Girl groups have been a musical institution for decades and regardless of the genre, from R&B to pop to rock to hip-hop to country and beyond, there’s at least one girl group in its lineage that made an undeniable mark. However, every since the turn of the millennium, the foundation of girl groups started decaying rapidly and the population has dwindled to the point of them becoming the musical equivalent of an endangered species. Post-retirement of the children of destiny, we’ve had a handful of either new groups stumbling to carry the torch, old groups reforming to try and reignite the flame of past glories or groups that stopped before they ever really started. And then there was Electrik Red.
The childhood friends-turned-proteges of songwriter/producers The-Dream and Tricky Stewart, Electrik Red were positioned right at the tail end of the ’00s to potentially reinvent the modern era of girl groups with their debut album How to Be a Lady: Volume 1.
They had the blunt sexuality reminiscent of 80s groups like Vanity 6, Mary Jane Girls and Klymaxx; check the self-explanatory “Freaky Freaky”, the empowering cheerleader anthem“P Is for Power” or the table-turning “W.F.Y.” (as in “y’all don’t fuck us; we fuck you“).
They had the street-yet-sweet swagger reminscent of 90s icons like TLC, Xscape and Total down to a science; tunes like “Muah” and “On Point” had that effortless shit-talking sass and attitude; the ’80s swing of “So Good”, ’80s thump of “Friend Lover” and ’80s grind of “9 to 5” were three of the best girl group tunes Prince never wrote; a new school love jones anthem in “Bed Rest”; and “Devotion” and “Go Shawty” were the requisite hot and bothered slow bangers bound to be stuck on repeat.
And they had Tricky and Dream’s clever lyricism and state-of-the-art (circa ’09) productions keeping things fresh; look no further than the ahead-of-its-time trap party starter “Drink in My Cup” and the wild “Kill Bill”, which takes and flips the traditional murder ballad style on its head, for proof.
Pound for pound, How to Be a Lady: Volume 1 was the perfect girl group cocktail. Electrik Red had the right look, the right moves, the right material and voices that worked perfectly with it. They stood out from the playing field as different without trying too hard. They were able to harness the energy and essence of their influences and put a unique spin on it instead of becoming a trendy rehash. For whatever reason, unfortunately, Def Jam’s lack of passion and vision for the group led to a lack of proper promotion for them and their album. “So Good” peaked at #60 on the R&B charts while the album started and stopped at #100 on the charts, essentially canceling plans for any future volumes.
Regardless, as brief a moment in time as it was, Electrik Red gave us hope and left behind a flawless instructional guide on how to be a girl group that maybe, just maybe, a future group will discover and be wise enough to run with.
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