15 of the Most Powerfully Unique Girl Groups Ever In Music History

22 Dec

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There have been dozens of music groups formed around the world, and there will continue to be music groups out there for centuries to come. Each new act brings in a new wave of interest, and music groups bring us more than one entertainer at a time.  The early heart of the USA began with bands and groups. With the rise of interest in bands, the U.K. made it a phenomenon. Just recently, Japan and Korea have brought that phenomenon to the modern age.

Read my article on Hallyu.

Girl groups tend to be of particular interest, as mostly women dominate the music industry today. Since the 1910’s, the days of vaudeville, females have always managed to grab attention to themselves in catchy musical numbers. Groups were the easiest way to do this, as harmonizing in sync was always a challenge. Those who did it right easily impressed an audience. Of course, in most female groups, a heavy amount of emphasis is usually put on a group’s physical appearance. There’s nothing more attractive than a ton of women with beauty and talent, right?

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And yet, ever so briefly, one female group would rise out of the ashes like a phoenix. A group that just didn’t seem to fit into the box designed for them. Those are the women that are making it on my list as 11 of the Most Powerfully Unique Girl Groups Ever in Music History.

This article is not about fame particularly. Fame is a general description. Fame could mean anything. Many female groups out in the world might be bigger than the ones I’m covering in this article. But “power” to me does not equal record sales alone. “Power” comes in the form of the differences one has made or how one has contributed to the industry. I can tell you right now that many of the most popular girl groups in the world, from the USA to Japan, have all been extremely famous for none other than their good looks. There are three things that usually define girl groups:

1) Enhanced good looks and trendy clothes

2) Melodious, seductive vocals designed to draw in physical attention

3) Relate-easy music that is missing a “personal” touch or any real depth

While all of these traits are not bad, many of them are cheap selling tools and don’t necessarily make a group…Well, unique. Isn’t it better to have high record sales and unique traits?

This is not to say anyone I’m listing is ugly, can’t sing, or doesn’t have music that people relate to. But the groups I’m listing have so much more. I want to give them the shine they deserve. The groups I’m listing are hard to imitate as a result of what they have done for our music industry. With just good looks and melodious voices, it’s easy to make carbon copies in a matter of minutes. In fact, groups have been that classic since the vaudeville days. I’m reviewing those girls that just didn’t fit that standard, capish?

The following list will cover these genres: Rock and Roll, Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop, New Jack Swing, Rap, Dance, Electronic, Heavy Metal, Rock, Punk Rock, Pop Urban, and Country.

This list is in order from the first group to the last group to debut. It’s hard to rank these groups because they are so unique.

1) Goldie and the Gingerbreads

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With a name like “Goldie and the Gingerbreads”, you wouldn’t think this group made much of a difference. But they did. Goldie and the Gingerbreads may not be anything special today (or maybe they are), but at the time they arrived on the scene, there were no girls in the Rock and Roll scene. Female bands never attracted a large audience neither were they ever signed to a major label before this group. Yes, the four to five ladies of this band were the first to be signed to a major label. They were the first to break into a genre that was mostly dominated by men. If that doesn’t make them powerfully unique, I don’t know what does.

Even to this day, Rock and Roll is a genre that is notorious for its male artists. But for all of you who don’t know, these women stood out among all the other women who were mostly soloists and sang mostly Pop music, Showtunes, and Soul. They were the first women to be visually seen on live television with instruments in their hands. These women were not dolled-up like the Supremes, but they shined because they took a chance on a genre most women wouldn’t have even dared to try.

They weren’t million-dollar sell-outs. I don’t think the world was truly ready for a female Rock and Roll group at the time. But you rock-band girls can thank these leading ladies for their unique contribution.

The 1960’s was a time when women were really starting to make an impact on the music industry, and the era is considered the Golden Age for female artists.

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2) Fanny

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Fanny is recognized as pioneering the female band identity and “sound”. It’s a sound that has traveled down even to modern bands like Paramore and The Dirty Youth. They were the first female band to release an album on a major record label. Just like Goldie and the Gingerbreads, these ladies paved the way for future female bands. The difference is that they helped female Rock stars gain the respect they deserved in an era where female Rock bands hardly got any attention or respect. Even David Bowie was a huge fan of their work. These women were the first to be considered full-fledged rockers. Before this group, women hardly played their own instruments, and when they did, they hardly played very well. This group played just as well as all of the other male rock bands.

This band carried controversy wherever they went. Even their name carried controversy, as many people thought of it as a sexual term, though the group insisted it meant to reflect the “female spirit”. This group was also outspoken and hard in vocal sound, which was so unlike the “lady-like” women of the era. Because of their unique traits, these women were said to have conquered even “male chauvinists” charts.

