You would have thought it was the 1990’s all over again if you closed your eyes at R&B sensation, SWV’s album release party and allowed your senses to take in the booming new jack swing beats, perfectly blended harmonies and relatable lyrics of love. Open your eyes and you realized it was still 2012 and the girl group phenomena was long gone, but still standing strong was SWV. Such was the moment of reflection inspired by watching Tamara ‘Taj’ Johnson-George, Cheryl ‘Coko’ Clemens, and Leanne ‘Lelee’ Lyons reunite after 15 years to celebrate their new album, “I Missed Us,” in New York City at S.O.B.’s.
Taking the stage to an enthusiastic crowd, the trio performed a mix of classic and new material including “Anything,” “Weak,” and their latest hit single, “Co-Sign.” In between songs they expressed their gratitude for being able to make a comeback in a millennial generation more musically inclined to solo artists and dance pop/hip-hop hybrid songs. Backstage, Lyons reflected on today’s lack of R&B girl groups and noted how hip-hop and pop genres have much to do with it.
“It took backseat to the rapping and the pop artists out now. We are hip-hop and always been that but of course it took over the world 'cause that’s what people supported. Whatever you support that’s what people are gonna love.”
Aside from the external factor of hip-hop’s musical dominance, Clemens noted that with many groups—including her own—internal issues involving egos, competition and negative management are perhaps the main reasons why there is a dearth of girl groups.
“Negative people tried to tear us apart by planting seeds to go solo. So you have to be careful. They try to act like they are for you but are really worried about their own pockets,” Clemens said. “We put a lot of faith in people who didn’t respect us. You become scorned a little but after 15 years you take it as a life lesson,” added Johnson-George.
Whether the challenges are shifts in musical popularity or balancing group dynamics, Clemens hopes that the successful return of SWV will once again open the door for the 1990’s girl group reign to return.
“Music changes and evolves. At one time there were groups and now there are hardly any male or female [groups]. Maybe with us coming out there will be more female and male groups and we can see that time again.”