Top girl groups of all time

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January 14, 2019
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Top girl groups of all time

From Diana Ross and the Supremes to the Spice Girls and Haim, there is a long line of girl groups topping the Billboard charts and shaping the future of pop music. Yet as recently as the '50s the music industry was very much a boy's club, with girls relegated to background vocals and piano accompaniments. Starting in the '60s, women began to find themselves center stage, leading the show instead of watching from the wings. They haven't let up since.

Last year, Billboard put together a list of the top girl groups of all time, from Motown to modern day. The rankings are based on actual performance on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 chart through July 22, 2017. Billboard assigned points to each position on the Hot 100 chart, and each girl group's collected songs that charted over the course of their career were aggregated to determine the final ranking. Certain time frames were weighted to account for the difference between turnover rates from those years, allowing for a more equitable and fair representation.

Stacker has taken a closer look at these girl groups, highlighting when they broke onto the scene, their famous hits, and how they impacted the industry as a whole. Counting down from 10, learn a little bit more about the top girl groups of all time and rediscover some classic hits.

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#10. Martha & The Vandellas

Billboard Hot 100 hits: 24

Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits: 6

Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits: 0

Martha & The Vandellas signed their first recording contract with Motown Records in 1962, and a year later their runaway hit “Heat Wave” made them one of the studio's biggest acts. While Martha & The Vandellas have always been a trio, the faces and voices have changed over the years. The original group included Martha Reeves, Rosalind Ashford, and Annette Beard, but Betty Kelly, Lois Reeves, and Sandra Tilley were all members of the group at different times. The group had a number of major hits, including “Come and Get These Memories,” “Quicksand,” “Jimmy Mack,” “Bless You,” and “Dancing in the Street,” which was their signature single. The counterpoint to Diana Ross and the Supremes, Martha & The Vandellas' major contributions to R&B won them an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (R&B music was a major precursor to rock 'n' roll) in 1995. In 1971, when Motown moved west, Martha & The Vandellas disbanded, reuniting briefly in the early ‘80s for Motown's 25th anniversary TV special. Each of the girls tried their hand at a solo career, most of which were short-lived, before moving into semi-retirement.

#9. En Vogue

Billboard Hot 100 hits: 14

Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits: 6

Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits: 0

En Vogue's debut album “Born to Sing” appeared on the scene in 1990. Instantly attracting comparisons to The Supremes, the group differentiated themselves by sharing vocal parts equally and never assigning a lead singer. The original line up included Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, Maxine Jones (who left the group in 2001), and Dawn Robinson. The group went on to record six albums, as well as a Christmas album, and had several chart-topping singles including “Hold On,” “My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It),” “Don't Let Go,” and “Free Your Mind.” Some believe that En Vogue set the standard for girl groups to follow, including Destiny's Child. In April 2018, an En Vogue incarnation composed of Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, and Rhona Bennett released a new their first album in 14 years, titled “Electric Cafe,” with the singles “Deja Vu,” “I'm Good,” “Have a Seat,” and “Rocket.”

#8. Exposé

Billboard Hot 100 hits: 12

Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits: 8

Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits: 1

Ann Curless, Jeanette Jurado, and Gioia Bruno make up the Latin freestyle/dance group Exposé. Their first record “Exposure” was released in 1987 to much fanfare. The group became the first in history to have four top-10 hits on their debut album, including the runaway hit “Season's Change,” eclipsing records set by The Beatles and The Supremes. For the next decade—until 1996—the group continued to record music and tour, eventually citing family life and solo projects as reasons for their breakup. Exposé reunited in 2006 and embarked on a tour that began in Miami. The group, credited with bringing dance music to the mainstream, still tours and records together today.

#7. Wilson Phillips

Billboard Hot 100 hits: 7

Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits: 4

Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits: 3

The members of Wilson Phillips are pop music royalty. Sisters Carnie and Wendy Wilson are the daughters of Beach Boy leader Brian Wilson, while Chynna Phillips is the progeny of John and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas. The group was formed in 1990 when Chynna suggested that they come together with other children of famous musicians to make a charity record. While the record never came to fruition, the girls stuck together, releasing their wildly successful debut album “Wilson Phillips.” Their three singles from the album, “Hold On,” “Release Me,” and “You're In Love” topped the charts for weeks. However, their subsequent work never quite compared, and they split in 1992. Wilson Phillips has reunited twice since the split, recording three additional albums and continuing to tour. A large portion of their work has been comprised of covers, but their pop-folk-rock sound definitely had a major influence on ‘90s music.

