Our Top 10 SWV Songs list takes a look at one of New Jill Swing’s popular groups from the 90s. SWV (Sisters With Voices) formed in 1988. They got their start in the 90s where there were a lot of r&b acts in the music scene. They sold more than 25 million albums worldwide. Surprisingly, the group has never won any awards for their music. They have received numerous nominations for their albums, but they were robbed. The only award they won was a Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award. Their hit singles include “I’m So Into You,” “Right Here/Human Nature Remix,” “Downtown,” “Weak,” “Use Your Heart,” “You’re The One,” “Can We,” “Rain,” “MCE (Man Crush Every Day)” as well as other hit singles.
SWV features singers Cheryl “Coko” Gamble, Tamara “Taj” Johnson and Leann “Lelee” Lyons. They were originally a gospel group. They changed their style of music to r&b. They got the attention of record producers by 1991. They released their first album It’s About Time in 1992. It peaked at number two on the r&b charts and number eight on Billboard 200. This was a great feat for a new r&b group. It features the singles “Right Here,” “I’m So Into You,” “Weak,” “Downtown,” “Right Here/Human Nature Remix,” “You’re Always On My Mind” and “Anything.” The album sold over three million copies.
SWV wanted a more grown up sound on their next project. They wanted the listeners to know they were women. They wanted to prove that their first album wasn’t a fluke. New Beginning was released in 1996. Coko is the lead singer of the group. Taj and Lelee do the background vocals. Taj and Lelee got a chance to sing lead on this album. It peaked at number three on the r&b charts and number nine on Billboard 200. It features the singles “You’re The One,” “Use Your Heart,” “It’s All About U.” The album sold over one million copies.
Release Some Tension was released in 1997. It peaked at number five on the r&b charts and number 24 on Billboard 200. It features the singles “Can We,” “Someone,” “Lose My Cool” and “Rain.” The album sold over 500,000 copies. SWV wasn’t happy with this album. They didn’t like the idea of it featuring so many hip-hop artists. They felt like it was a departure from their sound. The tension ended up affecting the group. They ended up splitting up in 1998. Coko went on to release solo albums.
The group reunited after they performed on a VH-1 special. They released I Missed Us was released in 2012. It peaked at number six on the r&b charts and number 25 on Billboard. It features the singles “Co-Sign,” “Love Unconditionally” and “All About You.” The album sold over 61,000 copies. Still was released in 2016. It peaked at number five on the r&b charts and number 80 on Billboard 200. It features the singles “Ain’t No Man,” “MCE (Man Crush Every Day)” and “On Tonight.”
SWV competed with a lot of r&b acts during the 90s era. They competed with Total, XScape, TLC, En Vogue, Jodeci, Boyz II Men, Shai, Brownstone, Jade as well as other r&b acts. SWV were able to stand out and have hit songs. They went through tension with each other, but they managed to get back together. This Top 10 SWV Songs list will feature their best songs.
# 10 – Downtown
The first song on our Top 10 SWV Songs list is “Downtown” from the It’s About Time album. It has an r&b beat. This kinky song is about a man pleasing a woman “down there.” In other words, she wants him to please her sexually in her lower region. The title is an urban term for the sexual act. SWV made this term popular with their hit song. The sensual song is relatable to anyone who likes being sexually pleased in this manner. The lyrics may be suggestive, but they aren’t graphic.
They managed to make the song sound classy. They use metaphorical phrases to describe the way they want to be sexually pleased. Here is a fun fact about the song. When the song was released, people didn’t realize what the song was about. Depending on your age when you first heard it, you might have thought it was about a city. Men were able to get away with singing or rapping about sexual things. It was frowned upon for women to do it. SWV managed to sing a song about their sexual pleasure without being too graphic.
The music has a classic 90s beat. As soon as the engaging music starts, you will be hooked. The first couple of seconds sound similar to “Right Now” by Al B Sure!. Coko does an incredible job with her vocals. She invites the listener to sing along with her. Her gospel roots are on full display on this track. She does runs and holds little notes throughout the song.
# 9 – MCE (Man Crush Every Day)
The next song on our Top 10 SWV Songs list is “MCE (Man Crush Every Day)” from the Still album. The song has an r&b beat. The flirtatious song is about having feelings for someone you may or may not know. Chances are you have had a crush on someone throughout your life. It could have been a friend, co-worker or even a celebrity. If you fall into that category, this song is for you.
Despite the song being geared towards women, men can enjoy it as well. This song is a celebration to men who give you goosebumps when you see them. A lot of female singers tend to write songs bashing men, but this one wants to celebrate them. The track contains a sample of Janet Jackson’s “Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun)” You can hear the sample in the chorus. It also contains a sample of Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love.” You can hear the sample in the verses. The flow of the song is similar to SWV’s “Use Your Heart.” The samples help make the song standout.
