|Stylistic origins||1930s–1965: music hall, vaudeville, swing music, jump blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, soul music, gospel music, traditional pop|
1965–2000s: disco, R&B, power pop, pop rock, EDM
2000s: pop, dance-pop, teen pop, pop punk, contemporary R&B, EDM, hip hop, indie pop, electropop
|Cultural origins||1930s United States|
|Typical instruments||Vocals, electronic backing, sampler, sequencer, electric guitar, bass guitar, drum kit, keyboard|
|Mainstream popularity||Worldwide - popular during the 1960s and the 1990s in the US, still very popular elsewhere|
|Derivative forms||boybands, twee pop, riot grrrl, indie pop, bubblegum pop, Yé-yé|
|Motown Records, Eurovision song contest, camp (style), pop icon, teenybopper, postmodernism, consumerism, kitsch, pop culture, manufactured pop, teen idol, girl power, all-female band|
Girl groups emerged in the late 1950s as groups of young singers teamed up with behind-the-scenes songwriters and music producers to create hit singles, often featuring glossy production values and backing by top studio musicians. In later eras the girl group template would be applied to disco, contemporary R&B, and country-based formats as well as pop.
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 Boswell Sisters, who became one of the most popular singing groups from 1930 to 1936, with over twenty hits. The Andrews Sisters started (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.
1950s and 1960s
The Chantels released the 1958 song "Maybe", while the The Teen Queens had a one hit wonder with "Eddie My Love". However, the group often considered to have started the girl group genre is The Shirelles, who first reached the Top 40 with "Tonight's the Night", later becoming the first girl group to reach number one in 1961 with "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", written by Brill Building songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King.
Other songwriters and producers quickly recognized the potential of this new approach, and recruited existing acts (or, in some cases, created them anew) to record their songs in a girl-group style. Phil Spector recruited The Crystals, The Blossoms, and The Ronettes, while Goffin and King handled much of the output of The Cookies. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller would likewise foster The Dixie Cups, The Shangri-Las, and The Exciters. Other important girl group songwriters included Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. The Motown label also masterminded several major girl groups, beginning with The Marvelettes and later with Martha and the Vandellas, The Supremes, and The Velvelettes.
1970s to mid 1980s
Patti LaBelle and The Bluebelles was a US 1960s girl group. In the early 1970s manager Vicki Wickham helped remake their image, renaming the group Labelle and pushing them in the direction of glam rock. Labelle were the first girl group to eschew matching outfits and identical choreography, instead wearing extravagant spacesuits and feathered headdresses. Later, during the disco craze, female acts included Sister Sledge, Silver Convention, 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 mid eighties; among the most successful of these were Bananarama, The Bangles, Pointer Sisters, Weather Girls and Mary Jane Girls.
Late 1980s and 1990s
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. Around the same time, other American girl groups such as En Vogue, Expose and Sweet Sensation all had singles hit number one on the charts. Also in the early 1990s, a number of R&B-themed girl groups came onto the scene, including TLC, SWV, Xscape and Zhane. They were followed in the mid-1990s by Destiny's Child.
In 1996, the American domination of the girl group scene was overtaken by the UK's Spice Girls, who had nine number 1 singles in the UK and US, including "Wannabe", "2 Become 1" and "Spice Up Your Life". With sold-out concerts, advertisements, merchandise and a film, Spice Girls became the most commercially successful British group since The Beatles. They were one of the biggest selling pop groups of the 1990s, and the best-selling female group in modern music history. Their first album, Spice is the best-selling album of the all time by a female group, with 23 million sales worldwide. In total, the Spice Girls sold in excess of 80 million records worldwide. According to The Times, BBC News and biographer David Sinclair, they are the most successful girl group of all time. Other groups included the British-Canadian outfit All Saints who were marketed as a rival and different style to Spice Girls, Irish girl group B*Witched and Eternal who all achieved worldwide success during the decade.
In the United Kingdom, girl groups remained popular during the 2000s. Atomic Kitten had a string of hits, including their breakthrough number one "Whole Again" in 2000. Sugababes and Girls Aloud became popular during the early 2000s. Girls Aloud's "Sound of the Underground" and Sugababes' "Round Round" have been called "two huge groundbreaking hits", credited with reshaping British pop music for the 2000s. Sugababes have amassed six UK number one singles and fourteen additional top ten singles, as well as four platinum albums, making them the most successful female act of the 21st century according to British Hit Singles & Albums. Girls Aloud achieved a string of twenty consecutive top ten singles (including four number ones) and two number one albums in the United Kingdom. All five of their studio albums have been certified platinum, with their greatest hits album The Sound of Girls Aloud selling over one million copies. Both groups have been nominated for multiple BRIT Awards, with Sugababes winning Best Dance Act in 2003 and Girls Aloud winning Best Single for "The Promise" in 2009. The Saturdays were the next major girlband to enjoy big mainstream success, and became popular on the music scene in 2008. Since their launch, they have sold over three million records, achieved a string of 10 top 10 singles - with 5 of these singles ("Up", "Issues", "Just Can't Get Enough", "Ego" and "Higher") achieving silver certification and also have seen 3 of their albums reach the top 10 - with their debut album Chasing Lights achieving platinum certification, having sold over 400,000 copies. The girl group Little Mix became the first group to win The X Factor in 2011, their first single Cannonball reaching number 1 in the UK Singles Chart.
Since the late 1990s, as J-Pop has become more popular outside of Japan, Japanese girl groups such as Speed, Morning Musume, and AKB48 have appeared. With 60 members, AKB48 is currently recognized by Guinness World Records as the pop group with the most members. Morning Musume currently holds the position as the best-selling female artists in Japan according to Oricon statistics, while Speed sold a total of 20 million copies alone in Japan in their three-year history. Perfume are another successful girl group - their musical style is focused on electronic dance-pop.
Hallyu (Korean wave) and K-pop have become increasingly significant in the music industry, with its influence breaking the confinements of Asia and spreading to America and Europe. Idol groups are one of the leaders of the "Hallyu" wave and a few girl groups have made themselves known in spite of the fierce competition. Namely, girl groups Girls' Generation, Kara, 2NE1, and Wonder Girls are widely recognized as the top girl groups of South Korea. Other relatively well known South Korean girl groups also include Brown Eyed Girls, Miss A, Secret, Sistar, f(x), T-ara, 4minute, After School, and Rainbow.
Meanwhile, girl groups have proved to be less popular in American music during the 21st Century, where solo acts and mixed groups such as The Black Eyed Peas tend to be more successful. However, the Pussycat Dolls (as fronted by Nicole Scherzinger) are one of the few examples of successful American girl groups post-1990s, with hits like "Don't Cha" and "Stickwitu". Their debut album PCD went top-ten in a number of countries.
- 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
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