originally published January 14, 2012

The early 1960s was the era of the girl group. It’s estimated that as many as 6.3 million girl groups were vying for a record deal, and that’s just in Detroit. Down in Florida, a quartet of girls got together and called themselves the Mar-Vells, either not thinking that anyone could possibly confuse them with notable Motown girl group the Marvelettes, or hoping they would. They played some live shows around the state, and finally hit it big with a record deal. By ‘hit it big’, I mean they put out a couple of singles. I don’t actually mean anyone bought them.

That was mean, I’m sorry. You can listen to one of their tracks here – they had changed their name to the Fabulettes (probably because the potential for a name mix-up was cute for a live-performing girl group but lawsuit bait on a record sleeve), and put out a small selection of 45s. If you’re a fan of 60’s-era soul, you’ll probably enjoy it. The band is tight, and the song has a nice hook in the chorus.

Sadly, the Fabulettes were not destined for stardom, partly because the charts were overtaken by other groups who were whiter and Britisher. The girl-group phenomenon will probably never go away though. Yes, I found a list, and yes, some of them sound ridiculous.

Ever hear of the Gonnabees? If you do, then we probably share zero common songs on our iPods. They’re a trio from New York who hit number one with a song called “Queen of Pop”, in which they make fun of Britney Spears, Madonna, Janet Jackson and others. Their bio states that they have been banned everywhere but New York because of their profane and taunting music, then tells us that they performed at the 2004 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. With William Hung.

I couldn’t find a clip of that live abomination (I assume all copies have been ritualistically destroyed in order to preserve humanity), but I did find this clip of the Gonnabees singing their aforementioned hit. As you can see, the ‘girl group’ concept has degraded from harmonies overtop musicians into skankiness overtop electronic sounds.

Unfortunately, the brilliant girl group Huckapoo (whose name was derived from an Olde Englishe term meaning ‘to throw a mound of one’s own feces’) has never released an album. They were manufactured by some shmuck named Brian Lukow who took the Spice Girls formula of hiring autotune-able singers to portray stock characters. Huckapoo girls are high school stereotypes: the cheerleader, the hip-hop princess, the punk and the hippie. Wait – the hippie? That’s still a high school stereotype? Maybe they should recast her part as ‘the goth’ or ‘the emo girl who cuts herself in chemistry class’. Oh wait, they record for Disney.

This video, for their wonderful, Mahler-ish single, “Crash The Party”, is a fine taste of the exquisite joy of Huckapoo. It starts with some A-level acting that suggests the opening exposition scene of an old VHS porno, followed up by a concert scene in front of a bunch of excited teenagers who were hopefully paid to exhibit their phony enthusiasm. Huckapoo demonstrates such an impressive lack of understanding about high school girls, a new Grammy Award should be created just for them. This song is so bad it makes my teeth hurt. I didn’t know that was possible.

Butta Creame is another modern group that I immediately regret looking up. I think the name is a play on ‘Butter Cream’, the delightful yellowish center in an assorted box of chocolates. But I have to be honest – I read their name and immediately thought of ‘Butt Cream’. I picked this video in hopes it would impress me – it’s a capella, so devoid of studio tricks. That said, it’s not… well, it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever heard. As far as voice-only group-work goes, I was more impressed by these guys. But then they aren’t wearing shiny gold bras.

The Jackson Sisters tried to cash in on their name in the 1970s, hoping to get confused for relatives of the Jackson brothers. They are not. They put out a handful of records almost no one has heard of, then lucked out in 1987 when one of their tracks, “I Believe In Miracles”, was discovered as part of the ‘rare groove’ fad in the UK. The song climbed to #72, so that’s something. This video features some great 80’s-style breakdancing overtop a wholesome disco groove. It’s not going to get me to race to the nearest torrent site or anything, but it’s a welcome relief after the sonic flatulence toward which this article appeared to be building.

Let’s drop our hopes once again, shall we? I wanted to pick one of the dumbest names on this list, and came up with a group called Trin-i-tee 5:7. Oh, now I feel bad. They’re a gospel group, and they named themselves after a specific piece of Bible-ness that refers to the Holy Trinity. Also they’re pretty good. I’m not known as an aficionado of gospel R&B (at least not outside the gospel R&B newsgroups in which I post hourly), but they have gorgeous voices. Also, it’s nice to see something in the ‘modern girl group’ world that is not about excessive sexualisation.

Okay, let’s get back to the excessive sexualisation. Y?N-Vee – no, that’s not a typo, you pronounce it ‘why envy’. Why indeed? – is a group that released something called a “posse cut” for someone named Johnny J, then followed it up by recording with 2Pac. This song, called “Chocolate” and clearly only about their love for chocolate (and rubbing themselves), is very mid-90’s flavoured. It’s a fine video if you’re in the mood to gawk at attractive women in low-hanging pants, but if you’re hoping to find your next great musical obsession, this probably ain’t it.

Girl groups, it seems, just ain’t what they used to be. For the most part, it’s about looking the right way, wearing only what you have to, and running your voice through a computer if you’re a bit stronger in the boob department than in the voice department.

For anyone else who actually listened to all these links, my gift to you is this. You’re welcome.

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