Since the dawn of time, human beings have sung together in groups. From medieval Gregorian chants to African-American spirituals, barbershop quartets to boy-or-girl pop outfits, vocal groups have continually evolved and remain powerhouses of the music industry (a “vocal group” is generally meant as multiple singers that harmonize and often dance with a backup band).
With our Globalsound singing camps fast approaching, we’ve been taking inspiration from tunes by some of the vocal group greats. Boy bands, girl bands, folk and soul groups, a capella rockers – we’ve got it covered in our list of influential vocal groups below!
No list of vocal groups would be complete without The Supremes. The most successful girl group America has ever produced, The Supremes became international stars rivaling the Beatles in popularity after signing with Motown Records in 1961. Know for their glamorous stage presence, the group’s lineup fluctuated over time but reached their peak during the years when legend Diana Ross was present. Destiny’s Child, En Vogue and TLC are just a few of the artists that cite The Supremes as a major influence.
Peter Paul and Mary
Peter Paul and Mary were one of the most well known acts of the American folk revival of the early 60s. Comprised of tenor Peter Yarrow, baritone Noel Paul Stookey and contralto Mary Travers, the group was known for both originals and covers, including this gorgeous rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin in the Wind”. Although they are not strictly a vocal act (Peter and Paul both played instruments in addition to singing) the group’s influence and talent earned them a spot in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999.
The Jackson 5
Massively influential, The Jackson 5 weren’t just one of the most successful groups on the Motown record label; they remain one of the best selling bands of all time. Achieving massive crossover appeal, The Jackson 5 have sold more than 100 million records worldwide and have been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. In addition to paving the way for Michael Jackson’s solo career, The Jackson 5 became a marketing juggernaut for Motown Records, appearing on a Saturday morning cartoon as well as performing in multiple television specials.
Scary, Baby, Sporty, Ginger, Posh – The Spice Girls have been household names since they burst onto the UK pop scene in the 90s and continue to influence groups like Little Mix and 5th Harmony to this day. While they may seem passe, it’s hard to overstate the impact The Spice Girls made on the music industry during their peak – they are still the best-selling female group of all time, with their debut album ‘Spice’ reigning as the best-selling album by a girl group ever made. Maybe that’s why we can’t get their hit “Wannabe” out of our heads.
The Backstreet Boys
No boy band has sold more records than The Backstreet Boys – not NSYNC, not One Direction, not New Kids on the Block, not their idols Boyz II Men. While lacking a breakout solo star among the five, The Backstreet Boys stand out by prioritizing their vocal chops and harmonies over flashy choreography. Perhaps that’s why they continue to have major influence over 20 years into their career- their 2019 album ‘DNA’ recently debuted at number one on the Billboard charts.
Not many a capella groups achieve mainstream success but Pentatonix isn’t your average a capella group. Forming in 2011, the group went on to win the third season of NBC’s The Sing-Off. Following their win, Pentatonix formed a highly popular YouTube channel to distribute their music, gaining 16 million followers. Their Christmas album That’s Christmas to Me became the highest-charting holiday album by a group since 1962. The group continues to rack up accolades with their creative covers consisting of a capella vocal harmonies and beatboxing