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Sisters With Voices, The Grammy Comeback Kids

  • Katherine Cole

Sisters With Voices

Sisters With Voices

At last year’s Grammy Awards, Adele was the big "comeback kid," triumphant after vocal cord surgery and a long recovery. And while there is no such drama around the Grammys this weekend, there is a comeback to cheer for - the return of SWV, Sisters With Voices.

It’s been 20 years since we first heard from SWV. Originally a gospel group, the trio from New York City had a long string of R&B hits in the 1990s, including "I'm So Into You," "Right Here," "You’re The One," and "Weak."

But their chart success wasn’t enough to keep SWV happy, and the band called it quits in 1998.

"It was a tumultuous breakup, actually. We spent years not even talking," said SWV's Tamara Johnson George, or Taj. "We all tried different projects and we realized we weren’t being as fulfilled as we were as a group together. So we put our differences aside and put this album together. And it is really and truly one of the best albums we’ve ever done."


Taj isn’t the only one to feel that way about SWV’s first CD in 15 years. "I Missed Us" was released in April and debuted at number 6 on Billboard’s R&B chart. And at a time when "girl groups" don’t have many spots on the charts, a Grammy nomination for return of Taj, LeAnne "LeLee" Lyons and Cheryl "Coko" Clemmons is all the more amazing.

SWV is one of the five acts up for the Best Traditional R&B Performance trophy at the 55th Grammy Awards this Sunday in Los Angeles. Competition is fierce - the other nominees are: Anita Baker’s "Lately," Melanie Fiona’s "Wrong Side of a Love Song," "Real Good Hands" By Gregory Porter and "Love on Top" by Beyoncé. SWV’s nomination comes for their cover of Patti LaBelle’s 1984 hit "If Only You Knew."

When Taj was in the studio cutting this song, did she just know that it had "it"?

"As an artist, every time you record a song, you want to believe that it has 'it' And the only person who can tell you it doesn’t have it is God," she said. "So, yes, every song you record is 'it.'"

The group’s last Grammy nomination was in 1993, when they were up for Best New Artist and lost to Toni Braxton. In the two decades since, the music business has undergone dramatic changes and Taj says SWV had to change to keep up.

"We came from an era where labels were dominant and they did everything. All you had to do was sing and they covered everything," she said. "Nowadays, you have to be active and involved in your career or else it will fail. You’ll disappear because no one is willing to do it for you anymore, you have to do it yourself. Do-it-yourself is so prominent in this industry. It was a big wake-up call for us! We were spoiled. In this new industry, you have to be well rounded. You just can’t be a pretty face and voice anymore. That no longer floats."

Taj has been spending the week taking care of last minute Grammy chores in between shuttling her son to karate and working with her non-profit organization VIP, Visions with Infinite Possibilities. She says the mission of the group is to support women and children who have suffered domestic abuse.

But this week, finding just the right outfit to wear to the Grammy Awards in Hollywood was high on her "to do" list.

"You want to make sure your outfit is perfect. You’re looking for the best outfit that is going to bring the most attention to you as possible," she said. "You want your hair to be perfect. Your makeup has to be perfect. You have to learn how to walk down that red carpet and grab the media’s attention so that they want to catch you (and talk with you). Hence all of the 'naked outfits' that you see at the Grammy’s every year."

It’s a safe guess that photos of the outfits Taj, LeLee and Coko settled on will be up on their website, soon after they take their red-carpet walks Sunday. While you’re there, check out their international touring schedule and more tracks from their disc "I Missed Us."
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