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Girl group

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Girl group

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 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.[1][2]

All-female bands, in which members also play instruments, are usually considered a separate phenomena. 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. 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[5] led by major record labels. This emergence, led by the US, UK, 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

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.[6] 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.[7]

1955–1970: The girl group wave

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.[8]

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 "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]

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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] Other important girl group songwriters included Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann.

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

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. In early fall 1963 one-hit wonder The Jaynetts' "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" achieved a mysterious sound[20] 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.[21]

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,[22][23] or multi-cultural soloists and bands,[24][25] 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.[26][27] 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

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[28] (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.[29] Labelle were the first girl group to eschew matching outfits and identical choreography, instead wearing extravagant spacesuits and feathered headdresses.[30][31] Later, during the disco craze and beyond, female acts included First Choice, 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), The 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. 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.

1990–present: Dance pop girl group era

American R&B and hip hop

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, and Blaque, managed to have songs chart on both the U.S. Hot 100 and the U.S. R&B charts. However, two groups, TLC and Destiny's Child (along with solo acts such as Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey and male counterparts such as Boyz II Men and R. Kelly), ushered in an era where contemporary R&B would become global mainstream acceptance.[32] TLC's 1994 album, CrazySexyCool, sold 23 million copies,[33] and its single "Waterfalls" reached the top 10 in 11 different countries. Destiny's Child has sold more than 60 million albums altogether.[34] Despite the dying popularity of girl groups, American girl group The Pussycat Dolls achieved world-wide success with their singles such as "Don't Cha", "Buttons", and "When I Grow Up". The group has sold 54 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling girl groups of all time. 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 "BO$$" charting at number 43.

The Second British Invasion

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[35][36][37] and a film, the Spice Girls became the most commercially successful British group since The Beatles .[38][39][40] [41][42][43] [44][45][46][47][48][49]

The cultural movement started by the Spice Girls produced other similar acts, which includes 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. Throughout the 2000s girl groups from the UK remained popular. Atomic Kitten had a string of hits, including their breakthrough number one "Whole Again" in 2000. Sugababes and Girls Aloud with their greatest hits album The Sound of Girls Aloud selling over one million copies.[50] became popular during the early 2000s, with Girls Aloud's "Sound of the Underground" and Sugababes' "Round Round" have been called "two huge groundbreaking hits",[51] credited with reshaping British pop music for the 2000s.[52]

The success of Sugababes and Girls Aloud inspired other UK girl group acts, including The Saturdays, StooShe and Little Mix, who all reversed the decline of the market in 2008-2012 . The latter two acts also had a more heavy association with US music styles and acts like TLC and Destiny's Child. 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.[53]

Emergence of Asian girl groups

In Japan, Momoiro Clover Z is known for innovative performances.[54]

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Korean girl group KARA.

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.[55] 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.[56][57] 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.[58] 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. 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 as of May 2013.[59] According to 2013 and 2014 surveys, Momoiro Clover Z is ranked as the most popular female idol group.[60][61] The group is known for energetic performances, incorporating elements of ballet, gymnastics, and action movies.[62] Although the girls' voices are not very stable when coupled with an intense dance, they never lipsynch.[63]

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 Europe and the Americas[64][65] Girl groups are one of the leaders of the "Hallyu" wave, with top albums consistently selling millions of copies. Namely, Girls' Generation, KARA, Wonder Girls and 2NE1 are widely recognized as the top girl groups of South Korea. Other popular South Korean groups include: T-ARA, f(x), 4minute, Miss A and After School.[66] The girl groups of Korea have been particularly effective in digital sales of music, with nine 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,[67] such as the international 2008 hit Nobody by Wonder Girls or 2014 single You Don't Love Me by Spica.

See also


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  2. ^ "Girl Groups - A Short History". Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  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
  4. ^ a b "Girl Groups". Girl Groups. Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  5. ^ Global Transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture - Google Books. Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  6. ^ Reading Eagle - Google News Archive Search
  7. ^ "Swing It! The Andrews Sisters Story," John Sforza, University Press of Kentucky, 2000
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002. Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc. pp. 950, 959, 964, 967, 969, 970, 983, 984, 988–990.  
  9. ^ Dave Thompson. "Maybe - The Chantels | Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  10. ^ a b "History, Travel, Arts, Science, People, Places | Smithsonian". Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  11. ^ Lucy M. O’Brien. "girl groups (music) - Encyclopedia Britannica". Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  12. ^ "THE GIRL GROUPS With the exception of the teen idols, girl group". Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  13. ^ "100 Greatest Artists: The Shirelles". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  14. ^ "From The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame". The Shirelles. Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  15. ^ "The Brill Building and the Girl Group Era | Rock and Roll: An American Story". Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  16. ^ 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.  
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  22. ^ "Mass and Propaganda Music | Cultural Exchange China - The Netherlands". Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  23. ^ Category:Maoist_China_propaganda_songs
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  27. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1990). The Billboard Hot 100 Charts: The Seventies (3 January 1970 through 26 December 1970). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, Inc.  
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  30. ^ By Dan DeLuca (10 November 2008). "Patti LaBelle joins some old friends". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 11 August 2010. 
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  33. ^ Matilda Battersby (2012-11-05). "TLC plan first album since Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes' death - News - Music". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
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  56. ^ Girl groups top 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. 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. Several solo acts from members or former members of AKB48 have also reached the number one place on the singles chart.
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  63. ^ 進化するアイドル ももクロが凄いワケ [The reason why Momoiro Clover Z, an evolutionary idol group, is great]. Hotexpress (in Japanese). 2011-12-16. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
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  66. ^ "Dispatch ranks the Girl Groups of 2013". 2013-10-14. Retrieved 2014-06-04. 
  67. ^ "K-Pop Fashion Trend Report: Retro-Vintage : News". KpopStarz. Retrieved 2014-06-04. 

External links

  • 2007 Smithsonian piece of historical influence of American Girl Groups
  • Fan-made site devoted to the breadth of mid-century American Girl Groups
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