Over the years, the members of SWV themselves have admittedly felt underrated. They have right to considering that despite more than 15 million albums and racking up numerous hit singles on both the Hot 100 and R&B charts, SWV has never won a Grammy nor or is their catalog honored for what it was: the most cohesive of any R&B girl group of the 1990s.
There is not a single bad album in SWV’s catalog – including their holiday collection and their mishandled 2011 comeback album, I Missed Us.
TLC may have had the bigger hits, but by 3D it was clear that TLC was missing a key element, or at the very least, a new sound and image to steer them in another direction. Lil’ Mama and the same old two-step isn’t going to save matters either, sorry. En Vogue may be the most vocally talented group of all time, but their albums have been so-so and their incessant infighting has thwarted their potential shot at enjoying another round of success. There’s also Xscape, but they, too, act like the other one stole both their pocketbooks and their bae. That’s not happening again, and even if it did, I’m not convinced enough would care.
And of course, I’ll shout out the lost girl groups of the 1990s: Kut Klose, MoKenStef, Changing Faces, Shades, Sista, etc. Y’all came, y’all sang about three songs we liked and then you went away. Rest in peace.
Needless to say, as someone who still listens to SWV – particularly the hedonist, sexual songs that Coko now refuses to sing – I’m all for them enjoying a boost in relevance by way of their WeTV reality show, SWV Reunited.
When I first heard about their show, I had a cautious excitement. These sort of back then they didn’t want me, now I’m hot ‘cause I’m on a basic cable reality show can go one of two ways. It can offer a much needed boost ala Tamar Braxton or it can highlight exactly why a particular recording artist quickly faded from memory. See, Kelly Price, Nicci Gilbert, and hell, most of the R&B Divas not named Faith Evans.
However, SWV Reunited is a little bit of both, only unlike some of the other R&B stars of the past to have hit reality TV, there’s far more self-awareness than we’ve previously seen. It makes for a better reality show, and as a fan, only intensifies my desire to see them enjoy new success in a different era. Here, we see three women who started out as friends turn into co-workers who could barely stomach each other, but took that shot of Pepto Bismal for the sake of getting a check.
To some degree, you get the sense that they all understand they’re better together than they are separate (you all should’ve given Coko’s solo debut Hot Coko more love, though), which explains the show. Still, it’s evident that they don’t want to hate each other. They want to improve their working relationship, and if possible, their friendship.
After all, these are women who have been homeless, dealt with depression, contemplated suicide, suffered huge financial setbacks – all while going on starting new families. Coupled with the reality that they all went several years without speaking to each other, it’s nice to see three women try to work things out versus sweeping their conflict under the rug. You know, the way Yolanda Adams Towanda Braxton acts as if Braxton Family Values viewers are crazy for using our eyes and ears to detect the jealously she harbors towards Tamar. The same goes for Left Behind Traci Braxton.
And beyond the Oprah-approved deeper moments of the show, Coko, LeLee and Taj are hilarious, which makes the show one of the funniest on TV. They’re like three versions of Black aunties. There’s one you go to for money, one quick to lay hands over you to pray, and the other one who wants to go to the club with you…every week.
As someone who’s been singing SWV songs since I was eight-years-old (on key until puberty’s hating ass took it all away), I’m glad SWV is getting another shot at stardom for giving fans a honest examination of who they were and who they are now. Maybe the new fanfare might offer them a well-deserved Grammy. Either way, enjoy this new success ladies and no more scrapping.
P.S. Taj and LeLee: Please convince Coko to sing “Downtown,” specifically the “Jazzy radio mix.” If y’all can sing about taking someone’s man, y’all can croon about the dude going down on you. Amen.