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“Dear Record Labels: Appreciate Your Girls Groups Before There Aren't Any Left To Appreciate”

A story about girl power, unity, and the sweeping sixties.

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A girl group is a music act featuring two or more female singers who generally harmonize together.

Since the beginning of the 2010 decade, numerous girl groups have come and gone. Not only have they showcased different images and at times sounds, but stepped out to find the perfect song and album to burst onto the scene. In the western hemisphere, groups like G.R.L and Neon Jungle made waves with acoustic edge (‘Ugly Heart’) and electronica frenzy (‘Braveheart’, ‘Trouble’). You also can’t forget the heavy K-POP wave that instilled perfect choreography from girl groups like the Wonder Girls and Girls’ Generation who although formed in 2008, reached pinnacle stardom starting in 2010. Now you have newcomers like Black Pink, whose edgy single releases have wooed over some of the millennial and overseas population.

Alas, we cannot forget about U.S group Fifth Harmony whose multi-platinum hits in ‘Worth It’ and ‘Work From Home’ helped label them American’s next biggest girl group. Although their cracked faults as a group were slowly and continually being scrutinized by the media, they remained in tact as a group especially with powerful empowerment songs like “That’s My Girl”. They may have lost a member in Camila Cabello who eventually left to go on her rising solo journey thus leaving the group as a four-piece, but there was no holding back.

Then comes Little Mix, a U.K. girl group whose coming together in late 2011 proved importance to the rise of later girl groups. Their hit ‘Wings’ and Billboard breaking debut album DNA, shoved them immediately into the spotlight. Critics often compare their close harmonies to past groups like The Andrews Sisters and even Destiny’s Child. Followed by a lackluster promotional wheel in follow-up album and era ‘Salute’ - things began faltering for the group in terms of chart success and no visible Platinum hit. After a long year period of reconstructing a new sound and road, they released ‘Black Magic’ a staple dance-pop hit that renewed the girl groups interest to the world, most notably the U.K, Australia and even the United States. From there, domination began - and their 30+ million selling figures steadily support that.

After the unfortunate death of talent Simone Battle, girl group G.R.L. held on strong and continued on, releasing a beautiful gut-wrenching song in ‘Lighthouse’ in memory of Battle. While a very minor hit, they continued to find and recalculate their sound. This was put on a severe halt, and their respective label and management decided it was best for them to part ways which later came to fruition. We also can’t forget June’s Diary, a girl group created by former Destiny’s Child Kelly Rowland who also helped create UK girl group Little Mix. Unfortunately mainstream radio doesn’t seem to be budging for them. Raw talent is there, but what about more notice? Is there just no demand for girl groups?

While many of these new female groups have found pieces of success in their own right, the question of record label favoritism amongst other male acts and deteriorating unity has only become much more clear. There’s no denying that spending money on female acts and groups is costly, but if there is talent and severe potential, why not give that promotional potential to them?

Artists like Harry Styles, The Chainsmokers, Halsey, etc, have extensive radio deals which has led to immediate success. Thanks to streaming numbers, there’s been a substantial rise for a few other artists as well. It’s been an off and on going battle in determining if streaming truly does benefit the worldwide charting system and benefit the arrival of newly prospective artists.

Simone Battle performing live before joining G.R.L. in 2012

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In the 90’s, a plethora of girl groups held the scene worldwide. But even with success, harsher times were visibly seen. Although TLC swept the world off their feet, after the release of their 1994 studio album reached the 11 million copies sold mark, the group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 3rd, 1995. Member Lisa Lopes, in an exclusive interview in the Last Days of Left Eye Documentary explained how “a girl group can sell 10 million records and still be broke”.

Even today, Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui admitted to their record labels foul play in regards to their mental and physical health. In an alleged recording of her and member Ally Brooke, Jauregui points out “they’re making decisions on a regular basis to fuck us over, to make us literal slaves”. Later at a concert Q&A, a fan asked for advice as someone heading into the music industry and she simply replied “Read your contracts”.