Janet Jackson and Anita Baker’s songs are different from each other, but the arrangement works. This song will take you back to SWV’s old school songs. It has the same element as their previous hit songs. Coko’s vocals sound just as good as ever. Her voice doesn’t miss a beat. She is in her 40’s here and sounds just as good as she did when It’s About Time was released. She downplays her powerful vocals, but she still sounds amazing. She still does the runs, but she doesn’t utilize her gospel vocals.
# 8 – Rain
This sultry song is from the Release Some Tension album. The song has an r&b beat. The longing song is a symbolism for love. The song was misconstrued to be about something sexual. We won’t be graphic, but you may have an idea of what “rain” was considered to represent. The song is simply about love. Here is some trivia about the song. The song was originally written for Brandy, but she didn’t want the song. SWV was glad she turned it down because it was a hit for them. In fact, it is one of the best songs on the album.
The song is on an album that is filled with a lot of hip-hop so this is a diamond in the rough. It is one of the only ballads on the album that didn’t feature hip-hop artists. This song is the closest song on the album that represents the group. The music is soft and soothing. It features raindrops in the background to create a sound of rain. There are also thunderclaps in the background. The sounds are done subtly without being annoying. Coko sings softly with the music. Her voice sounds angelic. The melodies and harmonies sound incredible.
The hook is infectious and will stay in your head long after you hear the track. The only complaint is that Coko is a little hard to understand in the lyrics. You may have to read the lyrics in order to understand what she is saying. Other than that minor flaw, the song is enjoyable.
# 7 – Can We – ft. Missy Elliott
The raunchy song is from the Release Some Tension and Booty Call soundtrack. The song has an r&b beat. The kinky song is about them wanting a man for his sexual organ. They manage not to make the lyrics come off graphic. They know how to keep the sexual nature clean. You would have to pay attention to the lyrics in order to get the meaning of the song. It contains a sample of “Do the Funky Chicken” by Rufus Thomas. The melody is similar to Aaliyah’s “More Than a Woman.” Missy Elliott and Timbaland produced both songs so it’s not a surprise that this song would sound similar to Aaliyah’s hit song.
The music has a futuristic sound, which is different for them. SWV is known for r&b and New Jill Swing music. They didn’t use music like this. They are musically out of their comfort zone with this track. With that said, the music is great for the cookouts and block parties. The song is also great in the bedroom. The vocals are fire. Coko gives the song a slow build and then explodes. This is an up-tempo song, but Coko sings it as if it’s a ballad. She even holds an incredible note in the song. SWV have remarkable harmonies in the track. Their voices will send chills up and down your spine. Missy Elliott was a newcomer when this song came out. She did her thing with her rhymes. In addition to rapping, she does a spoken word throughout the song.
# 6 – Someone ft. Diddy
The unrequited song is another track from the Release Some Tension album. The song has an r&b and hip-hop beat. This is a yearning song about them wanting to be with a guy who is faithful and true. This is something most people would want in a relationship so this song is relatable to everyone. The song contains two samples. It samples the “Ten Crack Commandments” by The Notorious B.I.G. and “Gucci Time” by Schoolly D. Once again, the music is out of SWV’s wheelhouse.
The beat is mostly hip-hop instead of r&b, which puts them out of their element. Despite the music being out of their element, the music is still a banger. It is something you can hear in the club or at a cookout. They proved they could sing anything. Here is some trivia about the song. SWV didn’t like this song. They thought the song didn’t showcase their style of music. They thought it was too much hip-hop. You would never know that they didn’t like the song because they sing it as if they did. This shows how talented these “sisters with voices” are. They performed a song they didn’t want to do with professionalism.
The bridge of the song is definitely worth checking out. It is a highlight of the song. Coko shows versatility because she sings this in her lower register. She doesn’t showcase her gospel roots in this track, but she still sounds great. Her vocals and the chorus are the best parts of the song. The chorus is smoking hot and sells the song. The problem with the song is SWV is not featured more in the song. Diddy is in the song way too much. He only needed one verse, but he is showcased throughout the song. His rhymes are good, but he didn’t need to be in the song so much. The song would have worked without him in it.
# 5 – I’m So Into You
The next song on our Top 10 SWV Songs list is “I’m So Into You” from the It’s About Time album. The popular song is about them liking a guy who is with someone else. This song is relatable to anyone who likes someone who is with someone else. The song contains three samples. It contains a sample of Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing,” “Clean Up Woman” by Betty Wright and “I’m So Into You” by Peabo Bryson. This song is right at home for SWV.
They were young adults at the time so this was an appropriate song for them. This song is what the 90s were about. It has a classic 90s vibe. The keys and drums dominate the music to create a fantastic sound. The song is very dance friendly. There is no way to sit still while listening to it. The music has a classic 90s sound, but it never gets old. You can still rock to it for years to come. The music has a breakdown in the bridge that is fire. Speaking of fire, Coko’s vocals are flaming hot. She sings in time with all of the beat changes. She is definitely a sister with a voice. She sings the song with sassiness that was needed to sing a song like this.
