Girl group

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A girl group is a music act featuring several female singers who generally harmonize together.

The term "girl group" is also used in a narrower sense within English-speaking countries to denote the wave of American female pop music singing groups which 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.[1][2]

All-female bands, in which members also play instruments, are usually considered a separate phenomenon. 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.[3]

With the advent of the music industry and radio broadcasting, a number of girl groups emerged, such as the Andrews Sisters. The late 1950s saw the emergence of all-female singing groups as a major force, with 750 distinct girl groups releasing songs that reached US and UK music charts from 1960 to 1966.[4] the Supremes alone held 12 number-one singles on The Billboard Hot 100 during the height of the wave and throughout most of the British Invasion rivaled the Beatles in popularity.[5] In later eras, the girl group template would be applied to disco, contemporary R&B, and country-based formats, as well as pop. A more globalized music industry saw the extreme popularity of dance-oriented pop music[6] led by major record labels. This emergence, led by the US, UK, South Korea, and Japan, produced extremely popular acts, with eight groups debuting after 1990 having sold more than 15 million physical copies of their albums. Also, since the late 2000s, South Korea has had a significant impact, with 8 of the top 10 girl groups by digital sales in the world originating there.


Vaudeville and close harmonies[edit]

One of the first major all-female groups 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.[7] The Boswell Sisters, who became one of the most popular singing groups from 1930 to 1936, had over twenty hits. the Andrews Sisters started in 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.[8]

1955–1970: The golden age of girl groups[edit]

The Supremes became one of the most popular girl groups of the 1960s.

As the rock era began, close harmony acts like the Chordettes, the Fontane Sisters, the McGuire Sisters and the DeCastro Sisters remained popular, with the first three acts topping the pop charts and the last reaching number two, at the end of 1954 to the beginning of 1955. Also, the Lennon Sisters were a mainstay on the Lawrence Welk Show from 1955 on. In early 1956, doo-wop one-hit wonder acts like the Bonnie Sisters with "Cry Baby" and the Teen Queens with "Eddie My Love" showed early promise for a departure from traditional pop harmonies. With "Mr. Lee", the Bobbettes lasted for 5 1/2 months on the charts in 1957, building momentum and gaining further acceptance of all-female, all-black vocal groups.

However, it was the Chantels' 1958 song "Maybe" that became "arguably, the first true glimmering of the girl group sound."[9][10] The "mixture of black doo-wop, rock and roll, and white pop"[11] was appealing to a teenage audience and grew from scandals involving payola and the perceived social effects of rock music.[12] The success of the Chantels and others was followed by an enormous rise in girl groups with varying skills and experience, with the music industry's typical racially segregated genre labels of R&B and pop slowly breaking apart.[10] The group often considered to have achieved the first sustained success in girl group genre is the Shirelles,[13][14] 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",[15] written by Brill Building songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King.[16] 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. "Please Mr. Postman" by the Marvelettes became a major indication of the racial integration of popular music, as it was the first number one song in the US for African-American owned label Tamla/Motown.[17] Motown would mastermind several major girl groups, including Martha and the Vandellas, the Velvelettes, and the Supremes.[16]

Please Mr. Postman album.JPG

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Other songwriters and producers in the US and UK 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,[18] while Goffin and King penned two hit songs for the Cookies. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller would likewise foster the Exciters, the Dixie Cups, and the Shangri-Las.[19] The Shangri-Las' hit single, "Leader of the Pack," exemplified the "'death disc' genre" adopted by some girl groups.[20] These songs usually told the story of teenage love cut short by the death of one of the young lovers.

Promotional picture of the Shangri-Las, circa 1965/66

The Paris Sisters had success from 1961 to 1964, especially with "I Love How You Love Me". The Sensations, the Chiffons, the Angels, and the Orlons were also prominent in the early 1960s. In early fall 1963 one-hit wonder the Jaynetts' "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" achieved a mysterious sound[21] quite unlike that of any other girl group. In 1964, the one-hit wonder group 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 a small hit in December.[22]

The girl group sound also extended to existing acts backed by studio musician girls performing without label credit. Examples are too numerous to mention.

Over 750 girl groups were able to chart a song between 1960 and 1966[4] in the US and UK, although the genre's reach was not as strongly felt in the music industries of other regions. As the youth culture of western Continental Europe was deeply immersed in Yé-yé, recording artists of East Asia mostly varied from traditional singers, government-sponsored chorus,[23][24] or multi-cultural soloists and bands,[25][26] while bossa nova was trendy in Latin America. Beat Music's global influence eventually pushed out girl groups as a genre and, 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.[27][28] The distinct girl group sound would not re-emerge until the twenty-first century, where it would influence modern-day English-speaking pop-soul soloists who have been met with international success, such as Amy Winehouse, Adele, Duffy and Melanie Fiona among others.

1966–1989: Changes in formats and genres[edit]

Singing group Labelle, circa 1975

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[29] (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.[30] Labelle were the first girl group to eschew matching outfits and identical choreography, instead wearing extravagant spacesuits and feathered headdresses.[31][32] IT'S MY PARTY!, a girl group inspired by the 1960s style, was formed in 1985.[33] Later, during the disco craze and beyond, female acts included First Choice, Silver Convention, Hot, the Emotions, High Inergy, Odyssey, Sister Sledge, Mary Jane Girls, Belle Epoque, Frantique, Luv' and Baccara.

1980s: There were groups like the Pointer Sisters, Exposé and Bananarama.