Two of the four members were from the Philippines, so they were probably one of the first major female Asian rock stars in American history. Two members of the four were also some of the only female artists of the time to openly express themselves as lesbian and bi-sexual. They were thus thought of as a “Lesbian” band. This also made them very unique. One heterosexual member stated that even though two members weren’t lesbians, “men didn’t know how to take them” at the time, and many lesbians were attracted to the band.

This group of women were really some of the first ladies to openly express their sexual desires in general. Their song “Butter Boy” was banned from some radio stations because most stations thought the song was “too explicit”. We can definitely say this group had the unique power that no other group showed in the early 1970’s. This group showed that they were more than pretty faces with melodious, sweet voices. They were a power machine ready to chart new territory.

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3) The Pointer Sisters

The Pointer Sisters, moved from duo, to trio, to quartet, were the first black group ever to create a Grammy-Award winning Country song. Many Country lovers may know of their song “Fairytale”. Even to this day, many consider this song a Country classic.

Now, they were by no means a Country group. That’s what made this win such a random experience. It was surprising that a R&B and Soul group would break through the industry with one Country song. I think it was the unique way this Country song was sang. They combined the “soul” of the group with the authenticity of Country music, giving Country music the “soul” many artists have adapted today. This Country song ended up being their first Grammy win ever!

The Pointer Sisters were lovers of Country music, and were country girls at heart, even if that was not their main genre.

They made themselves known as a group that was willing to try many diverse genres and styles, which was considered unusual for black group artists at the time. They tried Soul, Funk, and Bebop, but also Rock and Electronic!

This set them apart from other African American groups, and helped pave the way for African Americans to try more diverse styles of music. For all of you African American Country stars, you can thank their contribution to the Country world. The world may have been closed-minded when it came to four African American girls singing Country, but at least they stole a Grammy for that Country song. I couldn’t ignore this group and saw fit to add them as one of the most powerfully unique girl groups ever in music history.

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4) The Runaways

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If you don’t know The Runaways, you don’t know Rock. The Runaways were said to be the first hard-edged, female Heavy Metal band to ever step into the music scene. Sure, Fanny gave us pure Rock. But The Runaways gave us the edge and the female Rock image. When it came to music charts in the USA, sadly, this group did not do any more than the other two bands, but they became a phenomenon in Japan.

This group is widely known for their unusual Rock song “Cherry Bomb”. It has the catchy hook “ch-ch-ch-ch Cherry Bomb”. This song made them stand out on stages throughout the USA. They did not have the usual image for women. They gave wild performances on stage that were similar to their male counterparts, and they wore the raciest outfits. That was something hardly done in this era in time. They were not standard, that’s for sure. They didn’t portray themselves with the “flawless, feminine” images handed to so many women during the “Disco Era”. Their music lyrics were bold. They didn’t mind being called “Bad Girls”. There is no question about it. They had to make this list of powerfully unique girl groups.

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5) Salt-N-Pepa

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Salt-N-Pepa is a notorious female Rap group that became popular at a time when men dominated the Rap and Hip-Hop scene. In fact, they were one of the first female Rap groups. Salt-N-Pepa influenced the female image in Hip-Hop culture and Rap culture. Anyone into Rap knows Salt-N-Pepa. Many female rappers and Hip-Hop artists to this day are still heavily influenced by the Ladies of Rap, including the notorious TLC and Lil’ Kim. Even Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea get their sexy image from Salt-N-Pepa. Without Salt-N-Pepa, there would be no sexy female Rap songs.

Many feminists disliked Rap and Hip-Hop because many of the lyrics were sexist and many of the music videos objectified women’s bodies. But when Salt-N-Pepa came on the scene, they gave women a new perspective about Rap and Hip-hop. And they gave women and Hip-Hop a new image.

Salt-N-Pepa was no different from the men in Hip-Hop…But that’s why they were so unique. Salt-N-Pepa turned the tables around on men. Salt-N-Pepa were not afraid to wear sexier-looking clothing and were not afraid to talk about sex and men. This took away the “innocent, conservative” image so many modern women were portrayed as having at the time. They were not shy of men, that’s for certain. Thus, Salt-N-Pepa stood out as bold, confrontational women that were worthy of respect in the Hip-Hop community.

They were also one of the few Rap groups that had a female DJ. Even today, most DJs are male. They certainly proved that women could hang with the boys. This makes them perfect for the list of Powerfully Unique Girl Groups Ever in Music History.

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6) Dixie Chicks

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Very few Country bands get recognized as it is, let alone, female bands. But Dixie Chicks are a name worth mentioning, and they are probably the only female group that gives a respectful nod to the Country music scene. In fact, they are considered the top-selling female band of all time, selling more than 30 million albums around the world! They are also currently the biggest selling Country group in the modern world. They have won 13 Grammy Awards. They are still the only Country band to have two certified RIAA diamond albums one after the other. This is a far leap from the bands before them. You can honestly see that they have made people notice female Country bands.

