Black Music Innovators: EnVogue

In the seams of a colorful and vibrant style influenced by Diana Ross and Dorothy Dandridge were four soul glamour-esque women. They rose throughout the industry known as En Vogue. Back in 1989, they were formed and discovered by the production team of Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy. They wanted a group that had a classic, but sexy look and sound. En Vogue became a top African-American female vocal quartet through their production and support. Since the “new jack swing” and R&B genres were evolving, Foster and McElroy held auditions and from it they found former Miss Black California Cindy Herron, Maxine Jones, Dawn Robinson, and Terry Ellis. They were like an updated Supremes, a female Toni, Tony Tone; so stylish, sophisticated, and sexy. En Vogue’s debut album, Born to Sing, appeared in 1990 and launched the pop crossover smash “Hold On,” which peaked at number two and helped the album go platinum. They were so diverse with albums full of rock, r&b, pop and more. Then En Vogue returned in 1992 with Funky Divas; the first three singles — “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It),” “Giving Him Something He Can Feel” (both covers of songs written by Curtis Mayfield), and “Free Your Mind” (which borrowed a chorus line from George Clinton) — reached the Top Ten, and the album went multi-platinum. En Vogue were in the Top Ten again in 1993, backing Salt-N-Pepa on their hit “Whatta Man.” Although this group was influenced by some late greats, they influenced a tremendous amount of female solo artists and groups from 1990 to 2010, they are the reason female artists kept the music alive.

As a group of three women, SWV, Sisters With Voices, were “Weak” for “Anything” music-wise. Influenced by En Vogue, the three ladies, Coko (born Cheryl Gamble), Taj (born Tamara Johnson), and Lelee (born Leanne Lyons) created a group that kept their church style and friendship bond. A demo tape the group assembled caught the attention of producer Teddy Riley, a former member of Guy and the founder of the
“new jack swing,” who brought them into the game. The group’s first album in 1990 went double platinum with hits like ” I’m So Into You” and more. Another group that paved the way for many.

Within the 1992-1998 span for SWV, in the mix of music were Total. Undoubtly influence by En Vogue too. Signed to Puff Daddy’s label, Bad Boy Records, they dubbed hit with Notorius B.I.G., Lil’ Kim and Junior Mafia. Although their career ended softly, they’re distinctive voices are remembered. And since, Puff Daddy, now known as Diddy, likes to create his own and not jack, he dubbed them as the “new jill flava” of music; derived from “new jack swing.” This trio lasted as long as an acknowledgment from a book. But they can be heard on some of Notorious B.I.G’s hits; “Juicy”, “Can’t You See” and they’re own, “Kissing You” and “What About Us”.

One young lady’s success came from the love of En Vogue and the team of the “Swing Mob Collective” composed of Missy, Timbaland, Ginuwine and several others. She abruptly passed away on August 25, 2001 and will always be remembered. Although she was only a solo artist, her efforts were as strong as En Vogue’s push to stardom. So humble and respected, Aaliyah Dana Haughton became a platinum-selling female artist on the power of two smash singles, “Back & Forth” and “At Your Best (You Are Love)” (an Isley Brothers cover). The songs went gold.

Destined for greatness and motive by many female groups like En Vogue, Destiny’s Child grew from the bottom up. Now solo artists, this quartet, I mean trio, or five-some created a stir. Attention grabbers and hard-workers, Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland, Letoya Luckett, Michelle Williams all went through or stayed in the group with success regardless of the dilemma. The name derived form the Book of Isaiah held the power for them to become one of the top female selling groups and artists in the late 90s; they were competing against TLC. This award-winning group of women have not failed to succeed.

The one thing these groups have in common aside from the gender is the will and grace of down-sizing men literally and in a power aspect of society. These women created the music and voice of many fans that just felt the pain and hate for the opposite sex; men!
—— By: Imani Pope


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