Wednesday, July 2, 2008

En Vogue: Dawn or Rhona?

On June 24th, 2008, the BET Awards were abuzz when a reformed En Vogue took the stage with their fellow 1990's female R&B compatriots SWV and TLC. Cindy Herron-Braggs, Maxine Jones, Terry Ellis, and Dawn Robinson sashayed into their classic "Hold On" without a hiccup. Unlike many of the people watching that evening, my thoughts immediately drifted to a woman named Rhona Bennett, who has been a working member of En Vogue since 2004.

I thought: "What about the sixth record they've been working on with Bennett?," "What about the July 18th, 2008 show in Detroit I'm going to? Will it be Rhona on that stage, or Dawn?" For the majority, these thoughts didn't enter into the equation. Even those that celebrated Bennett's added chemistry to En Vogue probably preferred Robinson's second return to the fold. Bennett again stepped aside graciously to allow for the original line-up to pique the imagination of 1990's soul fans everywhere. However, as the saying goes, you can't have your cake and eat it too.

In this instance En Vogue recorded with Bennett (Soul Flower, 2004), toured with Bennett, and despite the first Robinson reunion in 2005 for the VH-1 Hip Hop Honors Award ceremony, Bennett remained a dedicated member. Bennett can't keep getting shuffled around when a "nostalgia moment" is aroused. More importantly, how can the group restructure itself seriously when the group continues to not take a position on who is in or out? What are the variables in having Robinson return or Bennett remain?

Classic
Dawn Robinson is a founding member of this group, that alone means there is a chemistry she has with the other members that no one else can. If Robinson, Herron-Braggs, Ellis, and Jones can iron out their financial and creative differences, which typically stalled reunion talks, it'd prove fruitful.

Capturing their particular magic and contemporizing it without losing themselves to overt modernization would show staying power.

However, Robinson is known for her ego making her the musical equivalent of Shannon Doherty. Departures from En Vogue and Lucy Pearl respectively to embark upon half-baked attempts at solo stardom have failed miserably in creative, commercial, and critical quarters. It makes me wonder about Robinson's angle to rejoin En Vogue. Is it out of actual aspiration to be with the group again or a final chance at limelight that being with En Vogue will bring?

Current
Bennett's experienced presence on En Vogue's last LP Soul Flower (2004) was welcome. Initially taking Maxine Jones place Bennett's  vocal  added a different nuance to En Vogue, but  fit into their style equally. When Jones did return Bennett stayed on, bringing En Vogue to quartet status. En Vogue who had spent most of their time as a trio seemed energized as a four-piece again. Their live shows the past three years are known for fans walking away appreciating how Bennett's look and sound factor into En Vogue perfectly.

Bennett also wants to be in En Vogue, not because it serves as a particular platform for her solo advancement, but because she genuinely enjoys being a member. Sadly, Rhona Bennett isn't Dawn Robinson and theirin lies the conflict. Due to this, most will prefer an original line-up to the new and improved one.


I've enjoyed En Vogue's trajectory, despite any commercial setbacks, they've continued to stay creative in their music and reinvent their approach. It's akin to 1970's era Supremes.

I hope that people can see beyond their nostalgia and acknowledge that latter day En Vogue has their own power. One could always hope that they could become a quintet. I can dream can't I?.-QH

 

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow. You're thoughts as to why you THINK En Vogue is better with Rhona instead of Dawn is way off. *sigh* There's too much that I disagree with so I'll keep my post simple and to the point. Dawn needs to be in and Rhona out. En Vogue is best with Dawn.

crazieynsf said...

I agree totally with you regarding Rhona, not only does she seem to enjoy being in the group (and obviously the other girls agree since they kept her on even when Maxine came back) but she seems to have worked her butt off and to just have miss diva dawn come prancing back into the fold again after she left not once, but twice, seems a slap in the face to Rhona and all her hard work. I think dawn has come to the realization that the other members of the group seem to be the only people who will put up with her attitude and diva ways...

S. Flemming said...

Since I haven't really followed them in over a decade, I'm kind of neutral on this one. However, having been a teenager in the nineties I'm partial to the original lineup I guess. As long as they sound good, it really does not matter.

Anonymous said...

Dawn! Period.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your thoughts on Rhona. Don't get me wrong, I love my gurl Dawn and all but I think Dawn is focused on her solo album which she is still working on and she and her hubby are filming their reality show. I love Rhona with the group. Shes brings so much energy to En Vogue and I can tell she really enjoys being with them. I hate to see her being pushed to the side just because Dawn decides she wants to come back. I hope the ladies come to their senses and do the right thing. I still Love my funky divas! They still got it!

