En Vogue’s second album, Funky Divas, saw Oakland, California’s mellifluous foursome living up to its title – and a whole lot more. Released on 24 March 1992, it was a landmark release in the development of modern R&B, delivering a sophistication rarely heard in the music until that point, yet retaining the grit that had initially attracted fans to the group’s debut, Born To Sing. The album also unleashed a slew of hits, five soulful nuggets that cemented En Vogue’s status as the premier female vocal act of their era. It paved the way for the success of TLC and Destiny’s Child; Eternal were formed as Funky Divas hit the chart; and Spice Girls and All Saints owed something to their groundbreaking work. Why? Because En Vogue’s success proved to record companies that female vocal groups could be in vogue with the public: Funky Divas went three times platinum.
Listen to ‘Funky Divas’ here.
The 90s answer to The Supremes
Opening its account with some staged dressing-room chat and crowd acclaim, the album gets down to business with the fiercely grooving This Is Your Life, with a rumbling synth bassline and thin, acrid wah-wah guitar cutting through a wash in the middle. That would make a great single for most groups, but En Vogue had stronger tracks in store.
The next cut really was huge: My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It) is a smacking steady funker with singers Maxine Jones and Dawn Robinson making an assertive statement that rides on guitar parts sampled from James Brown’s The Payback, which had also fed the group’s 1990 debut single, Hold On. Brown’s influence also looms over Give It Up, Turn It Loose, another hit from the album, fronted by Jones. The late “Godfather Of Soul” released a single of similar title, though En Vogue’s song was written while listening to The Honey Drippers’ classic funk break Impeach The President. It opens with a teaser of The Beatles’ Yesterday, and a full version of Paul McCartney’s signature song follows, showing off this fab four’s glorious vocal skills to the max.