially successful British group since The Beatles. They were one of the biggest selling pop groups of the 1990s, and the best-selling female group in modern music history. Their first album, Spice, is the best-selling album of all time by a female group, with 23 million sales worldwide. In total, the Spice Girls sold in excess of 80 million records worldwide. According to The Times, BBC News and biographer David Sinclair, they are the most successful girl group of all time. Other groups included the British-Canadian outfit All Saints who were marketed as a rival and different style to 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 Spice Girls currently placed 20th overall (8 million) and the only girl group act on the list.
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", credited with reshaping British pop music for the 2000s. Sugababes have amassed six UK number one singles and fourteen additional top ten singles, as well as four platinum albums, 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, with their greatest hits album The Sound of Girls Aloud selling over one million copies. 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.
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 and Europe. 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, KARA, f(x), 2NE1 and Wonder Girls are widely recognized as the top girl groups of South Korea. Other popular South Korean groups are Brown Eyed Girls, 4minute, and After School.
Since the late 1990s, as J-Pop has become more popular outside of Japan, Japanese girl groups such as Speed, Morning Musume, AKB48 and SKE48 have appeared. 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, while Speed sold a total of 20 million copies alone in Japan in their three-year history. Perfume are another successful girl group - their musical style is focused on electronic dance-pop.
Meanwhile, girl groups have proved to be less popular (though an increasingly significant interest) in American music during the 21st century, where solo acts and mixed groups such as The Black Eyed Peas tend to be more successful. 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. Girl groups that achieved varying but notable levels of success in the American market since then include The Pussycat Dolls and Danity Kane.
See also 
- 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
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