From the golden age of motown to Nineties classics and Noughties favourites, girl groups have continuously shaped the pop landscape and produced some of the most-loved music of all time.
As well as selling countless millions of records, girl groups have spread the word of female empowerment across the world and many have addressed surprisingly significant social themes in their music. Those who didn't tackle such issues head on did, at least, represent something significant simply by scaling the charts and breaking up what was once the boys club of pop music.
From the Spice Girls to the Supremes, these are the ten best girl groups of all time, listed in no particular order.
After forming on ITV’s Popstars: The Rivals back in 2002, Girls Aloud became the first hugely successful group to have their origins in a talent show. The group enjoyed incredible success, recording 20 consecutive top 10 singles and four number ones, beginning with Sound of the Underground in 2002. It was this extended streak of fantastic songwriting and instantaneous appeal that made them one of the most compelling pop groups of the last 20 years.
As well as releasing some of the most memorable pop songs of the last few years – Black Magic, we’re looking at you – the X Factor-formed group have always been vocal in their support of body positivity and girl power. In an age where social media trolling is unfortunately all too common, the messages that go hand in hand with Little Mix’s music feel especially relevant.
The Pointer Sisters
The Pointer Sisters first formed way back in 1969, but the group still perform and their legacy lives on to this day. The group achieved their commercial peak in the mid 80s, with the release of I’m So Excited and Automatic in 1982 and 1984 respectively. The girl group’s musical legacy went full circle when their best-selling single Jump (For My Love) was released as a single by Girls Aloud in 2003.
Pop-rockers The Bangles established themselves as one of the biggest acts of the Eighties after releasing the hugely popular singles Walk Like an Egyptian and Manic Monday. The songs announced them on the world stage in 1986, but it was 1989 number one Eternal Flame which really cemented their legacy. This quality piece of songwriting ensures they’ll be remembered as one of the finest girl groups of the decade – and, of course, it got a girl group cover from Atomic Kitten back in 2000.
Hugely influential girl group the Shangri-Las made their name with melodramatic, epic pop songs in the Sixties and left a truly inimitable impression on the pop landscape. Their music was concerned primarily with troubling themes and dark subject matter: the unforgettable Leader of the Pack tells the story of doomed teenager couple Betty and Jimmy. Jimmy dies in a motorcycle accident and it’s the emotional heft of the track as well as the group’s unforgettable delivery which makes it so enduring.
While All Saints formed back in 1993, it was only after the arrival of Canadian twins Nicola and Natalie Appleton that they really begin to find success. After their debut album arrived at number two in the UK charts it was the use of Pure Shores on the soundtrack of Leonardo DiCaprio’s film The Beach put them firmly at the forefront of the pop culture zeitgeist in the early Noughties, and they went on to sell 12 million albums. They’ve embarked on a successful comeback too over recent years, releasing new material and supporting Take That on a stadium tour after getting back together in 2013.
Any number of girl groups on the Motown label in the Sixties could have made the list, not least Martha and the Vandellas and The Marvelettes, but The Supremes are without a doubt one of the most influential groups of all time and thoroughly deserve to be recognised as such. The group enjoyed 12 number ones between and 1964 and 1969, becoming Motown’s most successful and popular act of the decade. Songs like Baby Love, Stop! In the Name In Love and You keep Me Hanging On are pop at its purest, and while Diana Ross went on to leave the group and become a huge star in her own right, there’s a timeless nature to the music of The Supremes that will endure for decades to come.
As well as releasing No Scrubs, one of the greatest songs of the Nineties, TLC were far more culturally significant and influential than your average pop group. In fact, few best-selling songs are as impactful as TLC’s huge hit Waterfalls and its accompanying video, which makes references to the AIDS crisis and the illegal drug trade in the US. It was pretty groundbreaking at the time and remains a huge moment in the career of a truly great act, who represent the top selling US girl group of all time. Sadly, the music world mourned the loss of founding member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes in 2002, but her musical legacy with TLC will never be forgotten.
Before Beyoncé became the iconic feminist megastar we know and love today, she was one third of Noughties pop stalwarts Destiny’s Child. Accompanied by Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams in the group’s most widely recognised lineup, Destiny’s Child achieved a string of hits from 1997 to 2005, including Survivor, which has to go down as one of the most empowering songs of the Noughties.
Not only are Spice Girls the most commercially successful girl group of all time, with 80 million records sold during their career, they’re also by far the most influential of modern times.
The group changed the face of pop music with the release of Wannabe in 1996 and brought with them a wave of Girl Power which captured the imaginations of millions across the world.