LoveNStereo said...

I agree that Rhona has worked hard to be a part of the group and it's ridiculous when she gets pushed off to the side whenever Dawn decides she wants back in. I have always admired En Vogue and I love the fact that whether it's 3 or 4 members, the originals or not, they put on a good show. It warms my heart to see the original ladies on stage because it puts to rest those stereotypes that women can't get along and also it shows their bond. On the other hand, I've taken a liking to Rhona Bennett. I'm very excited to hear that she is working on a new solo record. Her first album was slept on and could have easily made her into a pop sensation had Darkchild done his job! Yet I digress. I'd settle for all 5 members to make an album. Bottom line is: if Rhona's singing, I'm listening!

LoveNStereo said...

I agree that Rhona has worked hard to be a part of the group and it's ridiculous when she gets pushed off to the side whenever Dawn decides she wants back in. I have always admired En Vogue and I love the fact that whether it's 3 or 4 members, the originals or not, they put on a good show. It warms my heart to see the original ladies on stage because it puts to rest those stereotypes that women can't get along and also it shows their bond. On the other hand, I've taken a liking to Rhona Bennett. I'm very excited to hear that she is working on a new solo record. Her first album was slept on and could have easily made her into a pop sensation had Darkchild done his job! Anyway, I'd settle for all 5 ladies to make an album/tour. Bottom line is: if Rhona's singing, I'm listening!

Anonymous said...

I think En Vogue is better off with Rhona Bennett. I will always love Dawn but her time with En Vogue has come and gone. She doesn't belong with the group anymore. She is not a good fit. En Vogue should carry on with Rhona. Rhona is more reliable and mentally stable.

Anonymous said...

Dawn need to sit her unloyal a$$ down..of course we all enjoy the original line up because for the longest time thats all we knew, however, Dawn does not want to be apart of En Vogue she just wants money and fame and her reasons for continuing to leave and then re join the group is just absurd,...I think Rhona fit the best, she has chemistry with Terry, Cindy and Max and she brought a new-ness to the group that they needed...when Dawn left the group, she bad mouthed everybody involved, groupmates ,producers, managers...I dont thinks its fair for them to keep sending Rhona home everytime Divalicious Dawn thinks she wants to get back on board.furthermore, she need to get her morals in line...cause as much pain as she caused the other girls, they still open armingly let her broke a$$ back in the group time after time so they wont forget where they started which Terry, Max and Cindy should be applauded for that...Dawn is nowhere near as loyal to her fans and En Vogue as the other members are Rhona included.....its obvious, cause how many groups have Dawn been in and walked out of and then immediately after she talking bout a solo project...paaaleaasee..we see threw you and Dre, Dawn...grow up...Terry, Cindy, Max and Rhona also know as En Vogue forever, I love that lineup..

Anonymous said...

ALOT of anonymous comments from people who know nothing about marquis value...interesting. Well...En Vogue don't sell tickets without Dawn PERIOD! I am a concert promoter and the main request I get when the subject of En Vogue comes up is the question of whether Dawn is a part of the lineup or not. If the answer is no...venue buyers offer $10,000 and some turkey meat. That leaves the girls with a few hundred bucks per show EACH after paying their manager, their road crew, band, & hotel & flight expenses. If the answer is yes...then the standard offer has been between $75,000 to $100,000 per show! WHY??? Because the tickets can be sold for over $50 and the house is guaranteed to sell drinks & concession snacks not to mention an easy high 5 figures from the parking. So now you know. En Vogue had absolutely ZERO chart activity while Rhona was a member & ALL of it while Dawn was. Nothing personal but Rhona needs to increase her celebrity. Until then??? Buyers want the REAL En Vogue.

Jason Stroud
Stroud/Moore Promotions

Anonymous said...

I feel that Rhona added more "stability" to the En Vogue machine, which has been in a constant state of flux since Max first left back in '01 and Amanda Cole briefly joined. Like you, when Rhona chose to remain even when Max returned, I became hopeful that this magnificent group could finally regain some consistency, but fans constant hankering for Dawn's involvement ultimately derailed that idea. I personally don't trust or like Ms. Robinson, 'cause I believe that she's simply back with them because she had/has no other career options. IMO, Rhona was there because she loved being there, Dawn's only back for a steady paycheck. Just my opinion.