NEW YORK – BET is forming the next big R&B girl group — with the help of members from platinum-selling ensembles like 702, Total, Danity Kane, 3LW, Blaque and Cherish.
The reality show “BET Presents The Encore” will premiere June 9 and includes eight former members from groups who had success in the ‘90s and 2000s, as well as Grammy-nominated R&B singer Nivea.
In the 10-episode series, the singers live together for 30 days to record an album at a home studio, learn choreography and practice vocals.
The cast includes Pamela Long of Total, the Bad Boy Records trio who released grooves like “No One Else,” “Kissin’ You,” “Trippin’” and “Can’t You See” with Notorious B.I.G.; sisters Irish and LeMisha Grinstead from 702, another R&B trio who had hits with “Where My Girls At?” and “Get It Together”; Shamari DeVoe of Blaque, the proteges of TLC’s Left Eye who had success on the charts with “808" and “Bring It All to Me” with N'Sync; and Aubrey O’Day of Danity Kane, the group who formed in 2005 on Diddy’s “Making the Band 3” and saw their first two albums debut at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
“I felt that girl groups never got its just do ... and I, as a content creator, wanted to ... educate the masses on who I feel are the forgotten sisters of music," executive producer Carlos King said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I wanted to pay homage to that industry and really give these women an opportunity to share their stories and their struggles."
Other members include Kiely Williams, who was first in the trio 3LW, known for songs like “No More (Baby I’ma Do Right)” and “Playas Gon' Play" but later reached multi-platinum status with Disney’s The Cheetah Girls; Nivea, the only Grammy nominee of the bunch who launched the Top 40 hits “Don’t Mess With My Man” and “Okay”; and twins Felisha and Fallon King of Cherish, the R&B quartet who had success with the bops “Do It to It” and “Killa.” A Spotify playlist of the cast members' well known songs is here.
The King sisters, the youngest in the supergroup at age 33, have had the most recent success in music thanks to their songwriting and production skills. Felisha King is one of the co-writers of Justin Bieber’s “Peaches,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in March. She has also co-written songs for Tamar Braxton, Mario and Sevyn Streeter. Fallon King co-wrote the double platinum hit “Easy” by DaniLeigh and Chris Brown, and together, they have written music for the Fox series “Empire” and “Star.”
Carlos King — who is the CEO of Kingdom Reign Entertainment and has produced shows like “The Real Housewives of Atlanta," “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes" and the music competition series “The Four” — said he has been working on the new show for seven years. He shot two versions of it for other networks, never getting the greenlight to produce a full season.
But interest in the series grew last year after a clip of the previously shot pilot leaked, featuring 3LW's Williams and Farrah Franklin, who had a six-month stint in Destiny's Child after joining in 2000 along with Michelle Williams when the group underwent major changes. In a shady exchange, Franklin boasts about the millions of albums Destiny's Child sold while Kiely Williams questions if Franklin even played a role in the group's mega success.
“Gabrielle Union, Sunny Hostin (of “The View") and Symone Sanders, who is now part of Vice President Kamala Harris’ team, they all tweeted about that clip and said, ‘Bring me this show now. We need this show,'" King said. “And that was the catalyst of me being like, ‘When you have something that’s hot, you got to strike when the iron is hot.' And that’s what we did."
BET caught wind of the chatter and greenlit a full season.
“Fueled with passion and drive, the leading ladies of ‘BET Presents The Encore’ prove that lightning can absolutely strike twice, and we can’t wait to share the next phase of their journey with our viewers,” Tiffany Lea Williams, BET's executive vice president of unscripted programming and development, said in a statement to the AP. “This series will bring fans behind the scenes in the music-making process, reconnect them with some of their favorite chart-topping singers and deliver unforgettable stories from celebrities they love.“
The music industry was once dominated by several girl groups, with ensembles like TLC and Destiny’s Child owning the pop and R&B charts and winning multiple Grammys in the ‘90s and 2000s. Other female groups also had major success, including the Spice Girls, En Vogue, Salt-n-Pepa, SWV, Xscape, Brownstone, Dream, Changing Faces, Zhane, Jade, Kut Klose and Allure, among others.
But the contemporary musical landscape barely features groups like those. Current girl groups include Little Mix, who haven’t been able to match their U.K. success in the U.S. and K-pop outfit BLACKPINK, who have dominated the Asian market and released their debut album in the U.S. last year, finally cracking the Top 40 with the songs “How You Like That” and “Ice Cream.” Fifth Harmony had success on the pop charts since launching in 2012, but the group went on hiatus in 2018 while the members launched solo projects.
“I’m super proud of this show. It’s a love letter to girl groups. It’s a love letter to this genre that I feel like has always been super underrepresented, and I truly hope with the success of this show ... it reignites the record labels to invest more in girl groups," King said. “I definitely think there’s an appetite for that."