Tuesday 17 October 2017

The greatest ever girl bands in all of music history

Sex appeal, style, dance routines... oh, and some of the greatest pop songs of all time. A look at the world's most fabulous all female groups

Girls Aloud
Girls Aloud

Tanya Sweeney

Has it already been two whole decades since five aspiring singers answered a magazine advert and started a girl-power revolution? Though they were only active for a few short years, after the release of 'Wannabe' in July 1996 the Spice Girls kicked up plenty of dust, giving us slogans and style moments aplenty. Posh, Sporty, Scary, Ginger and Baby certainly broke the girl-band mould… but as it happens, girl power has been around for decades.

As the possibility of Spice Girls anniversary tour hangs in the balance (we'd put money on Vicky B saying no way), we look at the all-female acts who influenced them, who rivalled them… and who have since attempted to swipe their crown.

Martha & The Vandellas (1957-1972)

An all-girl troupe on the prolific Gordy/Motown label, The Vandellas were founded by Annette Beard, Rosalind Ashford and Gloria Williams. It wasn't until 1962, when Williams left the group, that Martha Reeves became the band's lead vocalist. Best known for the classics 'Nowhere To Run' and 'Dancing In The Street', the queens of doo-wop were among the collateral damage when changes were made at Motown (most notably, William Stevenson, the Vandellas' biggest champion, left in '67). Reeves' solo career ambitions finally put paid to the band in 1972. Forty years on, however, and the band are still active. The Original Vandellas - with Annette Beard at its helm - tour the US. In May this year, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas - Reeves and her sisters, Lois and Delphine - thrilled Irish audiences with a low-key gig at the Button Factory in Dublin.

Supremes (1959-1977)

Motown was a hotbed of hitmakers in the 60s, and at the heart of the action was the girl band formerly known as the Primettes. Among their dozen or so number one hit singles were the timeless earworms 'Stop In The Name Of Love' and 'Baby Love'. Diana Ross, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson were the nucleus of the group… but Ross' solo ambitions essentially put paid to the Supremes' future. Her career went from strength to strength as the remaining members tried to revive the flagging outfit with a cluster of replacements. The Supremes finally shuddered to a halt in 1977; Ross, meanwhile, has never looked back.

Bananarama (formed 1979)

Keren Woodward, Sara Dallin and Siobhan Fahey more than held their own amid the pop-synth gunslingers of the early 80s. The trio had tasted plenty of commercial success, but it wasn't until they fell in with Stock, Aiken & Waterman in 1986 that they went stellar. Little known fact: despite their shiny pop credentials, the band also worked alongside Terry Hall and John Lydon. Still, in 1998, a seemingly 'disillusioned' Fahey left the outfit, leaving Dallin and Woodward to soldier on with a newcomer, Jacquie O'Sullivan. Just last year, the two revealed that they were working on new tracks together in Nashville; by all accounts a country/pop album. Right.

En Vogue (formed 1989)

Who hasn't screamed 'DON'T LET GOOOO' at karaoke? It's possibly one of the best girl-power songs ever recorded, an R'n'B power ballad if you will. The ladies behind it are still going, albeit in a slightly different line-up to the original. They've won more MTV Video Music Awards than any other female group, and amassed seven Grammy nominations, as well as spending 2,800 weeks on the various Billboard charts in the United States. Along with Salt'n'Pepa and TLC, the gals paved the way for other R'n'B superstar groups, including Eternal and the next band on our list.

All Saints (formed 1993)

The streetwise, louche yin to the Spice Girls' irrepressible yang, All Saints were named after the All Saints Road in Notting Hill, back when Notting Hill was the ground zero of cool Britannia. Their split in 2001 was an ugly one, and the foursome's post-split fortunes were mixed at best. Though a reunion tour has long hung in the balance, revellers at the V Festival last month got a pleasant surprise when the original four took to the stage to fire off some hits.

TLC (formed 1990)

Amid the cocksure posturing of hip hop's male heavyweights, this all-girl trio became a much-needed shot in the arm. They were the first girl group to reach diamond certification (10 million album sales plus) with their album CrazySexyCool. To this date, the trio have sold over 23 million albums, and were on course for a long and healthy pop career until the tragic death of band member Lisa 'Left-Eye' Lopes in 2002. The surviving members - T-Boz and Chili - have kept the band alive, thanks largely to sporadic live performances, a collaboration with Lady Gaga, and a biopic.

