In 2018, it is more than obvious that the climate for girl groups/duos has altered immensely. There used to be a great deal of diversity and acceptance when it came to allowing new groups to make their own mark on the industry; the 60s had The Supreme’s, the 80s had Vanity 6 (assembled by Prince) along with showcasing diversity with Hip-Hop duos Salt-N-Pepa and JJ Fad making names for themselves, and the 90s had everyone: TLC, Destiny’s Child, The Spice Girls, SWV, Xscape, Total, Brownstone, etc. even trios/duos 702, Zhané and Changing Faces were able to break through and gain their own success. By the time the 2000s were ushered in, the shift was becoming more apparent as time went on. New groups like Blaque, who began in the late 90s, started having issues with keeping the momentum – one reason being the passing of group founder Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes – and 3LW experienced the KFC showdown, but even then there were still girl groups fighting to make it big. The Pussycat Dolls had their moment, Danity Kane made waves as well as short-lived groups Electrik Red and Cherish. But in 2018 the number had diminished significantly. Yes, you have pop acts like Little Mix and Fifth Harmony who has sustained a certain amount of success, but it seems as though labels aren’t willing to invest in girl groups like they once were, even music fans have almost certainly given up on the idea themselves. There is also the stereotype that girl groups simply “can’t get along,” I mean even gospel duo Mary Mary are fighting these days. There is also the narrative of prioritizing the lead singer, or the one that stands out the most, over the other members. So much so that the idea of a group eventually disbanding due to someone chasing that solo career waterfall, rather than sticking to the rivers and lakes, can be pointed out immediately.
These things were all hopefully going to change when Kelly Rowland announced a new docu-series that would appear on BET called Chasing Destiny. The show premiered in April of 2016 with the hopes of putting together the “next supergroup” – even earning a deal with LA Reid’s Epic Records. Over the span of roughly three months, skeptics watched as this new group was formed following each elimination. The show took a page out of Diddy’s Making The Band book, minus the dramatics, in the end, the final five were chosen. Kristal (29), Ashly (29), Brienna (24), Gabby and Shyann (both 21) made the final cut. By the end of the series, we were able to get a look into the overall potential of the group. Each member can vocally hold their own, without the thought of them being sent their luggage in the back of their mind. All five of them can contribute writing-wise, they all can dance and they’re all beautiful; conceptually those are all the ingredients needed for world domination – I should also note that each member has shown to (so far) be all about the group instead of plotting to eventually break out and go solo.
Right after the show wrapped, their cover of Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and a song previously intended for Kelly called “It’s Alright,” were uploaded to the groups SoundCloud page. Their five-piece harmony, a capella version of “Hotline Bling” is flawless with each girl being able to shine while also showing how well their voices blend together. Some of those same sentiments can be said about “It’s Alright,” while the song does sound like a Kelly Rowland track, the girls do a great job of embodying the vibe. Kristal’s swag during the first verse is the perfect tone-setter and as the song progresses they make it sound as if it was initially always their song. They also released “All of Us” after the show’s finale.
A few weeks following the ending of the show they finally announced the group’s name, June’s Diary, and near the end of June they released their official first single “L.A.N.C.E.” Personally, I like the song. It’s not an “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg,” “No, No, No” or “Hold On” but, subjectively, it’s cute in the same vein as “Show Stopper” was. It’s a mid-tempo track that tackles the idea of women wasting their time with a guy who’s undeserving and not fully invested. It’s not on a level of memorable first singles from other groups, but the fact that the group released an official single along with a video was a milestone due to the fact that things would seemingly become stagnant on that aspect of things. I like to think the lack of material following the release of “L.A.N.C.E.” is due to the group trying to find their footing. Figuring out the group’s style, finding writers and producers to bring on board as well as making sure the girls continue to mesh well together are all important. In a perfect world, all of these things would have been done prior to the show airing but as we know, it isn’t a perfect world and times have changed. What troubles me about this, however, was the reason given for the lack of material. Frank Gatson Jr., who has worked with Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland, En Vogue, TLC, Michael Jackson, Toni Braxton and Luke James, announced that he would be taking the role as the group’s manager. On a now deleted Instagram post in December of 2016, a fan asked about what was causing the hold up, to which Frank Gatson responded with “we’re waiting for a hit.” The reason why this can be seen as troubling is the fact that a “hit” is different for each artist. Are they looking for a record that will crossover into mainstream “Pop” media? Or is it the modern “urban” version of a “hit?” Meaning a bass-heavy track with little to no substance that features whatever rapper is hot at the moment? Only they know the answer to that question. Due to the lack of material, they inevitably started performing covers of songs like “Love On Top,” “Hold On” and “That’s What I Like” to name a few but the fear of June’s Diary becoming more known as a cover band than anything else is looming progressively.