Lisa Lopes of TLC breaks it down - "trust me you can sell 10 million albums and be broke if you have greedy people behind you".

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If we flashback to the 60’s at the height of the civil rights movements, there was a barrage of talented black girl groups like the Supremes, whose huge success during this era became a pivotal movement in the upcoming success of other African American artists.

Photographer Bruce Davidson, who took very close up and personal pictures of the iconic girl group noted that “it was a time of Black Power” - and it indeed was. Groups like The Shirelles, The Marvelettes, The Chiffons, The Ronettes, etc also were a part of the Black Power mantra in music that combined with the height of the civil rights era signified many things but most importantly not giving in to injustice and white supremacy. Music brings people of all races, colors, genders, etc together and that’s what these powerful black 60’s girl groups did. Their start created a red thread that soon followed into the disco movements of “Sister Sledge” into the 80’s synthpop surge of girls like “The Pointer Sisters”, Bananarama, and then into the 90’s bubblegum pop and R&B infused era of The Spice Girls, En Vogue, TLC and Destiny’s Child.

But even being the “red thread”, girl groups like The Supremes had devastating issues as well. Member Florence Ballard, whose death is still recognized as one of rock n rolls greatest tragedies, noted that she struggled “to cope with label demands and her own about with depression” which left Ballard to turn to “alcohol for comfort, leading to arguments with her group members”. Not only that, she discussed eatings orders as did Diana Ross.

In an interview in 1981 in London, Ross discussed the positive but also indirect negative of being “cared” for by management and/or record label. She discussed that that the group started young (age 16) and that as years went by, her and the members felt “forced in to some kind of recluse”.

This absence of mental and physical health even stemmed in the 90’s when super girl group The Spice Girls became a global phenomenon in just two years. While the group burned out quickly, their impact surely did not as they brought into popularity the teen-pop genre that would later introduce teen-pop sounds by acts like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, etc, in the late 90’s (most notably 1998-1999). Melanie Chisholm aka Sporty Spice also discussed her eating disorder and Emma Bunton aka Baby Spice recalled the group not getting a single break for months on end and instead lived a robot life of touring, radio interviews, flights in a closed loop. Halliwell also mentioned "not getting a day off in a year: 70 flights in a month" Eventually the added pressure only got worse and later, Geri Halliwell left the group.

Destiny’s Child member Kelly Rowland also discussed in an radio interview that while she and her fellow group members headed to their European tour for support of their Writings On The Wall album, they only flied coach and didn’t have make-up, stylists, etc. She mentions the flourishing amount of girl groups that co-existed in the 90’s and that the reason why labels don’t want to sign girl groups anymore is because “they don’t want to spend the money”.

Nearing the 2000’s that red thread held nothing back - the Sugababes, Atomic Kitten, groups from all over the world began sprouting. The K-Pop girl group realm began its landscape as well. There’s no doubt that female groups have to work tooth and nail and put in double the work just to have a piece of success, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. It takes load of hard work, and it’s fairly evident even for the groups who have sold million records worldwide.

Former Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland discusses the current lack of girl groups as well as record label spending.

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Yes, their is far more unfair equality in treatment of groups compared to solo artists - but when you put money aside it’s there you see the true joy of women working together to create a dance-pop record, a soul record, or just any record. Any band works well with unity and even when there’s a downfall in sight, girl groups must not forget that they’re heavily appreciated, perhaps not many by money hungry labels, but definitely by day to day fans who are inspired by their confidence and appeal. If there was one thing I could say to these labels is appreciate these female groups because they’ve inspired more than just other future girl groups. They’ve inspired the every day artist that once musically influenced them and who you’ve probably already signed.

The red girl group thread will continue for years and years to come, but I reason with any record label around the world to remember that these women are human too. Will they listen? Probably not. But to any past, current, or prospective girl group, know that you are as equally important as any other solo or all male group entourage. You’re important to this grand old music industry ladies, and don’t you forget that. Your impact is stronger than you think. Thank you.

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