Growing up as a child of the '90s, I had a plethora of girl groups to turn to for inspiration, empowerment, and good music that breathed life into a male-dominated industry.
As someone who grew up after the hip-hop and rap dominated era of the '80s, the '90s felt like a period where girl groups (and solo acts) were slaying and sashaying their way to the top of the charts as they ushered in a new era of girl power and stylistic self-expression that spoke to and for Black women.
From Destiny's Child teaching young girls it is OK to be their own sheros ("Survivor") to the supa dupa flyness of TLC preaching the virtues of paying dust to f-boys ("No Scrubs"), I had a soundtrack for the headaches of life.
But in a new musical climate splintered by streaming and a decline in label support for groups, there has to be another group to carry on the torch. I think it's been a question in the back of everyone's mind: What happened to girl groups? Fifth Harmony didn't have the same impact as One Direction, and old-school R&B has been missed for a minute now that trap has taken over.
Until more recently.
A next generation of promising girl groups has been rising up to reclaim the yesteryears of ensembles going head-to-head with soloists on the charts. Girl groups don't always get the recognition they deserve, so we are shining a spotlight on a few that are bringing their own spin on old and new sounds. Here are eight Black girl groups that need to be on your radar—and heavy rotation.
You might have just become familiar with the alt-R&B songstresses after Disney announced that one half of the duo, Halle Bailey, would be starring as the princess of the sea, Ariel, in the studio’s live-action re-imagination of its titular 1989 classic. Or you might’ve caught both sisters on Freeform’s college dramedy, Grown-ish, were they play track stars and siblings.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Chloe and Halle were discovered after they started uploading music covers to their YouTube channel. Despite being pre-teens, a mere 13 and 11 years of age at the time, their talent was undeniable with their angelic voices. Their rendition of Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts” caught the eye of Bey herself, and she signed the duo to her management company, Parkwood Entertainment, in 2015.
Three years later with an EP and self-produced mixtape under their belts, Chloe and Halle released their first major release, The Kids Are Alright, with the single “Warrior” featuring on the soundtrack for Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time. It garnered them two Grammy nods.
They opened up the 2019 Super Bowl with pre-game performance of “America the Beautiful” followed by the release of “Wolf at Your Door” for Game of Thrones’ eighth season. Most recently, the sisters just dropped two new tracks for Grown-ish, “thinkin bout me” and “who knew,” the latter a modern love ballad filled with airy synths overplayed with shifting vocal cadences that shows off the sisters' vocal prowess and growth.
Must listens: Happy Without Me, Warrior, thinkin bout me, Hi Lo
Shyann, Brienna, Ashly, Kristal and Gabby were handpicked by Kelly Rowland to form June’s Diary after a whirlwind journey on BET’s docuseries Chasing Destiny. Modeled after the likes of En Vogue, New Edition and The Supremes, the quintet was named June’s Diary after the month of June to represent the “influx of new things and new beginnings” that come with spring. They came out the gate swinging with a fiery anti f-boy anthem, “L.A.N.C.E,” that shows off their harmonization and vocal prowess.
Last year, June’s Diary went independent after they departed ways with Epic Records. But they haven’t let the grind to stardom cut their dreams short. The ladies dropped a six-track EP, All of Us, shortly after that peaked at No. 18 on Billboard. They have since been busy taking over stages all across the globe. Check out this video of them harmonizing in a bathroom before a performance at South by Southwest (SXSW).
They are constantly uploading covers to their YouTube channel if you need a taste of vocal magic that they are laying down. Just listen to their mixtape, Male Edition, which is a cover album of R&B staples like Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison,” Jodeci’s “Stay” and Jagged Edge’s “Where the Party At.” They most recently appeared on Goldlink’s Diaspora EP.
Must Listens: L.A.N.C.E, Stay, Take Me, All of Us
St. Beauty is the soulful love child of Alexe Belle and Isis Valentino, who went from coworkers folding shirts at a vintage clothing shop in Georgia to a match-made combination of soulfully funkadelic R&B that just makes you feel like you are floating. The duo formed in 2012 and eventually caught the eye of R&B’s goddess of funk, Janelle Monaé, who was a frequent guest at their shows in Atlanta. They were signed to her Wondaland Records, dropping their first single, “Going Nowhere,” on the label’s collective project, The Eephus, in 2014. St. Beauty dropped their first album, a 10-track EP aptly titled Running to the Sun, last January and they have only continued to burn brighter.
Their moniker comes from an unreleased demo track that Valentino wrote after she was inspired by Stevie Wonder’s “Bird of Beauty.” Defining their sound “confetti” to represent the highs and lows of life, the duo’s music is an artful infusion of neo-soul, reggae, R&B, funk and electro that you can blissfully vibe out to.
“Confetti has a lifeline; there are different stages of confetti; when it blows out that’s the happy moment,” Belle explained to V Magazine in 2016. “When it’s falling, that’s the mellow moment. When it’s on the ground, that’s maybe the sad moment.”