What made the Dixie Chicks so unique? Well, they came out at a time when the only female bands gaining popularity were either cute, lively girls jumping around in leotards and pigtails or were hardcore women trying to make their name in the Heavy Metal scene.

The Dixie Chicks were originally a Bluegrass genre group. And they used to dress up as cowgirls in their performances. They were certainly a bold, quirky girl group then. Well, someone decided they needed an image change. They were transformed into the Dixie Chicks we know today.

The Dixie Chicks were one of the few successful group acts of the modern age to write and co-write their own music. Many of their song lyrics brought a lot of controversy to their generally conservative fan base. Two such songs, “Sin Wagon” and “Good-bye Earl”, were both controversial.  “Sin Wagon” openly talked about sex. The song popularized the phrase “mattress dancing”. “Good-bye Earl” was a song about the premeditated murder of an abusive husband. Many radio stations removed this band from their playlists as a result. These girls’ bold words didn’t just stop there.

After 9/11/2001, the world was very sensitive when it came to the words “terrorism” and “war”. In 2003, President George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq. One of the Dixie Chicks members boldly announced at a performance in the U.K. how much she disagreed with America going to war with Iraq. She expressed her disappointment with Bush, and even said she was “ashamed he came from Texas”. Many Americans may not have liked what she had to say at the time, but you have to admit, that was pretty gutsy of her to boldly announce an unpopular opinion.

And it’s all of these traits that make them one of the most powerfully unique female groups ever in history.

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7) TLC

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TLC, to this day, is the best-selling American female group of all time, and the second most successful girl group in the world. They were the first female group to be certified RIAA diamond. They have sold more than 65 million albums worldwide. They have had TEN Top 10 singles, four multi-platinum albums, five Grammys, and many other honors. They have recently had a critically acclaimed direct-to-tv movie based on their success, where two of the members had a hand in the movie direction. You may know this group as the opening vocalists for the Nickelodeon TV Network’s  1990’s sketch-comedy show All That. They’ve even managed to pick up some Nickelodeon blimps along the way.

Now that you know their awards, let’s get down to what made this group so unique.

They were really the first of their kind. Their sound is timeless and define what modern music is today. They were the first females to take a Hip-Hop image and apply that image, normally seen on female rappers, to the New Jack Swing and R&B genre. They spread Hip-Hop to all genres outside of Rap. They exuded all of the sass of Rap, but also the class of R&B.

TLC were tomboyish, unlike the other girls of the era. In fact, they popularized the “tomboy image” most of us know: The cropped tops, the baggy jeans, and the wild hairstyles. They were certainly not afraid to be different.

Best of all, their music. TLC did not pull punches when it came to the messages they spread in their music. They weren’t like Salt-N-Pepa, who talked about how much they loved men and sex. They weren’t like En Vogue or any former pop girl groups, who brought a sweet, seductive imagery to love and break-ups. They talked about real-life situations that most people were afraid to discuss. They didn’t care about using profanity, either. TLC was “playful” lyrically, but “empowering”. The most striking part of this group was the rapper, Left-Eye. She was notorious for her unique raps. That gave their music a personal stamp, and set them apart from other girl groups in the R&B and New Jack Swing genres. Most vocal girl groups did not have a rapper in them until TLC.

TLC never concealed their weaknesses from the public. Many times, they conveyed their weaknesses in their music. But they never made excuses for their weaknesses. TLC encouraged being better and doing better, and unlike most female groups, they talked about social issues that really mattered. “Waterfalls” was one song that comes to mind. The song criticized drug dealing and unsafe sex. It also had a Rap segment that revealed Left-Eye’s own battle with alcoholism. Their music always had a personal touch that made them reach out and touch their fans in ways no group before or after them has.

This group even highlighted the idea that some women DON’T feel pretty in the pop song “Unpretty”, and they were probably the first group to ever make a song like that.

And hey, they knew how to call a “Silly Ho” out when she was acting like one.

These girls also stood out with their colorful music videos and outrageous style, which was not usual among female R&B groups.

TLC was such a big sensation, they were the only female group in the 1990’s that had a member start her own production company! In fact, how many women are even doing that today?

Their success only came to a halt after the untimely death of Left-Eye. If that had not occurred, this group would still be bumping the charts to this day.

TLC set the stage for many Pop, R&B, and Hip-Hop female groups and solo artists who came after them, such as Aaliyah and Destiny’s Child. They even inspired a J-pop group, Speed, and a K-pop group, 2ne1, all the way across the globe! TLC pushed racial boundaries, appealing to all kinds of cultures and backgrounds. You shouldn’t even wonder why these leading ladies made it on the “Most Powerfully Unique Girl Groups Ever in Music History” list.

