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En Vogue is an American female R&B vocal group from Oakland, California assembled by music producers Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy.
The group has won more MTV Video Music Awards than any other female group in its history, a total of seven, along with five Soul Train Awards, six American Music Awards, and seven Grammy nominations. According to Billboard Magazine they were the 18th most successful act of the 1990s, and one of the most popular and successful female groups of all time. En Vogue has accumulated over 2,800 weeks on various Billboard charts.
Assembled in Oakland, California in July 1989, En Vogue launched with original members Cindy Herron, Maxine Jones, Dawn Robinson and Terry Ellis. The inspiration for the group came when production duo of Foster and Mc Elroy envisioned a modern-day girl group in the tradition of the 1950s/1960s female trios. The blueprint was based on the plan of recruiting singers who possessed strong voices, noticeably good looks, and intelligence. Auditions were held in 1988, with Herron, Jones and Robinson making the final cut. Like previous girl groups, En Vogue was originally conceived as a trio, but after hearing Ellis audition, Foster and McElroy decided to create a quartet. At first, they selected the name "For You." They shifted to "Vogue", but ultimately settled on En Vogue, upon learning that another group had already claimed the Vogue moniker.
1989–91: Born to Sing
After forming, the group began working with their producers on their debut album. Recording began in August 1989 and wrapped up in December of the same year. Born to Sing was released on April 3, 1990. The album charted at number twenty-one on the Billboard 200 and number three on Billboard's R&B Albums Chart. The first single, "Hold On," was released to radio in late February 1990 and became a crossover pop hit, reaching number two on Billboard's Hot 100 singles charts, and number one on both the R&B singles and Hot Dance Music/Club Play charts. It later went to #5 in the UK, and became a hit in Europe. The next two singles, "Lies" and "You Don't Have to Worry," each went to number one on the Billboard R&B charts, while the fourth and final single, "Don't Go," charted at number three on the Billboard R&B. The album was later certified platinum by the RIAA.
"Hold On" was awarded a Billboard Music Award for "R&B Single of the Year," a Soul Train Award for "R&B/Urban Contemporary Single of the Year, Group, Band or Duo" and have been nominated for a Grammy Award for "Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group". In 1990, En Vogue signed an endorsement deal to appear in a Diet Coke commercial directed by Spike Lee.
1992–94: Funky Divas, Runaway Love, and touring
En Vogue's second album, Funky Divas, was released in the spring of 1992. The album debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200 and number one on the Billboard R&B and ultimately doubled the take of its predecessor, going multi-platinum. The album's first two singles: "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)" and "Giving Him Something He Can Feel" both went top ten pop, and peaked at number one on the R&B charts. The next single, "Free Your Mind" also went top ten. The final two singles "Give It Up Turn It Loose" and "Love Don't Love You" both were top forty hits.
The album went on to sell more than three million copies, won an American Music Award for "Favorite Soul/R&B Album," and was nominated for five Grammy Awards. The music video for "Free Your Mind" earned the group three MTV Video Music Awards for "Best Choreography," "Best Dance Video," and "Best R&B Video." They were also honored with Soul Train's prestigious "Entertainer of the Year Award." In addition to this, the group were featured in Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Essence among other major publications.
Riding high on the success of Funky Divas, a six-song EP entitled Runaway Love was released in the fall of 1993, spawning the hit "Runaway Love."
The group was signed to an endorsement deal with Converse, and were featured as an opening act on Luther Vandross' 1993 tour. Among the numerous countries toured were England, Germany, the Netherlands and France which confirmed the group's live vocal and performing prowess. However, according to an article in Vibe magazine, Vandross (by his own admission in interviews) and his entourage clashed with the members of En Vogue during the tour and he vowed never to work with them again afterwards.
En Vogue also made numerous television appearances on such series as In Living Color, A Different World, Roc and Hangin' With Mr. Cooper (the latter two of which they also sang the show's theme songs.)
In 1993, En Vogue were featured vocalists on Salt-N-Pepa's top ten hit "Whatta Man", from Salt-N-Pepa's Very Necessary album. The track also appeared (slightly edited) on En Vogue's Runaway Love EP.
1994–98: The departure of Robinson and EV3
In 1995, En Vogue was amongst numerous female vocalists featured on the song "Freedom" for the soundtrack to Panther. Also in 1995, group member Terry Ellis recorded a solo album entitled Southern Gal, which spun off the top ten R&B single "Where Ever You Are."
