Much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ segments, readers of That Grape Juice know what avid music lovers we are – especially of hits past. So in a quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday we introduced a new retrospective segment – ‘TGJ Replay’.
Unlike its ‘Rewind’ and ‘Vault’ predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase albums (and eras) from a library of pop music hits. Today, we’ll shine light on the succint, yet ever-successful careers of the Funky Divas’! Tuck in for the very best of En Vogue…
Much like today, the 80s suffered from a dearth of diva syndicates. Indeed, since the decline of the girlgroup wave of Motown’s hey-day, most of the 70s and 80s – despite having a few worthy mentions (see: Labelle, Pointer Sisters, Klymaxx, Mary Jane Girls) – was devoid of the girl power imparted by the Supremes and like groups of decades prior.
With R&B finding new footing on charts due to the New Jack Swing movement and more pop infused number come the late 80s, production duo of Foster and McElroy sought to rebirth the almighty girlgroup with a modern twist. The result of that quest came in the form of four fierce female performers – Cindy Herron, Dawn Robinson, Maxine Jones, and Terry Ellis.
Collectively, they would form En Vogue.
Powerful vocals, awe-inspiring harmonies, high octane choreography, sex appeal, and style were just a few of the demonstrations decorating every performance of the composite. A formula that would later take them to the top of charts, the ladies first outing was 1990’s ‘Born To Sing’. A fitting title for the foursome whose vocal displays were quickly likened to some of R&B’s top performers.
Led by ‘Hold On’, the James Brown-sampled number quickly shot to #1 on R&B charts (#2 on pop charts). Not only setting an almost untouchable precedent for the day’s R&B groups to follow, but long overdue filling the ‘girl group’ void that had plagued the genre.
‘Hold On’ (Live)
The tune’s success not only garnered the newbies a host of awards and nominations, but also helped its parent album shift over 1 million copies. And, while fans itched for its follow-up, what the group was about to impart (unbeknownst to them) would lay the groundwork for girl groups to follow for decades to come.
It would also become their signature album.
Yet again taking to a James Brown sample to kick off their album, the ladies’ second album ‘Funky Divas’ blasted onto the scene with the Maxine Jones-led ‘My Lovin (You’re Never Gonna Get It)’.
Showcasing even more stylized offerings from the quartet, the enlistment of famed choreographer Frank Gatson Jr. would see En Vogue also step up in the era’s stage show and glossier music videos.
‘My Lovin (You’re Never Gonna Get It)’ (live)
Evidence of such advancements can be found in the visuals for ‘Giving Him Something He Can Feel’ (Aretha Franklin remake) and their socially daring number ‘Free Your Mind’.
‘Free Your Mind’ (live)
The “advancements”, unlike so many of their counterparts, did not come at the expense nor ever overshadow their actual talent. And, like its predecessor, ‘Funky Divas’ saw the accolades roll in – quickly tripling the sales of ‘Born’ and going on to win a host of industry awards.
As the years that followed would see the foursome release EPs, tour, and play assistant to some of the era’s most memorable hits (see: Salt-N-Pepa‘s ‘Whatta Man’), it would be nearly 5 years before work on a ‘Funky Diva’ followup would come to fruition. That, however, did not stop EV from impacting charts.
‘Don’t Let Go’
Dawn’s departure from the group in 1997 put a halt on the creation of a 3rd studio album. The decade that followed would see the group – throughout its numerous lineup changes – impart moderately well received numbers to R&B charts but never fully recapture their footing on Billboard.
2007/2008 signaled hope of return to chart prominence, however, as the ladies announced a reunion of the original four members. That reunion was not only short lived, but was quickly followed by a presently ongoing feud between the ‘Funky Divas’ – one that has even transitioned to court rooms.
Regardless, fans are still longing for a reunion of the quartet fully equipped with the high soaring harmonies, sass, and sex appeal that assisted their early reigns atop charts. Setting a blueprint that was clearly seen in the makings of future super groups like Destiny’s Child and more, En Vogue stood as the prototype for “the total package”. Comprised of four voices that could easily sing lead as well as their peer, arguably, no group before or after them hit “the nail on the head” as precisely as they have.
For that, even though the likelihood is not very, we still long for a regroup of the songstresses to A) show the youngn’s how it’s really done and B) fulfill a legacy that was cut all too short.
While we press play on our jam ‘Hold On’, you tell us: