I remember as a kid that I enjoyed the hit songs of En Vogue on the radio, but for whatever reason I never owned any of their albums until the chance came to snag a best of collection from them as a companion album to a greatest hits album of Janet Jackson, giving me the chance to explore another one of the great R&B acts of the 1990’s. En Vogue had 3 #2 hits without any #1 hits, but the hits were solid ones. Here is a track by track review:
My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It): This sassy song was a deserved hit that showcases En Vogue at their best, telling off a past lover that they are not going to get another chance. Kiss off anthems have rarely sounded this good.
Hold On: This song is full of girlish harmonies, and the introduction is an intriguing a capella before the jazzy music kicks in and the general sassiness kicks in to remind the listener that this was a worthy hit for the band. If this is not the best song the band ever did, and it’s not, it certainly shows their characteristic attitude.
Whatta Man: This duet with Salt-N-Pepa is a stunning ode to an apparently excellent man. In an age where there were a lot of anti-male anthems that were popular (one thinks of “No Scrubs” and “Bills, Bills, Bills,” it’s nice to hear someone celebrating a good man in the way this well-deserved hit does.
Free Your Mind: This anthem to overcoming shallowness and superficiality was a well-deserved hit, which shows that this album is front-loaded with some of the band’s best known materials. This hit has the attitude that the group’s best songs do but manages to do so in a way that sounds appealing rather than sounding overly preachy. This song rocks hard and well.
Don’t Let Go (Love): This beautiful song from the “Set It Off” soundtrack is perhaps my favorite song from the group. The ladies of En Vogue play with the criminality aspects of the plot and while holding to the lover the right to lose control and be more than friends. It wouldn’t appear as if these ladies would have to beg, though for a lover.
Giving Him Something He Can Feel: This early hit from the band finds the girls trying their harmonies and praising the loving of a good man. Of particularly interest, though, is the way the girls spend most of the time talking about how good of lovers they happen to be, and that their love is real.
No Fool No More: A minor hit from the aptly titled film “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” this song is a smooth kiss-off anthem but it doesn’t have the bite that My Lovin’ had earlier. It is competent soundtrack R&B, but it’s definitely not their best material but it certainly has a lovely instrumental line.
Whatever: A top 20 hit, this song is part of the band’s body of songs about devotion, although it is set to a somewhat disturbing and creepy song and the song isn’t quite up to the peak of the band’s work. It’s certainly an interesting song, and the music has some odd and unsettling elements, but it’s not the best song, which makes sense that it would be on the second half of a best-of compilation.
Lies: The second top 40 hit from the band, this song begins with some interesting 60’s girl group harmonies before moving into a piece with an intriguing if somewhat dated synth line. I suppose it’s not a surprise that this song is En Vogue’s pedestrian but spirited entry into the lying partner anthem sweepstakes.
Give It Up, Turn It Loose: The fourth single from their second album, this song was not as big a hit as the first three hits and only peaked in the top 20 as opposed to the top 10, but still, this is a solid and spirited throwback song about seeking a fresh start, and anytime an album can go four good singles deep, that album is doing something right, so this song is worth celebrating nonetheless.
Runaway Love: The title track of an EP by En Vogue and a minor hit, this song has a nice groove to it. Even if it is a lesser known song from the group, it has a good feel and plenty of smooth harmonies and a nice instrument line. This is definitely a song that could have stood to be a bigger hit about a love with great potential.
Too Gone, Too Long: This ferocious song was a top 40 hit and the third single from their third album. This should have been the second single instead of “Whatever,” but even though it wasn’t their biggest hit, the driving instrumental beat and the defiant attitude of the singers to move on from the past is still a memorable song. This song has some well-deserved bite.
Let It Flow: An album track from the group’s third album, this song has a nice instrumental intro. Admittedly, the song is a bit of filler, but it’s enjoyable filler, at least about the desirability of letting love flow, with spoken word, singing, and plenty of sass, even if some of the harmonies come off as a bit flat.
Love Don’t Love You: The fifth and final top 40 single from the group’s second album, this album is a sassy but somewhat spare song that would likely have remained album filler if the group’s previous songs hadn’t have been so successful on the radio. It makes for a worthwhile close to the album as demonstration of the way that En Vogue probably had about ten songs that are worth remembering, and this one isn’t one of them but isn’t a bad song by any means.
There are a couple bonus tracks as well, and they’re okay. One is a remix of “Hold On,” which is a bit unnecessary given that it’s their weakest big hit. Overall, this song has all of the big hits by En Vogue and the lesser known singles from the first three albums as well as the “Runaway Love” EP as well, making this an essential compilation for En Vogue that has almost all the songs from the group that you would want to listen to, and a few more that are moderately enjoyable filler.