In 1996, En Vogue recorded "Don't Let Go (Love)" for the soundtrack to the motion picture Set It Off. Released in the autumn, it became the group's biggest hit to date; the single peaked at number two on the Hot 100, number one on the R&B singles chart, and was certified platinum by the RIAA. It, inadvertently, would also be the final En Vogue single to feature Robinson. One of Robinson's final performances with her bandmates came in October of that year, when the group sang the final National Anthem rendition in the history of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta, which came in game five of the 1996 World Series.
In response to the large commercial success of "Don't Let Go (Love)", the group steadfastly went to work on its third album. As the album was nearing completion, Robinson chose to leave the group in April 1997 after difficult contractual negotiations reached a stalemate. Despite Robinson's abrupt departure, En Vogue resolved to continue on as a trio (forcing the group to re-record some of the tracks on their forthcoming album that had originally featured her on lead vocals).
EV3, the group's third album, was released in the spring and debuted at number eight on both the Billboard 200 and the Billboard R&B charts. The first single, the Babyface-penned and produced "Whatever" went on to become a top-20 pop hit, a top ten R&B hit, while also peaking at number five on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. On August 26, 1997, the single was certified gold by the RIAA. The follow-up single "Too Gone, Too Long" (which was produced by David Foster and written by Diane Warren) performed more modestly, managing to only peak in the top forty.
Despite its being certified platinum, and the album being nominated for Grammy Award and a Soul Train Lady of Soul Award, sales of EV3 failed to live up to full commercial expectation. A world tour had been planned, but was canceled due to poor ticket sales.
In 1998, En Vogue recorded "No Fool No More" for the soundtrack to the motion picture, Why Do Fools Fall In Love as well as a version of I Want A Monster to Be My Friend for the Elmopalooza special on ABC.
The following year, a greatest hits compilation, The Best of En Vogue, was released.
2000–03: Masterpiece Theatre and new member
Masterpiece Theatre, the group's fourth studio album, was released in May 2000. The album debuted at number sixty-seven and thirty-three on the Billboard 200 and R&B Albums Charts respectively. The first (and only) single, "Riddle," peaked at number ninety-two and ninety-five on the Hot 100 and R&B charts. As a result of poor sales, En Vogue was dropped from the Elektra Record label.
In 2001, original member Maxine Jones left the group to focus on her family. As a result, Amanda Cole joined the group. Ellis, Herron and Cole released a holiday album, The Gift of Christmas. Soon after the holiday album, Cole too left the group and was replaced with Rhona Bennett. Meanwhile, Robinson's first solo CD Dawn was released on January 29, 2002. During the latter part of 2003, En Vogue toured Europe with Maxine Jones rejoining the group to fill the place of Cindy Herron, who was on maternity leave.
2004–07: Soul Flower and impromptu reunion
In 2004, En Vogue (now composed of Ellis, Herron and Bennett) released Soul Flower on independent label 33rd Street Records. While the album failed to chart on the Billboard 200, it managed to peak at number forty-seven on the R&B charts. The albums two singles: "Losin' My Mind" and "Ooh Boy", however, failed to chart. Soon after promotion had finished on this album, Maxine Jones returned to En Vogue, turning the group back into a quartet for the first time since 1996. The group teamed with Boyz II Men for select concert dates during the summer of 2004. That same year En Vogue graced the cover of R&B Showcase magazine.
In 2005, after an eight-year absence, Robinson rejoined En Vogue. The original four went on to sign with one of the industry's largest management firms, The Firm Management Group. That September, they joined Salt N Pepa for the girl groups' first-ever joint public performance of their 1994 hit, "Whatta Man" at VH-1's Hip Hop Honors, and briefly toured. They also earned another Grammy nomination for the single "So What the Fuss", which featured Stevie Wonder and Prince (on guitar). The group also appeared in the single's music video. After failing to agree on business terms, Robinson once again chose to defect from En Vogue and Bennett returned. As a result, En Vogue was let go from The Firm. En Vogue continued to perform spot dates in North America with Terry Ellis, Maxine Jones, Cindy Herron and Rhona Bennett. This line-up also saw the group return to Europe and Japan for select concert dates. During this time, En Vogue teamed up with Belgian singer Natalia for a song called "Glamorous" where Rhona Bennett's vocals are featured. The single reached No. 2 in the Belgian charts and was followed by a DVD release of the concert, which went double platinum.
