En Vogue

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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 “Whatta Man” 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: 1990’s “Born To Sing;” 1992’s “Funk Divas;” 1997’s “EV3;” 2000’s “Masterpiece Theatre;” and 2002’s “The Gift of Christmas.” They have also released several compilations including 1999’s “Best of En Vogue” and 2001’s “The Very Best of En Vogue.” 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 “Sesame Street” star Elmo’s compilation “Elmopalooza!,” the group also appeared on the soundtracks for “Set It Off,” “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” and “Simply Mad About the Mouse,” to name a few. Group member Terry Ellis also released a solo album, “Southern Girl,” in 1995.

Since En Vogue’s 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 Destiny’s 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 Dawn’ 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.

“Being likened to The Temptations is a good comparison because Cindy and I have made the decision to keep it moving regardless,” said Terry. “And with that, Rhona definitely brings a freshness to the table.”

With The Temptations, and even contemporary groups like Destiny’s Child, fulfilling the shoes of an original member can be demanding. Newcomer Rhona, who had a recurring role on the “The Jamie Foxx Show” and was previously signed to producer Rodney Jerkins’ 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.

“Joining an established group has been an absolutely fabulous experience thus far,” admitted Rhona. “I have fans who were waiting on me to finally come out, [and] now I’ll bring whatever fan base I have to En Vogue as well.”

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 Guy‘s “Piece Of My Love,” which has been re-titled “I Do Love You” and is featured on En Vogue‘s latest release “Soulflower.” “We heard her sing and were blown away,” confessed Terry. “Her chemistry and energy was just great, and she fit right in.”

The group then began working on “Soulflower,” their first album in nearly four years. “We thought that the name “Soulflower” captured the essence and the music we recorded,” explained Cindy. “This is music from our soul, and it represents femininity and resilience.” Terry injected, “Like flowers, we ’ve weathered the storm!”

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. “We’ve done the big label thing, and though it has its benefits, you’re not in complete control of what you’re doing,” said Cindy. “Now we’re in control. We call our shots. No matter what happens with this project, it’s our doing.”

Adds Terry: “There’s so much freedom and gratification in doing things your own way. As long as we’ve been in this business, just going through the trials and tribulations of everything, it was real easy for us to say, let’s do this!”

En Vogue also finds fulfillment while on stage. “It’s about connecting with the people,” said Rhona. “It’s about the energy you receive, the love, and the reciprocation from the message in the music.” In the fall of 2003, the group spent two and a half months touring Europe in a production called “Night of the Prom.” “It 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,” said Terry. “Our music expanded in ways that I can’t even tell you. To be a part of a show where they were fusing rock & roll, pop, and R&B was incredible.”

Original member Maxine also performed in “Night of the Prom” with En Vogue, despite being absent from the latest release “Soulflower.” “She didn’t record this project with us,” explained Cindy. “But she may perform some live shows with us.”

Through it all, Cindy, Terry and Rhona produced “Soulflower,” an engaging, mature and sensual collection of life-reflective and fun-loving R&B songs. Their buzz record “Losin’ My Mind,” was the most-added song at Urban AC radio formats the week of its release, and the album’s first single “Ooh Boy” is poised to become the En Vogue classic of 2004. They are also currently featured on the soundtrack to the film “My Baby’s Daddy.”

While the trio is optimistic that “Soulflower” will be successful, they’re more passionate about the fans receiving the message of the music. “This 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,” offered Rhona. Cindy added: “For me I want people to walk away with satisfaction. I want them saying, ‘That‘s my CD. I love those girls.” Terry concluded: “I hope when our fans listen to this project they will hear that it captures the essence of what we’re all about…following your heart and really doing what you love!”

Though they embarked on their musical journey nearly 15 years ago, this timeless trio will undeniably reinstate their position as music’s most prolific set of voices. When soul-stirring singing and pioneering rhythms take center stage, it can only mean one thing; the “funky divas” are back, and the “Soulflower” is sure to flourish.