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8) Bikini Kill

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Known as the Pioneers of the “Riot Grrrl” Movement in the 1990’s, an underground feminist hardcore punk movement, Bikini Kill was considered the most radical feminist group of them all in the 1990’s. With their fiery performances, hard-core imagery, and in-your-face lyrics, this group stood out in a sea of Rock stars in the 1990’s. This group was not even completely female. 3 of 4 members were female. They had a MALE feminist in their group as well, who was the lead guitarist. And yes, there is such a thing as a male feminist!

Even though they had a male, I still think this group should be considered, considering over half of the members were female. In fact, I think because they had one male, that makes their group even more interesting! One male…In a group with female radicals? No wonder they stood out!

This group didn’t only support feminists, but they were also highly against racism and spoke out against “White Supremacy”, despite the fact that they were an all-white band. This band was against injustices of every kind.

This group pulled no punches. Their music is harsh and hardcore. Even the titles are a little offensive to some, so I apologize if I offend anyone reading this article…They definitely melted away any stereotypes left of women, and they were not afraid of what anyone said about it. They have the sound that flipped right over into the 21st Century into modern-day punk rock groups, especially with songs like “Rebel Girl”.

They weren’t as big as they could’ve been. It was partially by choice. Bikini Kill shunned major labels and the mainstream Rock press. So, you can already tell they were pretty controversial. They are the description of “bad girl”.

This band worked with one of the members of The Runaways! So their sound was inspired by one of the Queens of Rock. It’s no wonder they are just as powerful as the ladies that started it all. Yet, Bikini Kill makes their own impact on the industry, and they continue to stand out in a sea of mainstream carbon copies.

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9) Spice Girls

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The group that made “Girl Power” happen, taught us to “Spice Up Our Life”, and became the icons of the “Cool Britannia” wave, I introduce to you the Spice Girls, the reigning Queens of the Pop Group industry. Spice Girls is the most successful female group of all time. They are still the best-selling female group of all time. They are the biggest British group since the Beatles. They have sold more than 80 million albums worldwide.

These figures do not include their huge marketing profits. Actually, their global grosses estimate up to $800 million a year in US dollars!

The Spice Girls have broken many records, started many trends (such as the Jack Union dress Geri Halliwell wore), and have pushed international boundaries. Even their Reunion Tour in 2007 was a success!

What made this group unique? Question is, What didn’t make this group unique? This group was unique in all the ways you can describe unique. If you set this group in a pile of group artists, it would not be hard to spot them. Trust me, I did this.

The Spice Girls were originally designed to appeal to young girls. Shocking, right? There were five girls that were marketed as having five distinct personalities so that each consumer could relate to at least one of the girls. The Spice Girls pulled off a sense of individuality and diversity that most groups fail to pull off. Not one member out-shined the other, as a result. This became a strong group in the industry.

Through this diversity, the group introduced the idea that women are diverse creatures. Before the Spice Girls, many women in Pop groups were portrayed as one-dimensional. In this group, we had your girly “Posh” Spice, but we also had your “Sporty” Spice, too. There were enough representations to please every kind of woman, and thus the Spice Girls was also appealing to an older female crowd as well.

These distinct personality traits were specified with matching attire. Melanie C (Sporty Spice) wore sporty outfits, mostly cropped tops, sweat pants, and sneakers. Emma Bunton (Baby Spice) mostly wore baby-doll dresses and her hair in pigtails. These are just examples of the outrageous fashion statements made to create perfectly distinct images.

Their lively, upbeat personalities brought the already infectious music to life. Their music was really unusual when you get down to it. “Wannabe” was the Spice Girls’ break-out song. The song was anything but normal, and it made this group stand out from the very beginning. From the music video down to the lyrics, the Spice Girls conveyed a free-spirited, youthful nature that was often missing in women of the 1990’s and before the 1990’s…Until these women stepped on the scene, of course.

Another part of the group that was unique was their racial diversity. Particularly, they were the only  female group in the 1990’s to include a woman of color in a majority-white group. It showed that two races could play and sing along in harmony. The Spice Girls emphasized friendship and loyalty among women, and including a woman of color made this message stronger. It made the group even more popular around the world.

Unlike most artists, the Spice Girls showed a love for the media-driven industry and they had fun with fame. These girls were all confident and extroverted.

The Spice Girls had multiple talents that made each member stand out. Melanie C could perform a smooth back flip, as you might have seen in the video “Wannabe”. Melanie B was a pretty good rapper who added her Rap stamp whenever she could. Others, like Emma, could sing very well.

The Spice Girls were open-minded women who did not fit the mold of the usual Pop group. But their bold take on Pop culture is something that made the unconventional girl group stand out. Many groups from all around the world tried to imitate them. Many failed to live up to the same height of fame as the Spice Girls. They are just, well, too unique.

You should have known they would make this list. They are definitely five of the most powerfully unique women in the world.