2008–11: Robinson's return and departure
On June 24, 2008, the original lineup of En Vogue appeared on the BET Awards, performing with Alicia Keys, SWV and TLC as a tribute to girl groups of the 1990s. With speculation abuzz, En Vogue received the twenty-eighth highest number of hits on the Rock on the Net website for the month of June 2008. The following month, the group ascended to the twelfth position. As of June 30, Robinson stated via an En Vogue Yahoo! fan site that she had indeed returned to En Vogue. On August 6, the original members appeared on Los Angeles' KTLA television station and announced that they have reunited and would do spot dates around the country during the latter part of 2008. The foursome kicked off the Americana at Brand Concert Series in Glendale, California that same evening. Furthermore, En Vogue performed at the 2009 Essence Music Festival, at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. They continue to tour throughout the United States. In October 2010, the band performed their first UK show in 18 years in London.
On September 26, 2011, a new single called "I´ll Cry Later" was sent to select urban adult contemporary radio stations. In December 2011, Dawn Robinson left En Vogue once again.
2012-present: Lawsuit and Jones' departure
In March 2012, a lawsuit was filed by Wells Fargo Bank against Rufftown, Inc. for breach of contract. On May 8, Cindy Herron announced on their official En Vogue Facebook page, that no new album was coming out. En Vogue is touring in 2012. In June 2012, Rhona Bennett, who was filling in for Robinson's absence announced on her Facebook page that she is in rehearsals with the group, hinting that she is once again filling in for Robinson.
In August 2012, Maxine Jones, as well as Dawn Robinson, left the group and would begin their own En Vogue with two new members and would be touring, releasing solo albums and potentially another group album. Herron and Ellis would continue to tour as En Vogue with Rhona Bennett. It was also soon announced that the members would take each other to court for use of the En Vogue name; a judge ruled that Herron and Ellis, as holders of the group's LLC, had exclusive rights to the group's name. Herron and Ellis had filed suit against Jones and Robinson, demanding $1 million for unauthorized use of the name, though the damages request was ultimately determined to be without merit, as Herron and Ellis could not demonstrate harm done to the company from Jones's use of the name (although Robinson was named in the suit, she was not directly involved in the dispute, as she had surrendered her rights to use the name herself when she departed from the LLC years earlier).
In late 2012, Robinson and Jones announced that they would be starting new group called "Heirs to the Throne". In 2013, Robinson chose not began a new group with Jones and would join the cast of the reality show "R&B Divas: L.A.". In early 2013, Jones began a touring with Alison Carney and Maria Freeman as her new line-up of En Vogue, entitled En Vogue to the Max.
Note: those in bold are current members.
Television and film
In the 1992 straight-to-video movie Aces: Iron Eagle III starring Louis Gossett, Jr., they sing their version of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (full rendition from the album Born to Sing) during a party and dance scene.
En Vogue also recorded the theme song for season one of Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, along with Dawnn Lewis and Holly Robinson-Peete.
In 1993, besides being the musical guest, the group appear in a "Wanda" sketch in a season four episode of In Living Color. They also appear in the A Different World episode "Mind Your Own Business," as a group of country bumpkin sisters who want to sing.
The group also appears in three episodes of the Charles S. Dutton sitcom Roc, with one of the ladies playing a love interest of Rocky Carrol's character Joey, who has to choose between staying with Joey or touring with the rest of the En Vogue ladies. En Vogue recorded a brand new theme song, entitled "Live Your Life Today" for Roc's later seasons.
In the 1995 film Batman Forever, they appeared in a cameo appearance as a group of prostitutes who want to seduce Batman, but were disappointed when it is Robin who shows up instead.
En Vogue has appeared in Sesame Street specials including Sesame Street's 25th Birthday: A Musical Celebration and Elmopalooza in 1998. In Sesame Street's 25th Birthday, the four original members sang "Adventure" about their adventures with some of the Sesame Street characters. The second song was "I Want a Monster"; a song about having a monster as a playmate. It appeared on Elmopalooza and was recorded after Robinson's departure – featuring Terry Ellis, Maxine Jones and Cindy Herron.
On May 11, 2009, the group appeared on ABC's The View to perform and to announce their future reunion tour. On June 7, 2009, the group appeared on A&E Network's Private Sessions, performing select hits and discussing the group's past, present and future.