Look at any mainstream and R&B Billboard charts from the ‘90s, and you will find at least one or more R&B girl groups who made an impact during that period. Each year, a fresh lineup of unique female vocalists, with distinct tones and fashion styles, came to the forefront and mesmerized audiences and critics from around the world with their dynamic singing styles
As the dawn of a new decade began in 1990, a new world order for supreme vocals came into effect as four golden voices arrived on the scene to set the standard for up and coming female performers. Sophisticated, polished and vocally apt for any record arrangement, En Vogue — Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, Maxine Jones, and Dawn Robinson — made a point to be heard and respected as one of the most influential acts in music.
En Vogue’s debut album, Born to Sing, evinced their incomparable vocal powers while invoking positive narratives of for young women to embrace and endorse. On the strength of their four chart-topping singles (“Hold On,” “Lies,” “You Don’t Have to Worry,” and “Don’t Go”) and crossover appeal, the debut work went platinum. “Hold On,” the quartet’s first single, finished 1990 in the top 10 rankings on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end honor roll. En Vogue was the only female R&B group that year to achieve this performance victory.
The vocal quartet found themselves in the top 10 of the Hot 100 end-of-year lists on two other occasions. “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It),” off their sophomore release Funky Divas, placed at No. 7 in 1992, while “Don’t Let Go (Love)” from the Set it Off Soundtrack and their third album EV3 landed at No. 8 in 1997.
For En Vogue, one of the most successful female groups of the ‘90s, the inaugural accolades on the Billboard charts that decade didn’t end there.
Before Women’s History Month comes to an end, Rated R&B unearthed eight other instances where En Vogue and other noteworthy R&B girl groups from the ‘90s made Billboard history over the course of that decade.
SWV (Sisters With Voices) is the first female group to score a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 in the ‘90s. “Weak,” the third single from their It’s About Time debut, topped the chart for two weeks in 1993.
In February 1994, Brownstone commanded the number one spot on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart with their debut single “If You Love Me.” This chart move crowned them as the first female group to top the 25-year old airplay chart. Brownstone also became the very first group to have two singles log into the top slot in one calendar year after “Grapevyne” reached the summit in May.
FanMail, TLC’s third album, opened at number one on the Billboard 200 in March 1999. This feat earned the trailblazers the title as the first female R&B group to debut on the popular albums chart that decade.
Nearly six years after the commission of the Heatseekers Albums chart in 1991, R&B trio 702 made history as the first all-female R&B group to reach the number one spot. Their 1996 debut No Doubt topped for one week in the spring of 1997.
Following the launch of the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart in April 1992, En Vogue invaded the number one spot with their harmonious kiss-off record “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It).” This chart-topping win marked the first time a group ruled the top spot on that chart.
Back in 1994, Changing Faces’ eponymous debut album noted the very first time a ‘90s female R&B duo debuted at number one on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (then known as Top R&B Albums) chart.
Xscape closed out the decade in 1999 with the most top 10 singles (4) for a female R&B group on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart.
“Who Can I Run To” — No. 2
“Understanding” — No. 3
“Just Kickin’ It” — No. 4
“Am I Dreaming” with Ol Skool and Keith Sweat — No. 6
In July 1999, Destiny’s Child achieved their first number one hit on the Hot 100 chart with “Bills, Bills, Bills.” Co-written by Xscape’s Kandi Burruss, the girl-power anthem became her second written creation besides TLC’s “No Scrubs” to be crowned number one that year.