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10) SPEED

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SPEED is the most successful girl group in all of Asia. They have sold more than 20 million copies in just three years. They were the only female artists in Japan to achieve the Dome Tour. They were introduced as the younger sisters of the Queen of “Hip-pop”, Namie-Amuro. Over the last two decades, J-pop music had become a global phenomenon. Due to the rise in interest in Japanese animation, Japanese Pop and Japanese Rock music became of interest, and eventually became a sensation all on their own. Japan is currently the second-biggest music empire in the world. The “group culture” traveled over to Asia in the mid 1990s. As a result, group artists have become the biggest trend in Asia throughout the current 21st Century.

SPEED was one of the groups to come out of the popular J-pop craze. But there was always something different about SPEED in comparison to other girl groups in J-pop. SPEED brought Hip-Hop and R&B to the J-pop group scene. They intertwined hip-hop with pop, popularizing Hip-Hop style in Japan and used more “solemn” expressions on their album covers in comparison to other J-pop female groups, displaying an “attitude” not commonly associated with Japanese girls. Their huge contribution to J-pop is the reason many people call them the “Japanese Spice Girls”.

However, their main inspiration was TLC, so you can probably already guess what kind of image they portrayed. Unlike the girlier Morning Musume and other groups like Morning Musume, SPEED presented a more confident, tomboyish image. In fact, though they performed upbeat songs, they didn’t over-emphasize their cute traits, unlike the other female artists in Japan. These girls expressed themselves in ways that gave Japanese girls, and Asian girls, a fresh empowering image. In some music videos, they even mirrored boy groups from the 1970’s and early ’80s (with the suits and microphones).

They also didn’t fall into the number of female J-Rock groups sprouting in Japan.

At the time, it was uncommon to hear Japanese girls rapping. Today, it’s probably nothing special, but back then, it was very different. They introduced a new style to the Japanese Pop world.

This is also one of the first girl groups to disband and come right back together like glue. In 2008, the members came back together after disbanding in 2000, and vowed to stay together and grow old together. They demonstrated a group loyalty that is uncommon in the “group industry”.

Their fresh, urban image and their undying loyalty is why I added them to this list of Most Powerfully Unique Girl Groups Ever in Music History.

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11) t.A.T.u

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t.A.T.u is a Russian duo that sang within the Pop and Rock genres. Their music is multilingual, and they have recorded many songs in both Russian and English. t.A.T.u has sold over 15 million records for both their Russian and English albums, and has had one of the “best selling albums by a girl group”. They are considered the most successful Russian act in the world. They are one of the most successful female acts of the early decade. They were the first group ever to be awarded the IFPI Europe platinum award “for the same album in two different languages”.

The group garnered much attention with the song/single  “Ya Soshla S Uma“, which is “All The Things She Said” in English. Music journalists and critics praised the song, and it is considered one of the best songs of the early Y2K era. The video to the song garnered even more attention and controversy. In the video, it showed two girls in school uniforms kissing one another. At the time, it was something unusual, even in the Y2K era, and it was even more scandalous in Russia. The song focuses on a young girl being tormented by society for being in love with another girl. At the time, there were very few songs that focused on outright lesbianism, and there were very few songs like it that garnered the same success. The video received a lot of harsh criticism from the public. Many even considered the video a promoter of “pedophilia”.

This was not their last controversial video. Many videos that followed carried intense messages. In fact, all of t.A.T.u’s videos were bold and daring.

Despite their success, many adults did not deem their “image” appropriate for children.

Their name is an abbreviated form of another Russian word that means “This girl loves that girl.”

t.A.T.u shocked the world in other ways. NBS advised the duo to stay away from “kissing” or commenting on the Iraq War in one of their performances. The girls mocked NBC by wearing songs that said “Khuy Voyne!” across the front, which translates as “F*** the War!” During a break in their performance, they also decided to kiss, blocking their faces with their hands.

Many other controversies followed the group, but one thing was certain: this group definitely was one of the greatest stamps on the pop world. With the controversial image of a Rock star, the group redefined Pop music, and brought a more “rebel girl” energy to the genre. They produced one of the first Pop songs that focused on “lesbian love”. Though the girls have openly stated they are not actual lesbians, their presentation left a unique impact on the music industry.

Yet, even with all of the scandals, their debut album, 200 Po Vstrechnoy, became certified Gold by RIAJ in Japan and still sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide. The album, also named 200 km/h in the Wrong Lane in English, reached the top 10 spots in many Western countries.

Their powerful impact on the Pop world is why they made it on this list.

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12) Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re

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As mentioned before, Japanese music has influenced the world. Japanese animation brought attention to many artists in the nation.

Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re is an eclectic J-Rock band. They have garnered attention in the USA through Texas’s SXSW and from performing at Anime Conventions. They are known for their unusual sound. It’s really hard to call them “Rock”, as they are known for their blend of many different genres within one song.