The character isn’t the protagonist because she wants to go after someone else’s man so you would have to be bold to sing a track like this. Coko showed that she was that bold. She sings it with the in-your-face attitude needed to pull off this song.
# 4 – Use Your Heart
The symbolic song is from the New Beginning album. The song has an r&b beat. This is a mature song about loving someone based on how they feel and not how they look. This song has a romantic and deep message about not loving someone based on looks. They want to be loved on the inside. This song transitioned SWV into adulthood. They were young adults on It’s About Time and now they want to be considered mature women. They want to explore the feeling of intimacy with their lover. Here’s a fun fact. The Neptunes wrote and produced this song.
This doesn’t have the signature Neptunes sound so you may have been surprised that they are linked to this song. This is their first song to hit the Hot 100. This track is mesmerizing. It gives SWV a chance to show off their sensual side. They still manage to keep things classy in this song too. They don’t give graphic details about what they want to do with their lover. The second you hear the sizzling music, there is no turning the song off. The music is wonderful. Coko’s vocals are outstanding. She sounds soft and sensual in the beginning and then vocally explodes towards the end.
Taj also makes an appearance in the bridge. Taj usually sang in the background so it was a nice change to hear her sing lead. Her part isn’t that big, but she did get her chance to sing lead. This song is flawless and doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.
# 3 – Fine Time
The anthemic song is from the New Beginning album. The song has an r&b beat. The meaningful song is about a woman being upset about the guy not wanting to be with her anymore. The guy made her think he was in love with her. He pretended to love her when he was ready to move on with someone else. This song is definitely something people in similar situations can relate to. The song speaks about how people pretend to love you when they have secrets.
The musical arrangement is magnificent. The synths are incredible. The drumbeat is impressive. There are finger snaps feature in the background. The rhythm of the music contradicts the lyrics. The music is sensual, but the lyrics are about the end of a relationship. The music sounds like something you can listen to when you are in the bedroom or spending quality time with the person you love. Coko does her thing with her vocals. She sings with a lot of passion and emotion to pull off the message she was conveying.
She utilizes her powerful vocals to the best of her ability. She doesn’t hold long notes, but she does belt towards the end of the song. Taj and Lelee harmonize well in the background. They do a great job supporting Coko. A highlight in the song is when Coko ad libs while the group is singing the chorus. It is near the end of the song. It was a great mash of her ad libs and their harmonies. It is travesty that this song wasn’t released as a single because it should have been. It would have done well on radio because it has the classic SWV sound.
# 2 – Right Here/Human Nature Remix
The sleek song is from the It’s About Time album. The song has a New Jack Swing, r&b, hip-hop and soul beat. This is a serene song about being in love. SWV wants you to know that love is right here. There are two versions of this song. There is an original version, which is up-tempo while the remix is midtempo. Here is some trivia about the song. Michael Jackson let SWV use “Human Nature” for free.
Pharrell Williams appears in the song. He does the ad lib in the beginning and middle of the track. The sample of the song works well with this track. It makes it sound completely different from the original version. If you love “Human Nature” then you will enjoy this remix. The music will hold your attention until the end of the song. The drumbeat is captivating. It will have you bopping your head to the beat. Coko’s vocals are phenomenal.
She sings this in her lower register, which works with the music. She pours her heart out in the lyrics. She sounds classy and soulful. Her vocals are polished. You can forget this is from their debut album. Michael Jackson can also be heard in the lyrics. They kept his vocals from “Human Nature” in this song and it works. It’s as if they sang the song as a duet. SWV’s harmonies are outstanding. Taj and Lelee do an excellent job supporting Coko in the background. The original version of “Right Here” is a great song as well, but something about this remix is extraordinary. This is one of the best remixes of all time. It is definitely worth checking out. You will be hooked from beginning to end.
# 1 – Weak
The number one song on our Top 10 SWV Songs list is “Weak” from the It’s About Time album. The song has an r&b beat. This gem is about the man she loves making her feel “weak.” In this case, weak isn’t a bad thing. She gets “weak” in the knees whenever she is around the man she loves. This lush ballad is relatable to anyone who has feelings for a person and can’t control them. We have all been attracted to someone who makes you feel “weak in the knees.” This is a real classic jam. If you were a fan of SWV, you were definitely listening to this track.
Here is some trivia about the song. This song was written about r&b singer Chante Moore. R&b singer Charlie Wilson was supposed to sing this song, but he turned it down. It’s hard to imagine Charlie Wilson singing this song. His loss was SWV’s gain because it went on to be one of their signature songs. The musical arrangement is flawless. The song is keyboard driven. It also features finger snaps. It has the perfect 90s slow jam beat. Coko’s voice is superb. She starts the song off softly and then vocally soars towards the end. She belts towards the end, which is worth checking out. This is a timeless track that will never get old. You can appreciate this song for years to come. This track is perfect and deserves to be number one on our list.
Top 10 SWV Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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