The two's music is stripped down the essentials backed by slinky chord progressions that meld together to create an iridescent sensuality. Their songs are more introspective in nature, from singing about the kind of pain you can only suffer from heartbreak (“Borders”) to dealing with an unfaithful significant other in a relationship (“Caught”).
Must Listens: Holographic Lover, Caught, Colors, Borders
Drawing their namesake from the benevolent Yoruban goddess of love, beauty and fertility, OSHUN is a soul-infused hip-hop duo comprised of Thandiwe and Niambi. The two linked up during their senior year of high school after they were both accepted into the same NYU scholarship program were they became close friends.
Thandiwe and Niambi bonded over activism before they turned to artistically collaborating with one another. Their aesthetic blends traditional Afro-centric styles and afro-futurism.
The Washington, D.C., area natives felt a shared calling to a style of music heavily influenced African spiritualism. The Neo-soul singers released their first EP, bittersweet vol. 1, in 2018. Their sound fluidly moves between stripped-down, hip-hop inflections reminiscent of Lauryn Hill (“Stuck”) to ghostly, trippy instrumentals that sounds like a higher power is speaking to you (“Burn”).
Must Listens: Sango, Glow Up, Stuck, Parts
Ceraadi (pronounced sir-RAH-dee) was formed by sisters Emaza Dilan, Znuie and Saiyr in 2013 after they moved to Los Angeles years prior to chase after their musical aspirations. Ceraadi gained more popularity after Christina Milian discovered the trio in 2015 and put them on her self-titled reality series, Christina Milian Turned Up. The multi-talented trio can sing, rap, dance, and even produce their own content. They call their sound “hood pop,” which is a mixture of pop, trap, R&B and hip-hop influences. Think of them as the Rae Sremmurd of girl groups.
On top of that, they run a highly popular YouTube channel that has gained over 34 million views to date where they give fans a sneak peak into their life behind the scenes. Unfortunately, Znuie left the group last year but Emaza and Saiyr are still going strong. They dropped their high-energy, beat-knocking club banger “Sway” in December and just released their newest single “Loyal” this month.
You will not regret following them on social media as they are always up to something and having a good time. They are lit all the time, always. They make sure their fans are clued in to whatever they got going on and don’t miss a moment to show off their dancing.
Must Listens: Loyal, Sway, What Ever, Kung Pao
After appearing on America's Got Talent in 2016, the '90s R&B influenced four-piece is steadily making a name for themselves as an act to watch. Although their sound is heavily influenced by the likes of TLC and En Vogue, the quartet is more like a hip-hop Spice girls. Members Bobbie, JL, Arielle and Megan Nicolle each rock their own flavorful hair color: orange (Bobbie), red (JL), blue (Megan Nicolle) and blonde (Arielle).
Their 2014 EP ‘90s Kind of Love samples a number of R&B melodies that have been updated with more contemporary leanings. Their music hearkens back to the old school sultry '90s R&B sound our parents raised us up on. The Philly quartet doesn’t have a lot music out yet, but they recently dropped “I Can Be Yours,” an up-tempo jam perfect for a Hot Girl summer.
Must Listens: I Can Be Yours, Gimmie Love, Make It Last, 1st to Say
The Atlanta-based girl group originally started with Moriah, Kaylan and Ydal (who hails from Paris), who met at a performance camp at AGI Entertainment where things just clicked. Their run on Fox’s The X Factor in 2013, where Kelly Rowland dubbed them “baby Destiny’s Child,” helped put them on the map. Kandi Burrus took the trio under her wings shortly after, signing them to her label, Kandi Koated Entertainment.
Their cover of R&B princess Brandi’s single “Beggin & Pleadin” spun into an opportunity for the ladies to appear in the accompanying music video. Thanks to their 2017 mixtape, Writings on the Gram, an homage to Destiny’s Child 1999 Writings on the Wall, the urban pop trio has steadily been making a name for themselves.
The ladies have been hard at work releasing a mix of covers and original music on their SoundCloud. They have also starred on Lee Daniel’s Empire, BET’s The Game, and in Parental Guidance. While there hasn’t been word of an album yet, their songs have proven the quartet to be one of the most vocally talented groups to enter the music scene in years.
In 2018, Moriah parted ways and Glamour added new members to their lineup: Ammaya and Jaz.
Must Listens: Tug of War, Bye Felicia, Emotions, B.A.E.
The Atlanta-based pop and R&B trio is made up of sisters Mimi, A-Ni and Kena, who were inspired to form a girl group after attending a Mindless Behavior meet-and-greet. They released a self-introductory EP, The Mako Girls Experience, where the girls got to show off their rapping and singing. As one of the few teen pop groups out on the scene, their mission is make clean and positive turn up music.
So far, the Ochoa sisters have made a name for in themselves in Atlanta circles, but the girls haven’t been shy about their goal for worldwide domination, releasing a title by the same name in 2017.
Must Listens: Turning Up The Crowd (T.U.T.C), ATL, Mako Thing, Worldwide
(Photos from L-R: Amy Sussman/Getty Images, Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images and Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)