On July 13th, 2012 International multi-platinum recording artists Wilson Phillips performed live in concert at Bergen Pac Perform Arts Center in New Jersey. They harmonized and serenaded their audience with many hits and classic songs from their new album of covers “Dedicated” on the Sony Masters label.
For the younger generation, Wilson Phillips is a group they saw in the hit movie Bridesmaids. In which the group is a key part of the story, but they have a long history of making hit songs.
Chynna Phillips along with sisters Carnie Wilson and Wendy Wilson make up the pop trio Wilson Phillips. As children of legendary musicians, Chynna’s parents are John and Michelle Phillips from The Mamas & The Papas and Carnie and Wendy’s father is Brain Wilson, the lead singer of The Beach Boys. It seems with those genes the trio was destined to be hit makers in their own right.
Friends since child hood, the ladies decided to form a vocal group in the late 80’s and soon after signed a recording contract with SBK Records, a label part of the EMI Group in 1989.
In February of 1990, The label released their debut single “Hold On“. It caught the attention of radio stations and their listeners immediately. By early June, “Hold On” was the No. 1 song in the country and took the rest of the world by storm. It bumped “Vogue” by Madonna from the top spot. This would only be the beginning.
While “Hold On” was still in the Top 10, the label quickly released the self-titled debut album and the follow-up single “Release Me“, a ballad written by the group. Both continued what “Hold On” started. By September “Release Me” had hit No. 1 on the Pop charts the their album had gone platinum.
The third single “Impulsive” with Wendy Wilson as lead vocalist was released in October of that year. In continued the hit streak the group was on and landed in the Top 5 on the Pop charts. By this time the trio was touring the world and their debut album had gone double-platinum.
With their music at the Top of the charts and their videos on heavy rotation on MTV the label decided to take a chance on a fourth single. “You’re In Love” was released in January on 1991 and proved to be another smash. Chynna Phillips on lead vocals, the single went straight to the top.
By this time Billboard magazine named “Hold On” as the Single of the Year for 1990. The trio received three Grammy nominations, Song of the Year for “Hold On”, Album of the Year for their debut album and Best New Artist, which they lost to Mariah Carey.
The fifth single”The Dream Is Still Alive” with Carnie on lead vocals was released. The single made the Top 15 on the Pop charts. By the summer of 1991, their debut album had sold 5 Million copies on the US and a total of 10 Million copies worldwide becoming the biggest selling album by a female group. That’s unheard of in today’s music industry. The group covered Elton John’s “Daniel” that was featured on a Elton John tribute album. It would be a Top 10 Radio hit for the group.
Without a break the group entered the studio to record their second album “Shadows and Light” which was released in June of 1992. Three singles were released from the album. The lead single “You Won’t See Me Cry” was a Top 20 Pop hit. The album peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 album chart and was certified platinum in the US.
Towards the end of 1992, the group decided to disband and went on different career paths. The Wilson sisters released a Holiday album in 1993. Chynna Phillips released a solo album in 1995. Carnie Wilson hosted her own talk show that lasted one season. It would be 12 years before the Wilson Phillips got back together and record again.
In May of 2004, Wilson Phillips released “California” their first album of covers on Columbia Records. It featured hit songs from the 60’s and 70’s by Fleetwood Mack, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Young, The Eagles and a few others. The album was a Top 40 hit. Six years would go by when they released “Christmas In Harmony” a Christmas album of covers.
It wasn’t until Wilson Phillips had a scene stealing cameo in the hit film “Bridesmaids” in the summer of 2011 that brought the trio back to the spotlight. Chynna Phillips was a contestant on Season 13 of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Carnie Wilson appeared on ABC’s Celebrity Wife Swap and became a judge on the ABC show Karaoke Battle USA. The group had their own reality show “Wilson Phillips: Still Holding On” on the TV Network.
This was the perfect time to released their new album “Dedicated,” an album of covers from their parents music groups The Beach Boys and The Mamas & The Papas. Inspired by their parents and profoundly proud of their musical lineage, Carnie Wilson said “We’ve been asked to do this album since the beginning of the group, we didn’t want it to seem like we were riding our parents coattails” moreover “We’re coming off our 20 year anniversary and felt It was time to record the music we grew up with”.
Back to the concert, Fans of Wilson Phillips gathered early outside Bergen Perform Arts Center in anticipation of Wilson Phillips performance. While talking to the crowd which consisted of people in their 40’s and 50’s and as young as early twenties I learn that many had drove hours to catch their favorite artist. One couple drove from Boston and another came the day before the show and stayed with family near by. They didn’t want to miss the show. A group of four girls in their early 20’s said they fell in love with the group when they saw the film “Bridesmaids”, they couldn’t get the song “Hold On” out of their head. They downloaded the “Greatest Hits” album the following day and played it on a road trip and fell in love with the entire album.
At 9 PM, Wilson Phillips hit the stage, and audience went wild as the group looked stunning and went into their No. 1 hit “Released Me”. The trio sang it with their trademark exquisite harmonies. The group’s shimmering vocals on “It’s Only Life” from their second album made me wonder, why wasn’t it released as a single?
The trio sang many of the songs from their current album “Dedicated” and gave new life to each of the classic songs. With a vast catalog of songs from which to choose, they stuck with the crème de la crème of their famous parent’s hits. They stayed true to the essence of each song, while polishing it with their signature sound. In the end, Wilson Phillips made these songs their own. The standout track is “California Dreaming”, originally recorded by The Mamas & The Papas. The group sang their biggest hits.
Would you have guessed “You Won’t See Me Cry” is the group’s favorite Wilson Phillips track of all time? According to Carnie, the three of them agree each time and it’s the first song added to every set list. Carnie Wilson is a natural comedian with her banter between songs that had the audience in stitches. A welcome surprise to the night was a song they group hasn’t recorded but included in their live shows, “Dancing Queen” by Abba. As soon as the recognizable beat came in the audience were on their feet dancing and clapping to the beat. Before we knew it audience members paraded onto the stage almost mesmerized by the music and started to dance with the ladies as they sang.
Wilson Phillips’ 90 minute set ended with the hit that started it all, “Hold On”. The crowed sang along with Chynna at the top of their lungs. Wilson Phillips proves that real talent thrives in an industry that accepts those artist that lip-sync to track.
“Dedicated” may be an album of covers, but with their great renditions with their own stamp, Thus, “Dedicated” truly is an original album which should move off the shelves and become the new anthem of drivers, romantics and everything in between. These ladies have staying power in an industry that proves to generate short lived careers for many, because with their talents and heavenly harmonizing they indeed hold on.
Photos taken by Yoni Levy.