As Black History Month comes to a close, it’s still essential to talk about the various Black artists and influencers who have helped to showcase aspects of Black culture to a global audience. Whether it’s using Black musical artists’ lyrics as inspiration for your next Instagram post or supporting Black TikTok creators who share stories on Black history with their followers, this year’s Black History Month has allowed more youth to learn more about Black culture and how we see it evolve in modern day media.
Black artists breaking into the music industry are nothing new, but since the turn of the millennium, there has been a significant decline in Black-led musical groups becoming industry sensations. The 1990s were a defining moment for girl groups, with acts like TLC and Destiny’s Child becoming household names in America. TLC’s CrazySexyCool album in 1994 became the only work by a female group to receive a diamond certification from the Record Industry Association of America, and Destiny’s Child was named the ninth most successful artist/band of the 2000s by Billboard. The girl groups of the ’90s rose to prominence through their music and the messages they conveyed, with some focusing on female empowerment, independence, female friendships, and, occasionally, social issues and feminism.
As society moved away from the ’90s and into the 2010s and now the early 2020s, we have yet to see a group achieve the same level of status and fame as the girl groups of the past. However, there might be a new contender in the mix: Meet FLO, an all-Black, London-based trio exploring the R&B landscape with a Y2K-influenced sound.
How did the members of FLO get together?
The group consists of members Jorja Douglas (21), Stella Quaresma (21), and Renée Downer (20). According to a Huffington Post interview, the group came together rather quickly. Downer and Quaresma grew up in London and attended the same secondary school and university. Years later, the girls connected with Douglas via social media and decided to join a talent audition together in 2019. “I think we auditioned [for this talent search] in 2019. It was quite quick from our first audition to us being in a group, maybe a couple of months,” Quaresma said in the interview. “Then, we just started making music straight away.”
As the group became official in 2021, they were able to collaborate with R&B legends such as renowned singer-songwriter MNEK, who has worked with Beyoncé, Madonna, and Dua Lipa. He helped shape FLO’s sound by producing the majority of their music. Kelly Rowland, a girl group alumni, has also paid them a visit in the studio.
FLO FOUND THEIR BIG BREAK FROM THEIR DEBUT RELEASE “Cardboard Box.”
The girl group’s breakthrough came with the release of their debut single, “Cardboard Box,” an early 2000s-inspired track about moving on from a breakup and gaining confidence in oneself as a result of the change. The song featured a softer R&B sound and showcased the girls’ heavenly melodies and their ability to harmonize well with one another. The standout song quickly gained popularity on TikTok, and it has over 25 million streams on Spotify.
FLO IS INSPIRED BY THE MUSIC THEY GREW UP LISTENING TO.
When asked about the track and their EP’s artistic similarities to the music of the ’90s and 2000s in an interview with NME, Downer says she was inspired primarily by her mother. “My mum would play really good music in the car or when cleaning on Sundays, you know, the sounds of that era were all around us when we were young. I’ve grown up around [that music], it was one of my first loves. My uncle is also a producer and rapper, and he motivates me as someone who’s been in this industry for the long run,” she says.
THE RELEASE OF THeir EP The Lead SHOWCASES FLO’S CREATIVE SOUND.
After releasing the single, “Immature” following the success of “Cardboard Box,” the girls released their highly anticipated EP The Lead in September 2022. FLO’s songs on the album range from acoustic ballads like “Another Guy” to fully delving into the 2000s soundscape with electric guitar chords in “Not My Job,” which centers around not needing to take care of a man and becoming fully capable of being independent.
You can see FLO on tour this year.
The girls ended the 2022 year with the melodic and soulful single “Losing You,” which was released at the end of December. The song is about coming to terms with the end of a relationship and finding peace in yourself. The girls are very excited about 2023, and they have stated that they intend to release more music and projects throughout the year. The girls even announced their North American tour on Instagram at the end of January. FLO is set to tour in seven cities, including L.A., Chicago, and Atlanta.
FLO’s recent surge in popularity demonstrated that the group is just getting started and that they are one of the driving acts ushering in a Black renaissance of Gen Z musical groups in the entertainment industry.