Brown Skinned Lady…Where You Going?

The all-girl group, a staple of soul and R&B music for the better part of the last fifty years, has consistently been reflective of the social mores and style within the African-American community and African Diaspora at large. So what does it say when all of the brown girls have virtually disappeared from popular music? Women of color traditionally have had so few avenues for expression creatively, politically and socially in America that the girl group has remained necessary and has acted as a purveyor for the musings for women of each generation. No matter what the fashion magazines or the pervasive and conventional thoughts about beauty echoed at the time, brown girls via the girl group were part of the conversations involving glamour and sophistication.

Whether it were The Supremes (Detroit), Labelle (Philadelphia), Klymaxx (LA), SWV (Bronx/Brooklyn), or EnVogue (Bay Area) homegrown brown girl beauty was represented and brown girls nationwide could take pride in the fact that someone from their community, with their hips, lips and sway was celebrated.

Not to be divisive or to ignite the fire of colorism and intraracial conflict but it is alarming when the brown girl has all but vanquished from the musical landscape especially in the form of the girl group. In a time where the Xscapes, Totals, and Brownstones were mainstays on the R&B front, one would be hard pressed to find an A&R executive willing to take a chance on group predominately comprised of brown girls.

Enter RichGIRL (JIVE) [shown above] and Eletrik Red (DefJam) [shown below] two of the newest offerings in the girl group genre where save for the token brown girl everyone looks, well, other. This “other” or ethnically ambiguous trend, first popularized in commercial advertising, seems to be the rule when green lighting new groups as a means for canvassing the larger crossover market.

Since music doesn’t sell anymore, at least in its conventional sense, musicians are being used as glorified pitchmen hawking everything from clothes to beverages- it speaks volumes when we don’t want to brown girls to sing to us, or even sell us hair grease or orange juice. While we, as African Americans are an inclusive community historically and celebrate black women in all shades it appears vis a vis the new girl group, the brown girl has been left out. In a time where Alicia Keys, Beyonce, and Rhianna rule the R&B world, perhaps Kenneth and Mamie Clark were right: brown girls are out of vogue.

Special to Parlour by contributor Dante Fundollaz

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