The Bangles (formed 1981)

In the 70s and 80s, many girlbands like The Runaways and The Go-Gos got away with lots of punk and garage-band overtones. The Bangles were the ones to straddle pop and rock and hit commercial pay dirt. After a slew of smashes - among them 'Manic Monday', 'Walk Like An Egyptian', 'Eternal Flame' and 'Hazy Shade Of Winter' - it wasn't long before a clash of egos ripped the band apart. In 1989 they reformed, to record a song for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Atomic Kitten (formed 1998)

For better or worse, the Spice Girls proved that accessibility and being relatable were key to a girlband's success. A host of imitators - among them Honeyz and Precious - soon followed, but the girls who were first past the post were Liverpool's own Atomic Kitten, who were, random trivia alert, formed by OMD's Andy McCluskey. Theirs was a slow enough start: it wasn't until founding member Kerry Katona left the group and was replaced by Jenny Frost in 2000 that they began bothering the number one spot. The three Kittens became tabloid fodder best known for their offstage goings on, and their pop juggernaut eventually shuddered to a halt in the late noughties. A recent slot on ITV's show The Big Reunion has so far proved to be a false dawn.

B*Witched (formed 1997)

If Boyzone were created as the 'Irish Take That', B*Witched were no doubt created with the intention of giving the Spice Girls a run for their money. By rather neat coincidence, Boyzone's Shane Lynch had two twin sisters that were thirsty for pop stardom. Kitted out in double denim and Irish dancing their way around their videos, B*Witched hit the UK number one spot with their first four singles. But they disappeared as quickly as they arrived after being dropped by their label in 2002. Bloodied but now unbowed, the band reformed in 2012, and released an EP in April of this year.

Destiny's Child (formed 1990)

While British girl bands were largely girl-next-door types, the same can barely be said for glamazonian R 'n' B group, Destiny's Child. Formed at the knee of impresario Matthew Knowles (founding member Beyonce's dad), the group experienced a dizzying amount of line-up changes before settling as a trio - Knowles, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. It wasn't long before parallels with the Supremes were made, not least when Knowles was earmarked as the 'breakout' talent of the act. Still, the three disbanded in 2006 and all forged rather successful careers in their own right.

Girls Aloud (2002-2012)

We have reality television to thank for many massive pop acts, but Girls Aloud were the first big band to spring from the Popstars mould. Pitted against an all-lad group on The Rivals, nobody really expected the gals to do very well. But the combination of fierce chemistry, massive sex appeal and amazing pop tunes means Cheryl, Nadine, Sarah, Nicola and Kimberly were a noughties revelation. They haven't been without controversy through the years (understatement of the century) but when they reunited for their tenth anniversary gigs a couple of years ago, the pop scene rejoiced. Geordie Chocolate Eyes (aka Cheryl Fernandez-Versini) has obviously done the best out of the bunch, reclaiming her judge's chair on X Factor, continuing an incredibly successful solo career, and having the innate ability to flog absolutely anything with her name on. It's all in the dimples.

Pussycat Dolls (2003 - 2010)

Any girl band that started life as a Hollywood burlesque troupe was always going to get attention, and sure enough, Robin Anton's comely ensemble put the 'sex' in 'sextet'. Reality TV alumnus Nicole Scherzinger was instated as the group's lead singer, and their sexy single 'Don't Cha' catapulted them into the big leagues. Yet behind the bright smiles, trouble was brewing: in 2010, Jessica Sutta revealed that she'd been ousted from the group; Kimberley Wyatt and Ashley Roberts then left within a month. Replacements were hastily made, but in late 2010, Scherzinger put the kibosh on the Dolls by announcing her plans to go solo.

The Saturdays (2007 - present)

Another manufactured group, The Saturdays were put together by Polydor offshoot Fascination in order to capitalise on Girls Aloud's success. Irish member, Una Foden (nee Healy), had been working a serious singer-songwriter before joining the band, also comprised of two former members of S Club Juniors and two unknowns. They've been the subject of an E! reality series and have had lots of hits, but never quite bust through to the mainstream like some of their predecessors. They're currently on their Greatest Hits tour, three of them have become mothers (Una is pregnant with her second child) and continue to slog away at the business we call show. Frankie Bridge is competing on this year's Strictly, if you're so inclined.

Sugababes (formed 1998)

Known as the girl band with more incarnations than you've had hot dinners, the original 'babes were Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan. Siobhan left, Heidi Range arrived, then Mutya left and Keisha was replaced until the line-up contained none of the original members. Now the three of them have reformed as MKS, and Mutya said in November 2013 that she was keeping "an open mind" about reclaiming the Sugababes name again. "You never say never," she said. "I think you should always have an open mind. And it is our name!"

The band had hit after hit over the years, notably their smashing ear-worm debut, the edgy 'Overload' but 'Freak Like Me' with new member Range was their first number one.

The Nolans (1974-2005 & 2007)

Back in the 1970s lovely girls were ten-a-penny, yet there was something about the Nolans' wholesome disco-laced pop that struck a note with audiences. The six Dublin-born, Blackpool-raised sisters - Coleen, Bernie, Maureen, Anne, Linda and Denise - were big in Japan before being big in Japan was even a thing, thanks to their monster hit 'I'm In The Mood For Dancing'. As is often the way with sisters, there were fallouts and tensions in the run up to their 2009 reunion. Yet when Bernie, died of breast cancer in 2013, a mooted farewell tour wasn't to be.

Irish Independent

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