#6. The Shirelles

Billboard Hot 100 hits: 24

Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits: 6

Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits: 2

The Shirelles are a testament to the fact that childhood dreams really can come true. In 1957, Shirley Owens, Doris Coley, Addie Harris, and Beverly Lee formed a group to perform at their high school's talent show. The original song they sang that night, "I Met Him on a Sunday," became their first official single, licensed by Decca Records. Eventually, the group moved over to Scepter Records and began working with Luther Dixon. The sound he helped them create led to The Shirelles becoming "one of the first and most emotionally affecting" girl groups, The New York Times would later write. Their song "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" topped pop charts, another first for an all-female vocal group. The group began to break up in 1967, when Shirley Owens left, making their final appearance in 1983. In 1996, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

#5. The Bangles

Billboard Hot 100 hits: 8

Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits: 5

Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits: 2

Once a garage band, The Bangles topped charts with classics like “Walk Like an Egyptian,” “Manic Monday,” and “Eternal Flame.” When Susanna Hoffs, Vicki Peterson, and Debbi Peterson came together in the early 1980s, they originally called their group “The Bangs” until a legal issue forced them to add the "-les." Mixing British Invasion guitar pop with the energy of the new wave and punk rock, The Bangles were one of the only female bands in the ‘80s to achieve both commercial and critical success. They disbanded in 1990 to pursue solo projects, coming back together in 1998 to record songs for the “Austin Powers” soundtrack and launching a tour in 2000. The Bangles released an album full of remastered songs in 2014 from an early EP as well as other rarities, titled “Ladies and Gentlemen… The Bangles.” They still tour together occasionally today.

#4. The Pointer Sisters

Billboard Hot 100 hits: 26

Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits: 7

Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits: 0

Growing up, the Pointer Sisters—Ruth, Anita, Bonnie, and June—had preachers for parents who banned rock n' roll from the family home. But that didn't stop the girls from pursuing their dream of superstardom. Initially, the group only consisted of Bonnie and June, who performed in clubs all over San Francisco in the late 1960s. It wasn't until Ruth and Anita joined The Pointer Sisters, however, that the group began to find real commercial success. In 1975, they won their first Grammy Award for the country-western hit “Fairytale,” and they were the first African-American women to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Bonnie left the group in 1976, and the trio began moving towards a more rock 'n' roll sound, which culminated in their multi-platinum album “Break Out” and the honor of being one of the first African-American acts to have their videos played on MTV. June Pointer lost her battle to lung cancer in 2006, but the remaining sisters still perform together today.

#3. Destiny's Child

Billboard Hot 100 hits: 14

Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits: 10

Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits: 4

The most well-known incarnation of Destiny's Child, the one that became one of the most popular R&B groups in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, was made up of Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams. There were other early members (LeToya Luckett, LaTivia Roberson, and Farrah Franklin), but Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle were the vocals behind albums like “Survivor” and singles like “Bootylicious.” Destiny's Child officially formed in 1990, but it wasn't until 1997—when they signed a contract with Columbia—that the group really hit it big. Eventually, personnel changes and drama (at one point their feuds filled tabloids) and burgeoning solo careers (Beyoncé is unarguably one of the biggest stars in the world) splintered the group, but they occasionally reunite for major events, like their performance at Super Bowl XLVII in 2013.

#2. TLC

Billboard Hot 100 hits: 16

Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits: 9

Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits: 4

Formed in 1991, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas didn't know that TLC would record three multi-platinum albums with nine top-10 hits; they were just excited to have a record deal. It was their sophomore album, “CrazySexyCool,” released in 1994, that launched them into superstardom with singles like “Creep” and “Waterfalls.” When Left-Eye died in an automobile accident in 2002, it seemed as if TLC's days were numbered. However, T-Boz and Chilli have performed together a number of times over the last 17 years and released a self-recorded album (“TLC”) in 2017.

#1. The Supremes

Billboard Hot 100 hits: 45

Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hits: 20

Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits: 12

With a whopping 20 top-10 hits, and 12 number one hits, The Supremes are Billboard's top girl group of all time. At their peak, The Supremes rivaled The Beatles, and they were undoubtedly Motown's most commercially successful group. Florence Ballard, Diana Ross, and Mary Wilson sang in a style that bridged the worlds of pop and soul, creating their own genre of music. While success wasn't instantaneous for the group, from 1964 onwards, they had a string of hits, including "Where Did Our Love Go?," "Stop! In the Name of Love," "Come See About Me," and "You Keep Me Hanging On." In 1970, Diana Ross left the group, and in 1977 the group disbanded for good. The success of Diana Ross and The Supremes has been credited with paving the way for future African-American musicians to find their own commercial success. Meaning, that if the Supremes hadn't existed, music today wouldn't be the same.

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