Weekly Wire
The Boston Phoenix SWV

Release Some Tension

By Franklin Soults

OCTOBER 13, 1997:  More decidedly "urban" than the poppish En Vogue, more restrained than the sassy TLC, these three anonymous-voiced women were the archetype for the black girl-group revival of the early to mid '90s. Instead of offering up melodramas of teen passion and vulnerability, like their early-'60s predecessors, SWV delivered only what the trio's artless name suggests: the sheer pride and pleasure of hearing young Sisters with Voices let loose.

Now their label has decided this isn't enough. Since the crew's ambitious 1996 outing sold only a third as many copies as their 1993 debut, RCA has pushed them to go "street," matching the singers with a different young guest MC for eight of this new album's 12 cuts. Almost all of the guests provide solid, gritty raps -- especially Foxy Brown, Lil' Kim, and the irrepressible motormouth E-40 -- but only the exciting new rapper Missy Elliott writes a fresh and catchy melody that allows SWV to shine as equals. Elsewhere, they're reduced to little more than hip-hop back-up singers. It's an eclipse that may well serve as a fitting epitaph for the fate of the entire revival.

-- Franklin Soults

Weekly Wire Suggested Links

  • SWV - Official site

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