Girl groups emerged in the late 1950s as groups of young singers teamed up with behind-the-scenes songwriters and music producers to create hit singles, often featuring glossy production values and backing by top studio musicians. In later eras the girl group template would be applied to disco, R&B, and country- based formats as well as pop music.
As rock and roll began to quickly grow in popularity, dozens of groups tried their luck, often teaming up with established songwriters and record producers. The Shirelles, who had had some minor R&B hits, hooked up with Brill Building songwriters, notably Gerry Goffin and Carole King, who wrote "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" for them. The song became a number one pop hit in early 1961, and is widely recognized as establishing the prototypical girl-group style.
Other songwriters and producers quickly recognized the potential of this new approach, and recruited existing acts (or, in some cases, created them anew) to record their songs in a girl-group style. Phil Spector recruited The Crystals, The Blossoms, and The Ronettes, while Goffin and King handled much of the output of The Cookies. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller would likewise foster The Dixie Cups, The Shangri-Las, and The Exciters. Other important girl group songwriters included Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. The Motown label also masterminded several major girl groups, beginning with The Marvelettes and later with Martha and the Vandellas and The Supremes.
By the mid to late 1960s, in the face of the British Invasion and the increasing popularity of rock music, the popularity of girl groups began to wane. During this time, only a few all-female groups, such as The Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas (both Motown), made the transition to an earthier, soulful sound and success. The influence of the girl-group sound would continue to be heard even as the rock era progressed; particularly through The Beatles, who would cover several girl-group hits including "Chains" (The Cookies), "Please Mr. Postman" (The Marvelettes), "Baby It's You", and "Boys" (both originally recorded by The Shirelles).
The high-production, harmony-heavy sound of girl groups was so well-established and proved so popular that many individual singers adopted the "girl-group sound." Lesley Gore and Little Eva were solo artists, but are often considered part of the girl group genre. Other groups, such as Ruby and the Romantics and The Essex, had the "girl-group sound," even though they were not composed entirely of females. The sound was also a key element of many of the "Beach Party" type movies of the same era, many starring Annette Funicello.
In the United States, the 1980s saw the emergence of girl groups such as The Go-Go's, The Bangles and Pointer Sisters, who charted several hits in the 1980s, including "Jump (for My Love)" and "I'm So Excited".
In the United Kingdom the New Wave/pop group Bananarama had an extensive number of Top 40 singles around the world in the 1980s and 1990s. Their most famous international hit, "Venus," hit #1 in the United States (a feat they didn't achieve in their homeland). In 1988, they entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful all-female group in history, a title they held for over a decade.
Many of the girl groups of the 1990s returned to a manufactured pop style, marketed as clean-cut and aimed at young, predominantly female audiences. A prime example of this was the US vocal trio, Wilson Phillips. In Canada, West End Girls achieved minor hits on the Canadian charts.
Former Bananarama member Siobhan Fahey created an edgy alternative group, Shakespears Sister, whose single "Stay" stayed at #1 in the UK for eight weeks (the longest run by any girl group) and made the top 5 in the US.
In the UK, the R&B act Eternal scored a string of hits both within the U.K and internationally as well as having three multi-platinum selling albums. One of the most successful American R&B girl groups of the early 1990s was vocal quartet En Vogue. According to Billboard magazine, they were the eighteenth most successful act of the 1990s. Irish girl group B*Witched enjoyed chart success with four #1 singles in the UK. Cleopatra scored hits both in the UK and the US. They had their own television sitcom and were signed by Madonna|. The All Saints became one of the most successful British pop group of the 1990s with five #1 hits in the UK and two multi-platinum albums. Their second single, "Never Ever", is their biggest hit, topping the charts in UK and Australia.
Spice Girls had nine #1 singles in the UK, including "Wannabe", "2 Become 1" and "Spice Up Your Life". With sold-out concerts, advertisements, merchandise and a film, Spice Girls became the most commercially successful British girl group. They were one of the biggest selling female group of the 1990s, and one of best-selling female groups in modern music history. Their first album, Spice is the best-selling album of the all time by a female group, with 23 million sales worldwide. In total, Spice Girls sold in excess of 55 million records worldwide.
In the 1990s, TLC also experienced high popularity in the US. Their sophomore album, Crazy Sexy Cool is the best selling hip hop and female r&b group album of all time in the US with sales of 15 million copies. Billboard ranks them as one of the best musical trios of all time. Another R&B girl group SWV became one of the big selling female groups in the US to come out of the 1990s.
Since the late 1990s, as J-Pop has become more popular outside its native Japan (thanks largely to the Internet), Japanese girl groups such as SPEED, Zone and (especially) Morning Musume (whose past sales figures rival those of many well-known British and American acts) have achieved a degree of cult status within certain communities and social groups, especially those associated with Japanophilia.
In the UK, Sugababes formed in 1998, and have been named the most successful all-female act of the 21st century in the UK. They have also sold more than 5 million albums in the UK alone.
In the early 2000s, popular girl groups included California-based Dream, the Swedish quartet Play, Chinese pop band S.H.E and the UK/U.S. quintet No Secrets. Bands like The Raveonettes, The Pipettes, Miss Derringer and the Detroit Cobras incorporate the sound of early-1960s girl groups.
The reality TV show Popstars produced some short-lived girl groups: in Australia, Bardot, in the US, Eden's Crush, in Argentina, Bandana, and in Canada, Sugar Jones. In Germany, Popstars produced the girl groups No Angels, Monrose and Preluders. In France, the show produced the girl groups L5 and Diadems. However, in the UK, Popstars: the Rivals, Girls Aloud was formed in late 2002 and is still recording and performing together as a group to this day to widespread acclaim and success. But The biggest femal group of all time is Destinys Child with record sales totaling over 750,000,000!
Pussycat Dolls, an all-American girl group, gathered worldwide success with their #1 hit "Don't Cha" and songs such as "Stickwitu" and "Beep". In 2008, the creator of Pussycat Dolls, Robin Antin, created a new reality show in which women compete to become members of a new R&B/pop girl group Girlicious. Another creation of Antin is Paradiso Girls, the European version of Pussycat Dolls. Another co-creation is Girlesque, somewhat following in the footsteps of Pussycat Dolls.
In Korea, girl groups such as Baby V.O.X, Fin.K.L, S.E.S, Wonder Girls and Girls' Generation, led the K-pop boom in East Asia and contributed to Korean Wave (also known as Hanryu). Meanwhile, in Japan, J-pop groups Zone and Speed continued to be popular well into the first decade of the 21st century while Morning Musume evolved into the "flagship group" of the all-female vocalist collective Hello! Project; more recently, AKB48 has become increasingly popular as well. Music videos of J-Pop girl groups are widely available for viewing on sites such as YouTube and Veoh; many non-Japanese even post videos of themselves singing popular Japanese girl groups' songs karaoke-style, creating "fandubs".
The Cheetah Girls, a girl group spawned by three successful TV movies on Disney Channel, released two platinum-selling soundtracks. The group's 2006 tour was the most successful in Disney Channel history, and a year later, they released their studio debut album TCG, which debuted in the top 50 on the Billboard charts.
In 2005, Diddy formed Danity Kane in the MTV reality show, Making the Band 3. Their first album debuted at #1 on the main charts and went platinum. Danity Kane released their second studio album Welcome to the Dollhouse which also debuted at #1 on the main charts. Danity Kane is the first girl group in history to have both there debut and sophomore album make it onto the US Billboard top 200 charts at #1 in the first week of release. They are the most successful multicultural R&B and Pop group.