As lead singer of the Ronettes in the ’60s, Ronnie Spector — who died Jan. 12 at 78 — was a girl-group legend.
And some classic girl-group drama also went down in January: The Pussycat Dolls fought over their reunion tour cancellation, with founder Robin Antin suing frontwoman Nicole Scherzinger for breach of contract. Meow.
As opposed to all-female bands such as the Go-Go’s and the Bangles, girl groups are all about vocals, style and showwomanship. Here, we rank the Top 10 girl groups of all time, from the ’60s heyday to today.
10. The Pussycat Dolls
Beginning as a burlesque dance troupe, the Pussycat Dolls became the biggest girl group born in the 21st century on the stripper-jam strength of their debut album, 2005’s “PCD,” and its smash single “Don’t Cha.” At their button-loosening best, they were the perfect mix of the Mary Jane Girls and the Spice Girls. Too bad they only made two albums before splitting up, after Scherzinger left to pursue a solo career that never really took off.
9. The Ronettes
If one single song could land the Ronettes a place on this list, then “Be My Baby” — their biggest and best hit — is it. In fact, no less than Brian Wilson has declared it the greatest pop record ever made. But while the Phil Spector-produced trio had a pretty short discography — only making one album, 1964’s “Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica” — Ronnie Spector had a long-lasting impact on everyone from Madonna to Amy Winehouse.
Starting out in the ’60s as a more conventional girl group — first the Bluebelles and then Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles — this trio launched the format into some futuristic funkiness in the ’70s. Anyone who’s heard “What Can I Do for You?” or “Isn’t It a Shame” knows there was more to them than their 1974 classic “Lady Marmalade.” And while Patti LaBelle is a force of nature who went on to solo stardom, Nona Hendryx and the late Sarah Dash were much more than feather-wearing accessories.
7. The Pointer Sisters
Yes, there were the Andrews Sisters in the ’30s and ’40s. But the Pointers were a next-level sister act who could do everything from R&B and pop to jazz and even country. In fact, they won a Best Country Vocal Performance Grammy for 1974’s “Fairytale.” And who could ever forget their string of ’80s hits such as “Automatic,” “Jump (For My Love)” and, of course, “I’m So Excited”?
6. En Vogue
Oh, Dawn Richard, why did you have to ruin such a good thing? Because before she left En Vogue in 1997, these funky divas were on an unstoppable roll with hits such as “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It),” “Free Your Mind” and their debut single “Hold On.” The latter’s a cappella intro of the Motown classic “Who’s Lovin’ You” is one of the all-time girl-group moments. Despite never being the same after Richard’s abrupt departure, En Vogue still has us lovin’ them.
5. The Shirelles
Before all those great Motown acts came around in the ’60s, the Shirelles were the blueprint for the girl group as we know it. Taking doo-wop from the ’50s into the ’60s with classics such as “Tonight’s the Night,” “Mama Said” and “Soldier Boy,” they conquered the pop world completely when they hit No. 1 with 1960’s “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” The answer was clearly yes when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted them in 1996.
4. Spice Girls
Ginger Spice, Posh Spice, Baby Spice, Sporty Spice and Scary Spice were such a global phenomenon beyond the music that they even made a movie — 1997’s “Spice World” — that was their answer to The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.” It was a total pop-culture takeover. And while they inspired a string of wannabes in their native UK — from Girls Aloud to Little Mix — none of them possessed nearly as much girl power.
If there were any decade that could rival the ’60s for girl groups, it was the ’90s — especially when it came to R&B. But for every SWV, Xscape and Total, nobody but nobody was as crazy, sexy and cool as TLC. Going from the Temptations-twisting new jack swing of “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” to the socially conscious soul of “Waterfalls” to the busta-hating hip-pop of “No Scrubs,” T-Boz, Chilli and the late Left Eye were as versatile as they were visionary.
2. Destiny’s Child
If “all” DC did was give us Beyoncé, they would deserve a place on this list. No doubt, the group’s legacy has been strengthened by the solo superstardom of its lead singer. But whether they were a quartet (remember LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett?) or a trio (rounded out by Michelle Williams and O.G. member Kelly Rowland), Destiny’s Child fiercely empowered independent women everywhere with hits such as “Bills, Bills, Bills,” “Survivor” and, best of all, “Say My Name” — which has the distinction of winning Bey the first of her record 28 Grammys.
1. The Supremes
Despite some worthy competition from Martha & the Vandellas and the Marvelettes, Diana Ross’ squad won the battle of the girl groups at Motown. Then again, living up to their name, they reigned supreme against all challengers in the ’60s and beyond. With a staggering 12 No. 1 hits — from 1964’s “Where Did Our Love Go” to 1969’s Ross farewell “Someday We’ll Be Together” — their silky-smooth soul-pop transcended race, class and culture. In fact, it has transcended time itself. And just as Destiny’s Child gave us Beyoncé, the Supremes bestowed the diva of all divas in Miss Ross.
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