Is SWV's return... the return of the R&B girl group? The major breakthrough came in the sixties (The Supremes, The Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas), continued through the seventies (Labelle, formerly Patti Labelle, and the Bluebelles; Pointer Sisters, Sister Sledge), scarce in the eighties (Weather Girls, Mary Jane Girls), but they were good too, then a rebirth happened in the nineties (En Vogue, TLC, SWV, Zhane, Destiny's Child and an army of others).
Listening to SWV's comeback CD, I Missed Us, my mind goes back to the nineties when music was exciting. Although the generation I am apart of was dubbed Generation X, it seems we became far more than what the culture and critics anticipated. Generation X is considered to be those of us born roughly in the early sixties but no later than 1982. Yes, we witnessed the birth of AIDS, the drive-by shooting, black males being put on the endangered species list -- a generation that acted out.
I remember so much criticism surrounding our music during the nineties. "They don't sing like they use to," "all this technology", "all they do is push a button and they sing on key." Looking back, I am still trying to figure out where it all came from. Yes, there were some who slid by because of great production, but for the most part most singers from the nineties could sing. If they didn't have the pipes, they knew how to make up for it by entertaining, keeping it raw and hyped. There were plenty of genres that thrived in the nineties -- pop (Madonna, Whitney, Janet, Mariah); country (the most revered -- singers from past and present always seem to be around -- Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, Dixie Chicks, Lee Ann Rimes); rock (Alanis Morissette, Sheryl Crow, Limb Bizkit -- many more); hip-hop (Tupac, Biggie, Dr. Dre, Snoop, Jay-Z, The Fugees, Missy Elliot, Lil Kim, Foxy -- list goes on); male R&B (Brian McKnight, R. Kelly, Usher); female R&B (Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans); Teen Queens (Aaliyah, Brandy, Monica, Britney, Christina Aguilera -- it was also a trend), the so-called Neo Soul movement, basically R&B with a retro sound (D'Angelo, Maxwell, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill); male R&B group (Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Shai -- this list is long as well), and yes finally my favorite, the R&B girl group (En Vogue, TLC, SWV, Zhane, Destiny's Child -- on and on it goes -- the British Pop group, Spice Girls became the top selling female group of all time). It's no wonder music sales have plummeted. Most blame it on pirating. However, the excitement that surrounded music in the nineties doesn't seem to be at the same level today. Maybe it was the energy of the artists, cassette tape to CD, the epic music videos? Whatever it was... it is missed!
In 2008, Alicia Keys reunited En Vogue, TLC, and SWV in a performance that rocked the BET Awards!
I remember waiting for the albums to drop. I knew it would be a difficult task for TLC because Left-Eye is no longer with us. Coko of SWV was having a well received gospel career and wasn't that interested in performing the groups old hits. It seemed En Vogue were the ones most likely to release an album, because they were touring successfully -- I even saw them (the original four) three times in the past few years. Twice in New York and once in LA. All the fans waited and anticipated an album. We were told they were in the studio working on a new album. We also heard SWV were in the studio. Unfortunately, in late 2011, Dawn Robinson left En Vogue again. A single called "I'll Cry Later" with three of the ladies -- Maxine Jones, Terry Ellis, and Cindy Herron-Briggs surfaced, but disappeared within a week or two. Then it was like... well... SWV coming out, but can an artist from the nineties who has been away for quite some time, fit into today's format? The answer is yes they can if only they will. SWV's I Missed Us is both current and nostalgic at the same time. Here are eight of my favorite tracks from the thirteen. I had a hard time narrowing them down.
Here's to hoping we will also hear comeback albums from En Vogue (the original 4), Lauryn Hill, and other artists who had their hey day in the nineties!!!!
Follow Kalup Linzy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KalupLinzy