They are sort of punk Rock with some influences of Noise and Pop. Yes, “Noise” is labeled as one of their genres; it’s not meant to be a joke. They combine their sweet vocals with guitar riffs and drums. They have been described as deliberately “ironic”. One example of this irony is “Tea Time Ska”.

Their name even hints at this genre blend. Their name blends the family name of the bassist, the name of guitarist, and the name of the drummer. “Mamire” also means “mixed up” in Japanese, giving a nod to their unusual mix.

This group is also known for their strange lyrics. They have been labeled as “quirky” and “idiosyncratic”. They mostly talk about death, food, and sex, sometimes blending all three within one song! Their biggest irony is their sweet vocals hiding their dark messages. One song that reflects this is the song “No Miso Shortcake” where the listener is invited to eat the brain of the singer. Another song, “Kamaboco (Fish Cakes)”, have all the girls playing the role of food ingredients in a pot, with one ingredient being left out of the pot. “American Hamburger” focuses on a girl who is fat and loves to eat, but is “still beautiful”.

Many of their strongest songs express the inevitability of death.

Their songs about sex carry a unique image, which separates them from the other more “innocent” J-pop/Rock groups that exist in Japan. They are certainly not afraid to talk about a man’s genitals. They even often talk about the consequences of teenage sex and the hard reality of teen pregnancy, such as in the song translated as “Pregnant Fantasy”, which is also the title of one of their albums.

Their strong music style and strange story-telling make them a compelling group that is worthy to be on this list.

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13) Hang on the Box

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Hang on the Box, shortened to HOTB, is a Rock band that formed in Beijing. This band stood out in Beijing because they were so unlike all of the female artists existing in China. China is known as a conservative country by most foreigners, but these ladies put their own stamp on the nation. They have stepped out of the “feminine” roles usually placed upon women in the nation. Honestly, Rock itself is still an underground genre in China, among males and females.

Hang on the Box is the kind of band that sings about sex and relationship issues in a straight-forward way, also often described as “politically forward”. You probably wouldn’t find too many females recording or performing the songs they do without getting banned. Heck, you probably wouldn’t see too many notable Chinese girls in a Rock band! Because of their bold impression, they were the first Chinese Rock band to appear on the cover of Newsweek’s magazine.

Hang on the Box has been known to talk bluntly about their resentment regarding the Chinese music industry in their songs. They often talk about the “cuddly pop idols”, who are deemed “nice” and “suitable”, and their distaste with such “ordinary” girls. They have stated, “The nice girls don’t play rock, so we don’t need more nice girls.”

The band singer/songwriter has often stated her opinions on the Chinese industry itself. She has insinuated that she deems the Chinese music industry “inferior” to the Japanese industry, mentioning, “The Japanese work hard and keep improving on their music careers, that’s what I admire a lot. In China, people are still conservative.” The band also greatly admires the Western industry, and hopes to tour in Europe. The band has stated, “We feel we don’t suit in Asia”. Despite efforts by the government to snuff the band out, the band continues to make music and tour.

Their music has been described as “cheerful and hilarious, deadly serious, and personally political”. Though they speak fluent Chinese, they prefer to speak English. They are not a band that is afraid to use profanity, which is highly unusual among women in China. They could really be described as one of China’s strongest feminist bands.

This group packs a punch in the Chinese music industry and breaks all stereotypes about China. They are definitely one of the most powerful female music groups in the world.

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14) 2ne1

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K-pop group 2ne1 is considered a “top-tier” group in Korea, selling 27 million digital downloads in 2012 alone! This group is not just a household name in Korea, but are also well-known and respected among their many global fans in the K-pop community. Their fans call themselves “Black Jacks”. They were YG Entertainment’s break-out group and are considered the second most popular K-pop female group in the world.

What drew people to 2ne1 was their fluency in English. Many of the members have studied in western countries and were able to communicate with western audiences through mainstream western sounds and flawless English, something most westerners were not used to hearing from eastern nations.

Since the Hallyu wave, mentioned above, K-pop has taken over the “group music scene”. “Gangnam Style”, by rapper and entertainer Psy, also made K-pop an even bigger phenomenon.

2ne1 stepped on the scene before Psy became a sensation. In fact, when 2ne1 stepped on the scene, many girls were following the “cute, aegyo” trend started by SM Entertainment’s Girls’ Generation. All of the girl groups were competing with one another to be the next to produce an even better image of “innocence”, something some people felt was missing in the music industry in western countries.

Then 2ne1 burst on the scene. 2ne1 represents the “21st Century” and a “new evolution” of K-pop music. 2ne1 was not “sweet and girlish”. From debut, 2ne1 portrayed themselves as Rap/Hip-Hop idols, which made them more compared to fellow YG boy group Big Bang than to any female group out at the time. These women did not wear the girly school uniforms or the sweet “melon-drop” outfits, neither did they sing with “lighter-than-normal” vocal pitches or with “puckered lips” to emphasize their cuteness. While all of the other girls dressed like twins, 2ne1 was known for their strong individuality. While the other girl groups sang with light, melodious vocals, 2ne1 had powerful vocals. Eventually, 2ne1 grew to express more feminine qualities, but they kept a mature, sleek edge about them. As a result, 2ne1 helped the world take female K-pop groups seriously.