But one thing I have admired about them is that even in the midst of everything, the group stayed on somebody’s stage; contrary to my critique of Luke James. They’ve performed at the Essence Music Festival, Soulquarius, they’ve toured three times with R. Kelly and most recently shared a stage with Tamar Braxton, Monica and Xscape on The Great Xscape Tour – in February they’ll be performing at SOBs and Center Stage. Their set list consisted mostly of covers but two original songs were debuted, “Wrap Around” and “I Know Why You’re Calling.” They eventually released a mixtape called “Male Edition” in late June of 2017, the tape consists of covers of songs originally recorded by male groups ranging from Jodeci to The Beatles.
The highlights of the project are “Stay,” “Hey Jude,” “Two Occasions” and the mixtape opener “If I Ever Fall In Love.” They did an exceptional job of not only embodying the feel of the original songs but also added their own flare to them, their harmonies are truly a breath of fresh air. When “Male Edition” was initially uploaded to their official YouTube and Soundcloud page it included a bonus track, the official studio version of “Wrap Around” but since then, the song has been removed and the girls confirmed that the track was ultimately given to another artist. That seems strange considering they were performing the song rather frequently as if it were a sure thing – no Miguel – Also, it seems as though the group is no longer associated with Epic Records, as they do not appear on the label’s roster. If they truly aren’t signed with them any longer, while it’s yet another bump in the road, it could very well be seen as a positive. The obvious is the loss of “major” label support that, in theory, would help the group gain more notoriety on a bigger scale; but a positive way to look at the *alleged* label shift is they won’t be represented by the same company as Fifth Harmony. Epic Records has been doing a lot as of late to push Fifth Harmony into the forefront, this includes performances at almost every major award show and endless in your face promo, it’s unrealistic to believe that they’ll put the same energy and resources into another group that would be looked at as Fifth Harmony’s competition. So hopefully June’s Diary will be able to find a home that will have no problem giving them everything that they need in order to continue growing and also succeed.
Other bumps included along with Epic Records’ lack of support are: BET deciding to not renew Chasing Destiny despite the show doing great numbers for the network while making the group accessible to a widespread audience – we’ve seen this strategy work wonders to bring attention to Cardi B, Remy Ma, Danity Kane, Tamar Braxton and K. Michele via reality television over the years. BET also, seemingly, denied the group an opportunity to perform at Black Girls Rock in 2017, which like the handling of “Wrap Around,” is strange. Especially considering, as stated earlier, Chasing Destiny brought in good numbers for the network but both of those moments merely show how BET’s claim of “we got you” falls short on several levels. Those don’t reflect June’s Diary’s work ethic but instead show a new act dealing a bad hand. Another bump, that I must add, is them being backed by Kelly Rowland. It seems as though Kelly distanced herself from the group immediately following the show, she’s barely acknowledged the group that she had a major hand in putting together. She even made an appearance at The Great Xscape Tour without making the slight gesture to be photographed with the quintet. Something as little as a picture really speaks volumes to the ability of an established artist to support a rising act that, again, they had a hand in putting together. However, given Kelly Rowland’s track record with handling her own career, it’s a case of the blind leading the blind.
All in all, as a fan I would love for June’s Diary to have more music available whether it be in the form of an album, EP, mixtape or singles. I can also see the approach that Frank and company may be trying to take with the group as well. This seems more like an artist development stage, which is something we haven’t witnessed in a pretty long time, Frank’s desire to actually mold an act into what they can be while realizing what they are vs pushing them into the spotlight based solely off of gaining a little bit of buzz is almost unheard of to the point that it comes across as a foreign concept, especially in an age where the consumers attention span is shorter than Kevin Hart. Personally, I still feel as though more can be done but the mere fact that June’s Diary is continuing to perform without much original music being available to the public shows their drive. They’re currently doing the groundwork to get more in tune with the fanbase they already have, while also making new ones at these live shows and that’s extremely commendable in hindsight when realizing that they don’t have the backing as other new acts.
We can only hope that the group continues to push forward despite any setbacks that may happen, and when they finally get their moment to shine they’ll be ready. Hopefully, this occurs sooner than later, word on the street is the OMG Girlz are getting back together so the competition will be stiff.