In Latin America the most popular girl groups during that era were: Flans and Pandora.

1990–present: Dance pop girl group era[edit]

Latin America scene[edit]

The Mexican girl group Pandora started out as backup singers, then began releasing albums in 1985. In 1992 and 1993 they were named the best pop group by El Nuestro. The Mexican girl group Flans released an album each year from 1985 to 1990, with several different membership changes, then recorded sporadically after that. The Mexican girl group Jeans saw chart success in 1996 and 1997, and kept recording through 2006, with many changes in membership.

American R&B and hip hop[edit]

With the rise of new jack swing, contemporary R&B and hip hop, American girl groups such as En Vogue, Exposé and Sweet Sensation all had singles which hit number one on the charts. Groups in these genres, such as SWV, Xscape, 702, Total, Zhane, Blaque and 3LW, managed to have songs chart on both the U.S. Hot 100 and the U.S. R&B charts. However, TLC achieved the most success for a girl group in an era where contemporary R&B would become global mainstream acceptance.[34] TLC remains the best-selling American girl group with 65 million records sold, and their 1994 album, CrazySexyCool, remains the best-selling album for a girl group in the United States (diamond certification) while selling over 23 million copies worldwide.[35] Destiny's Child emerged in the late 1990s and has sold more than 60 million records.[36] Despite the dying popularity of girl groups, American girl group the Pussycat Dolls achieved world-wide success in the mid-2000s with their singles such as "Don't Cha", "Buttons", and "When I Grow Up". A new uprising group named Fifth Harmony came into fame after placing third on the second season of The X Factor. They are the only girl group since the Pussycat Dolls to have the highest charting single on the US Billboard Hot 100, with their song "Sledgehammer" charting at number 40. Since then, their single "Worth It" has surpassed the former by charting at number 12, becoming their highest charting single. "Worth It" has achieved 3x platinum certification in the U.S., for sales and streaming equivalent units combined of 3 million units.[37]

The second British invasion[edit]

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

Amidst the American domination of the girl group scene, the UK's Spice Girls shifted the tide and had nine number 1 singles in the UK and US. With sold-out concerts, advertisements, merchandise 80 million worldwide album sales, the best-selling album of all time by a female group[38][39][40] and a film, the Spice Girls became the most commercially successful British group since the Beatles .[41][42][43] [44][45][46] [47][48][49][50][51][52]

The cultural movement started by the Spice Girls produced other similar acts, which includes the British-Canadian outfit All Saints, Irish girl group B*Witched and Eternal who all achieved varying levels of success during the decade. Throughout the 2000s girl groups from the UK remained popular during the early 2000s, with Girls Aloud's "Sound of the Underground" and Sugababes' "Round Round" have been called "two huge groundbreaking hits",[53] credited with reshaping British pop music for the 2000s.[54]

The success of Sugababes and Girls Aloud inspired other UK girl group acts, including Mis-Teeq, the Saturdays, StooShe and Little Mix. British RnB quartet Little Mix became the second UK girl group after the Spice Girls to have two US top 10 albums, as well as the first girl group from Britain to spend their first week in the top 5, rendering them one of few UK girl groups successful in the US on top of their existing success elsewhere in the world.[55]

Emergence of Asian girl groups[edit]

Japanese girl group Momoiro Clover Z
Japanese girl group AKB48

Although girls groups in Asia dance-pop focused acts emerged in the 1990s parallel to their British counterparts, girl groups in Asia sustained as a successful format for acts through the 2010s.[56] Acts in the 1990s proved a successful formula of highly choreographed dances with studio-produced playback.

In Japan (the music industry's second largest market), J-pop girl groups top the Oricon charts.[57][58] Groups such as Speed, Morning Musume, AKB48 have appeared in 1990s and 2000s. Speed sold a total of 20 million copies in Japan in three years.[59] Morning Musume are one of the most successful Japanese pop idol girl groups, they are the longest running female idol group in Japan, and they have sold over 18 million copies there. In 2010s, several new idol groups appeared and the fiercely competitive situation is called "Idol sengoku jidai" (アイドル戦国時代; lit. Idol war age).[60] During 2014, about 486,000 people attended Momoiro Clover Z's live concerts, which was the highest record of all female musicians in Japan.[61] Momoiro Clover Z has been ranked as the most popular female idol group from 2013 to 2015.[62][63][64][65]

In 2009, Hallyu (Korean wave) and K-pop had become increasingly significant in the entertainment industry, with its influence breaking the confinements of Asia and spreading to the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the Americas[66][67] Girl groups are one of the leaders of the "Hallyu" wave, with top albums consistently selling millions of copies. Popular South Korean groups include Girls' Generation, KARA, 2NE1, f(x), SISTAR, Girl's Day, Apink, 4minute, Miss A, Wonder Girls, T-ARA, and others.[68] The girl groups of Korea have been particularly effective in digital sales of music, with seven South Korean acts comprising the top ten in digital sales among girl groups. The influence of the original girl groups of the United States was not lost on this era of artists, as many adopted visual influences through their "retro" concepts,[69] such as the international 2008 hit "Nobody" by Wonder Girls.

In 2010, the girl group, Blush was formed, originally composed of five members from the Philippines, India, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan they became the first Asian group to have its debut single hit the top 3 on a major US Billboard Chart. They were formed on a reality show called Project Lotus: The Search for Blush.

See also[edit]


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  3. ^ 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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External links[edit]