2ne1 showed confidence, edge, and a unique identity. 2ne1 wore bold, bright fashions. They often tapped into even edgier styles by trying Gothic and even Cyberpunk looks. This group brought “swagger” to the modern-day K-pop industry.

This group is also not afraid to use profanity in their music, which is literally unheard of among most female groups in Korea. This group emphasizes “female empowerment” and “standing out, no matter what anyone says”. 2ne1 is one of the groups that have the most creative freedom, and have had more of a “hand” in their music than most other groups. 2ne1’s lyrics have the depth that most K-pop songs are missing. One such song that expresses the depth that other girls are missing is “Come Back Home”. The video reveals a darker side to Korean life that most foreigners may not even be aware of. In the video, the male lead seems to be addicted to a drug. It appears to cause trouble with his girlfriend, played by member Dara. This kind of imagery is hardly seen in most female K-pop videos, trust me. It brings out a burning truth that most people would rather ignore in favor of the innocent bliss found in other videos. The overall video captures people living in a virtual cyber world. It really is a deep video.

In another video, 2ne1 combines a “Gothic” style with R&B, two styles usually not combined.

2ne1 changed any misconceptions foreigners had of Asian girls.

2ne1 gives it hard to K-pop. Is it any surprise that two of their inspirations are two of the most powerful leading ladies, the Spice Girls and TLC?

For those of you who weren’t aware of their huge influence on the Pop world, now you know. 2ne1 was definitely going to make my list of the Most Powerfully Unique Girl Groups Ever in Music History.

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15) f(x)

fx-red-light-group

“Powerhouse” label SM entertainment (known as the biggest Korean label in Korea) introduced f(x), the multinational, quirky, unconventional group in 2009. f(x) is an extremely popular K-pop group that debuted just months after 2ne1, and their popularity has seen significant growth in 2014, being labeled as “Hipsters” by American Fuse TV Channel. They are known for having one of the highest number of sales for their physical album copies in Korea, a feat that is challenging in the “digital world”. Music critics usually praise the quirky group for their bold contemporary sounds. Like 2ne1, they were also different from the other “twin-like” groups. Instead of debuting with a cute song, f(x) debuted with the song “Lachata”, a Funk-Pop song, and with a retro-boyish image. Since then, however, f(x) has tried everything…

f(x) is known for their distinct characteristics and strong individuality, similar to the Spice Girls. The only difference is that f(x) doesn’t have to try too hard to be distinct. One member of their group particularly stands out the most: The androgynous member, Amber Liu. f(x) is the most widely known Pop group in the world to have an androgynous member. Sure, there are many groups that try a more “boyish” look as a theme, but this member’s main style is “comfortable” and “boyish”, even in her everyday life! She is often compared to China’s S.H.E. member Ella Chen. Unlike Ella, however, Amber does not often act “girlish”. Tomboyish girls are rare in Korea, let alone, the ones that actually dress more similar to the boys. Amber Liu’s boyish charms stole the hearts of many Korean and global fans, something no one predicted would happen. Some K-pop fans even think she is more handsome than some males in K-pop boy groups! This gave the impression on the K-pop world that f(x) was a group that wouldn’t fit into the “cookie-cutter” K-pop industry, where women were mostly designed to appeal to the eyes of men.

Another similar trait f(x) has to the Spice Girls are their multitude of talents. In fact, f(x) has an even longer list of talents than anyone on this list! Some play guitar, piano, the drums, dance, sing, ice skate, act, and can perform acrobatic flips, to name a few. Victoria is seen performing her famous, flawless flips onstage and in the MV “Chu”. When f(x) debuted, they were advertised as “Asia’s Best Female Dance Group”, emphasizing that this group would have strong choreography. They received a lot of praise for their complicated dances.

The biggest trait that makes f(x) stand out in Korea is the fact that over half of the members are…Well, not Korean! Amber Liu is Taiwanese-American, born and raised in Los Angeles, California, USA. Krystal Jung is Korean-American, born in San Francisco, California, USA, though she has lived in Korea mostly her whole life. Victoria Song was born and raised in China. The two other Korean ladies, Luna and Sulli, are not even from the same city! With this mixture, there were many language and cultural barriers the group had to overcome. f(x) was one of the first well-known female multinational groups in the world.

This strong multinational reputation was made even stronger when Victoria, the Chinese member, was placed as the leader of the group!

