With their history as one of the biggest selling girl groups of all time, numerous hit songs to their credit and an influence that spans almost three decades, En Vogue could easily rest on their iconic laurels. They've been there, done that and have nothing left to prove. But when you've still got it, as original group members Terry Ellis and Cindy Herron-Braggs and newest addition Rhona Bennett clearly do, you might as well put it to good use. The ladies of En Vogue do just that on their new album Electric Café, where their angelic voices and honeyed harmonies continue to impress on a pleasing collection of soulful R&B and pop.
Electric Café marks En Vogue's first album in 14 years, but their time away from the studio hasn't dulled their abilities, however. Terry and Cindy have taken excellent care of their instruments, and Rhona has been holding it down with them on-and-off since 2003 but consistently since 2014. This is the current trio's second project together (they previously recorded Soul Flower), and this time around they've enlisted the production talents of Foster & McElroy, Raphael Saadiq, Curtis "Sauce Wilson, Dem Jointz and Kid Monroe.
The 11-track collection could easily be renamed Eclectic Café thanks to the variety of genres and sounds that Cindy, Terry and Rhona dabble in. The album begins with the inspirational pop of "Blue Skies" where the ladies take turns on lead encouraging each other and their listeners to keep going no matter what over the course of the song. They go retro soul on "Déjà vu," which was the very first song that they previewed from Electric Café back in 2016. The songbirds float on a snappy soundscape that sounds like a vintage En Vogue record as they lovingly croon about a cutie who's caught their eye. "Rocket" follows and takes them in a more contemporary direction on the slinky R&B love song crafted by Ne-Yo and produced by Wilson. Accompanied by an entertaining music video, the single has resonated with their audience and is currently sitting pretty in the top 10 at urban adult contemporary radio. They keep it in the R&B lane on the upbeat dance floor groove "Reach 4 Me," which is begging for the single treatment and visual with slick choreography. En Vogue swerves into new wave territory for the album's title cut, which features their altered voices rocking right down to Electric Avenue. The song sounds more suited for the B-52s than En Vogue and seems out of character even for the funky divas.
After that slight veer off course, En Vogue rebounds for the rest of the album while delivering a diverse collection of music. They keep things upbeat with a pop rock sound on "Life" underscored by their harmonies and electronic flourishes. The gals return to the dance floor for the straight-up dance track "Love The Way." The driving synth-heavy rhythm is the foundation for Terry to take the lead and be the life of the party. "Oceans Deep" continues riding a pop wave with a funky bass line to keep things soulful. The Snoop Dogg-assisted single "Have A Seat" is a groovy '60s throwback where EV take turns laying down the law to an ex before loving up on themselves on Saddiq's contribution, the sultry "I'm Good." For "So Serious," the ladies rock out with a message to men about just how important women are in their lives and to the world to end the album.
The sophisticated ladies of En Vogue once again deliver style, substance, class and a little bit of sass. They mix it up on Electric Café, an album that showcases a group unconstrained by genre and free to color outside of the lines. It is a fine addition to their catalog and an album befitting their iconic status.