En Vogue was conceived by Oakland, California record producers Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy in 1989 with Terry Ellis, Dawn Robinson, Cindy Herron, and Maxine Jones as the original four-member girl group. They were chosen after auditions given by Foster and McElroy who named them En Vogue after realizing their original name, 4-U, was already in use.
En Vogue signed with the Elektra label in 1989. The group’s first album, Born to Sing, released in 1990, had four songs that popularized the group. “Hold On” eventually reached the No. 2 spot on the Billboard pop charts. The other songs—“Lies,” “You Don’t Have to Worry,” and “Don’t Go”—helped their first album reach platinum status. In 1992, they released Funky Divas which included “Free Your Mind” and “Giving Him Something He Can Feel,” both of which reached top ten status on the pop charts. In 1993, they teamed with rap duo Salt-n-Pepa to produce “Whatta Man.”
In between their second and third albums, En Vogue members worked on the soundtrack of the Black Panther movie released in 1995 and were featured in the movie Batman Forever in the same year. In 1995, Terry Ellis released a solo album titled Southern Gal that contained the song “Where Ever You Are,” which reached the top ten of the R&B charts.
In the early summer of 1997, the third studio album from the quartet, EV3, which included the works of Babyface, David Foster, and Diane Warren, reached No. 8 on the pop charts. The title stemmed from the absence of Dawn Robinson after she was unable to reach a deal on a contract with the record company. Their hit songs “Whatever” and “Too Long, Too Gone” ensured that they were one of the few groups to have ten songs reach the top 40 from their first three albums.
Their fourth album Masterpiece Theatre, released in May 2000, did not duplicate their earlier success. The album reached only No. 33 on the R&B and Rap charts and No. 67 on the pop charts. Soon afterwards, Maxine Jones quit the group, and their scheduled promotion of the under-performing album was canceled. That in turn led to their being dropped from the Elektra label.
En Vogue released a Christmas album in 2002 and worked on the soundtrack to the movie Deliver Us from Eva in 2003. By this point, only Ellis and Robinson were left, along with a new member Rhona Bennett. Their next album was a live recording of their 2002 Birmingham, Alabama concert. Their 2004 album, Soul Flower, did not make the Billboard pop chart and reached only No. 47 on the R&B/Rap album charts. En Vogue’s most recent album, Electric Cafe, was released in 2018.
For the rest of the decade, En Vogue’s popularity faded as it went through numerous personnel changes. The group quietly disbanded sometime in 2007. On June 24, 2008, three of the original members of En Vogue appeared on BET for a performance along with Alicia Keys, TLC, and SWV. That performance prompted the group to start their final 20th Anniversary World Tour in 2009.