At one time, the girls had a hard time communicating with one another. Krystal spoke both English and Korean, so she helped Amber understand the other two Korean girls and helped the Korean girls understand Amber. Amber spoke a little Chinese so she communicated with Victoria. Still, two of the girls struggled to adjust to a completely new country. It was especially overwhelming for the leader, Victoria, who was expected to speak on behalf of her group, but wasn’t as fluent in Korean as other members. Yet, f(x) overcame this obstacle. They managed to convey a “chemistry” that would usually be challenging in a multilingual group. This makes f(x) appealing to many nations outside of Korea, as they have three completely different national influences, and are least likely to be biased or prejudiced when it comes to foreigners.

Even their debut song, “LaChata”, reflects their international influence.  The title of the song is in reference to the Portuguese word “Chata”, which translates as “boring”.

f(x) is known as a group that changes styles all the time. They are known as a group that “never follows the trends”. I would rather say they are a group that steps into new styles comfortably and with ease, even when they are following the trends. They are unique most of the time without even trying.  Mostly, they are not as deliberate as other unique groups. f(x), their name, is a mathematical function. If you insert a number in place of the variable “x”, it can become anything. f(x) is the kind of group fans always expect the unexpected from. f(x) changes their image every comeback. They are known for their eclectic sense of style and their “experimental, boundary-pushing” sound.

Their music is anything but normal. They are, in fact, avant-garde, which makes them stand out not only in Korea, but among groups around the world. And not just with sound, but lyrics. f(x) is known for their strange metaphors, like in the song “Rum Pum Pum Pum”. The song compares first love to a growing wisdom tooth.

What really helps f(x)’s album sales are their creative album covers. The cover of their 2013 album, Pink Tape, drew attention to itself because it was designed to look exactly like a pink VHS tape. From front to back, the boxed cover could easily be mistaken for a 1990’s VHS, and many people bought the album just for decoration.

f(x) is also known for sounding more like the boys than the girls, and have been compared to “brother” group Shinee in sound.

f(x) really made a statement when they underwent another transformation for the song “Red Light”. f(x) was known for their colorful MVs and quirky fashions. The “Red Light” video showed the girls as fierce, dark, and sassy. They were noted as not following the “feminine, sexy” girl group trend that has been emerging in Korea. They had a distinct military-style, and started many fashion trends with their MV and teaser photos, such as the bowler hats, the eye-patches, and the “one-eyed” make-up. The video itself was controversial. It was meant to be a social-conscious song with a deeper meaning “other than love”, as member Luna pointed out. Between burning books, ringing phones, two-colored-eyed cats, and strange mannequins, the video garnered much attention, gaining 2 million views on Youtube within two days! It is possibly one of the most unique pop songs in the world. The strange chorus transition also made it stand out, as it gave f(x) that unique quirk they are known for. To add, the song received controversy when KBS, a broadcasting station in Korea, deemed the song unsuitable for broadcast because the song used the word “Caterpillar”, which was in reference to an American diesel-fueled organization of the same name, also abbreviated to CAT.

f(x) is also a group that is known for having a little more creative freedom than the other girl groups, especially when it comes to style and music. There are just certain things f(x) can pull off and get away with that other female K-pop groups can’t.

f(x) certainly knows how to keep their fans on their toes, and it is this “element of surprise” that helps them make it on this list of 15 of the Most Powerfully Unique Groups Ever in History.

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So, that’s all folks. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think of the list. Do you agree with the list? Are there any other powerful groups in the world that you feel should be added to this list? I will be updating as I discover more unique groups. Were there any artists you were introduced to because of this article? Please share your opinions in the comments’ section below.

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10 Responses to “15 of the Most Powerfully Unique Girl Groups Ever In Music History”

  1. generationnext 2014/12/23 at 00:47 #

    Reblogged this on Generation Next and commented:

    I’ve been rummaging through my collection of female group artists, and the list seems endlessly repetitive. But ever so briefly, a female group stands out in the line-up, and I can’t help but feel relieved. This article is inspired from the most Powerfully Unique Female Groups of all time. This is not about fame, but about the impact each group has made on the industry. Take a trip down memory lane as we review some of the world’s most empowering women: From the U.K., to the USA, from Japan to Korea, the Group capitals of the world! Covering the genres: Rock and Roll, Heavy Metal, Country-Bluegrass, and much more!

    Like

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    • generationnext 2017/01/12 at 23:08 #

      Thank you very much. I’m glad you enjoyed this article and this is actually one of my favorites. Thank you for taking the time out to read and comment. 🙂

      Like

  3. Micheal Iams 2017/01/04 at 03:25 #

    What’s up friends, nice post and fastidious arguments commented at this place, I am actually enjoying by these.|

    Like

    • generationnext 2017/01/12 at 23:02 #

      I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself. I hope to inform as well as continue to entertain in the future. I also enjoy reading the comments. 😉

      Like

  4. Lahoma Cone 2017/01/11 at 01:38 #

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    • generationnext 2017/01/12 at 22:05 #

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