En Vogue. The name rings more than a bell. It invokes memories of a long line of red-hot R&B and pop smashes recorded in the 1990s. Songs like “Hold On,” “My Lovin'(You’re Never Gonna Get It),” “Giving Him Something He Can Feel,” “Free Your Mind,” and âWhatta Manâ featuring Salt-N-Pepa, are just a sampling of the mega hits made famous by the R&B super group.
Fusing style, sophistication, sass and sex appeal, the En Vogue formula was magical and the group, went on to sell over eight million albums. In total, En Vogue recorded five albums: 1990âs âBorn To Sing;â 1992âs âFunk Divas;â 1997âs âEV3;â 2000âs âMasterpiece Theatre;â and 2002âs âThe Gift of Christmas.â They have also released several compilations including 1999âs âBest of En Vogueâ and 2001âs âThe Very Best of En Vogue.â In 1993, En Vogue was honored with the “Soul Train Entertainer of the Year” Award and an American Music Award for “Best Soul Album of the Year.”
In addition to being featured on âSesame Streetâ star Elmoâs compilation âElmopalooza!,â the group also appeared on the soundtracks for âSet It Off,â âWhy Do Fools Fall In Love,â and âSimply Mad About the Mouse,â to name a few. Group member Terry Ellis also released a solo album, âSouthern Girl,â in 1995.
Since En Vogueâs 1990 debut, the ladies-original members Cindy Herron, Terry Ellis, Maxine Jones and Dawn Robinson-who were the brainchild of production team Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy, set a standard for female R&B and pop acts like Destinyâs Child, 3LW and 702. While En Vogue may have been trendsetters for those who followed them, the group itself began receiving comparisons to The Supremes, especially after internal differences caused Dawn to exit the group in 1997. In 2001, fellow member Maxine followed Dawnâ s suit and also left the group.
Unlike The Supremes, En Vogue never disbanded. Instead, the girls exemplified the fortitude of Motown veterans The Temptations and continued to record and perform. Like The Temptations, the remaining original members, Cindy and Terry, decided to revamp En Vogue-the group returned to being a trio, adding new member Rhona Bennett.
âBeing likened to The Temptations is a good comparison because Cindy and I have made the decision to keep it moving regardless,â said Terry. âAnd with that, Rhona definitely brings a freshness to the table.â
With The Temptations, and even contemporary groups like Destinyâs Child, fulfilling the shoes of an original member can be demanding. Newcomer Rhona, who had a recurring role on the âThe Jamie Foxx Showâ and was previously signed to producer Rodney Jerkinsâ Darkchild/Epic label, is up to the challenge. Similar to Johnny Gill replacing Bobby Brown in New Edition, Rhona actually brings her own cache to En Vogue.
âJoining an established group has been an absolutely fabulous experience thus far,â admitted Rhona. âI have fans who were waiting on me to finally come out, [and] now Iâll bring whatever fan base I have to En Vogue as well.â
A music producer named M-Boogie introduced Rhona to Cindy and Terry. After hearing from Denzil that En Vogue was looking for a new member, M-Boogie recommended Rhona for the slot. Rhona met Cindy and Terry and auditioned by singing Guyâs âPiece Of My Love,â which has been re-titled âI Do Love Youâ and is featured on En Vogueâs latest release âSoulflower.â âWe heard her sing and were blown away,â confessed Terry. âHer chemistry and energy was just great, and she fit right in.â
The group then began working on âSoulflower,â their first album in nearly four years. âWe thought that the name âSoulflowerâ captured the essence and the music we recorded,â explained Cindy. âThis is music from our soul, and it represents femininity and resilience.â Terry injected, âLike flowers, we âve weathered the storm!â
En Vogue has also blossomed professionally. After years of being signed to a major label, the group decided this time around to start their own independent record label, Funky Girl Records. âWeâve done the big label thing, and though it has its benefits, youâre not in complete control of what youâre doing,â said Cindy. âNow weâre in control. We call our shots. No matter what happens with this project, itâs our doing.â
Adds Terry: âThereâs so much freedom and gratification in doing things your own way. As long as weâve been in this business, just going through the trials and tribulations of everything, it was real easy for us to say, letâs do this!â
En Vogue also finds fulfillment while on stage. âItâs about connecting with the people,â said Rhona. âItâs about the energy you receive, the love, and the reciprocation from the message in the music.â In the fall of 2003, the group spent two and a half months touring Europe in a production called âNight of the Prom.â âIt was the first time they ever had an R&B act. We performed to sold-out stadiums each night. It was amazing to perform our songs with an orchestra,â said Terry. âOur music expanded in ways that I canât even tell you. To be a part of a show where they were fusing rock & roll, pop, and R&B was incredible.â
Original member Maxine also performed in âNight of the Promâ with En Vogue, despite being absent from the latest release âSoulflower.â âShe didnât record this project with us,â explained Cindy. âBut she may perform some live shows with us.â
Through it all, Cindy, Terry and Rhona produced âSoulflower,â an engaging, mature and sensual collection of life-reflective and fun-loving R&B songs. Their buzz record âLosinâ My Mind,â was the most-added song at Urban AC radio formats the week of its release, and the albumâs first single âOoh Boyâ is poised to become the En Vogue classic of 2004. They are also currently featured on the soundtrack to the film âMy Babyâs Daddy.â
While the trio is optimistic that âSoulflowerâ will be successful, theyâre more passionate about the fans receiving the message of the music. âThis project was made with love. I hope people walk away with that. This is a feel good record. I hope people take that away from listening to it,â offered Rhona. Cindy added: âFor me I want people to walk away with satisfaction. I want them saying, âThatâs my CD. I love those girls.â Terry concluded: âI hope when our fans listen to this project they will hear that it captures the essence of what weâre all aboutâ¦following your heart and really doing what you love!â
Though they embarked on their musical journey nearly 15 years ago, this timeless trio will undeniably reinstate their position as musicâs most prolific set of voices. When soul-stirring singing and pioneering rhythms take center stage, it can only mean one thing; the âfunky divasâ are back, and the “Soulflower” is sure to flourish.