We've all heard of one hit wonders, but is it possible to be a one album wonder? That case can be made when you consider one and done neo soul duo Groove Theory. The group, consisting of singer/songwriter Amel Larrieux and producer Bryce Wilson, made waves when they dropped their debut single, "Tell Me," and soon followed up with their remarkable self-titled debut on October 24, 1995.
What many don't know about Groove Theory was that it was an album years in the making. Amel was simply a songwriter with no interest in stepping in front of the mic and Bryce was a handsome rapper with the group Mantronix who discovered a passion for music production. However, after being brought together, the twosome found a musical chemistry that couldn't be denied. That spark is what led them to create "Tell Me," a lush love song penned by Amel way back in 1992 that Bryce brought to life with dreamy keys and a sample of the familiar bass line from the Mary Jane Girls hit "All Night Long." Released on September 5, 1995, it was enough to announce the duo's presence on the scene in a major way.
While the luxurious sounds of "Tell Me," which features an uncredited appearance from Trey Lorenz near track's end, would peak at No. 5 on Billboard's Hot 100, it was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to Groove Theory. The album was an excellent reflection Amel's softer, more poetic sensibilities and Bryce's hip hop style of production. Album opener "10 Minute High," which tells the story of a young woman suffering from drug addiction, is a perfect example of this as Amel's harmonies meet Bryce's slightly ominous, minor chord production, providing a hopeful counterpoint to the song's dreary outcome.
However, "10 Minute High," the album's second single, the soulfully motivational "Keep Tryin'" and the heart-wrenching album closer "The Boy At The Window," were the only songs on the album not to deal with love as the main subject. Whether covering the bitter ("Time Flies," "Come Home," "You're Not The 1") or the sweet ("Angel," "Ride," "Baby Luv," "Hey U," "Good 2 Me"), the duo was able to evoke a particular emotion in the listener that resonated.
That sentiment is especially true of the two of the album's standouts, their cover of "Hello, It's Me" and "Didja Know." Though originally written and performed by rocker Todd Rundgren, most soul acts approach "Hello, It's Me" through the lens of The Isley Brothers' 1974 cover, and Groove Theory was no different. But while evoking '70s soul in the instrumentation, the song served to showcase Amel's vocal talent and its ability to adapt to most any song she was given. Meanwhile, "Didja Know," with its striking bass line, bohemian vibe and hard-hitting drums all couched by Amel's pillow-soft deliver, begged to be released as a single, though it would remain a revered album track.
Though sales of Groove Theory were modest, it would eventually go Gold and become a lasting reminder of how great 1995 was for R&B releases. The same unfortunately can't be said for the duo. Bryce, who enjoyed a career as a producer and songwriter for the likes of Toni Braxton and Mary J. Blige in the years after the album's release (as well as stints as an actor in films like Beauty Shop and Hair Show), and Amel, who embarked on a solo career, parted ways in 1999. After an attempt by Bryce to revive the group with new singer Makeda Davis, which resulted in shelved album The Answer and minor single "4 Shure," rumors swirled in 2010 that Amel and Bryce would reunite. Of course nothing would come of that. Amel, though, has kept busy in the music business, forming her label Blisslife Records with her husband, Laru Larrieux, and recording several albums, including her most recent release, 2013's Ice Cream Everyday.
While we can only hope that the duo might make musical magic together once again, we can take solace in the near-perfect listen that is Groove Theory.