SWV was riding high in the early 1990s. A trio of street-wise young women from New York City, Cheryl "Coko" Gamble, Tamara "Taj" Johnson and Leanne "Lelee" Lyons represented for the average around-the-way girls, after releasing their debut album, It's About Time, in 1992, SWV would become instant sensations.
Their over-the-top acrylic nail designs and tom-boy aesthetic placed the group alongside style icons like TLC and Mary J. Blige, fellow luminaries from that helped usher in the era of hip-hop soul. Achieving multi-platinum success with It's About Time, SWV would follow it with their sophomore effort in 1996. New Beginning would further the group's success, solidifying them as one of the premier acts in R&B.
The girls would team with superproducers like Sean "Puffy" Combs and Timbaland for third studio album, Release Some Tension, which arrived in summer 1997. The project was a more "adult" effort for SWV and became a critically-acclaimed effort for the group at the tail-end of a decade that had seen them among the artists who defined R&B.
But the honeymoon was apparently over, as SWV would break up the following year due Release Some Tension became SWV's last big hurrah for the group during their prime. It was their least successful studio album, despite singles like "Can We" and "Rain" becoming fixtures on urban radio.
In celebration of its 20th anniversary, we selected five of the most memorable songs from Release Some Tension.
Producer Troy Taylor, who contributed three tracks to Release Some Tension, cooks up a mid-tempo ditty with the album standout ""Lose Myself." "I can lose myself in all the freaking we can do/I don't want nobody else because my body's wanting you," the three vocalists profess over the organ keys and percussion, conveying their sexual yearnings in a fashion that's subtle in comparison to the more suggestive selections from their catalog.
"Give It Up"SWV featuring Lil' Kim
"Give It Up" pairs SWV with fellow New York native Lil' Kim, is undoubtedly among the album's strongest moments. Produced by Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie, "Give It Up" is a sleek composition, topped off with the refined polish that was a signature of Bad Boy productions of the era. Group member Taj provides a change of pace, tackling the lead-vocals, while Lil' Kim turns in a feisty performance in her own right.
SWV slows down the tempo with the Kevin and Tony Perez produced number "When U Cry," an offering that falls in line with the trio's list of silky ballads. Powered by a sample of Tyrone Davis' 1939 hit "In The Mood," "When U Cry" makes a great case for being the crown jewel on Release Some Tension.
"Can We"SWV featuring Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott
"Me I'm Supa Fly, Supa Dupa Fly/Rub your hands up my thigh and go supa dupa high," Missy Elliott drawls on "Can We," the Timbaland-produced lead-single from Release Some Tension. Originally included on the soundtrack for the comedy Booty Call earlier that year, "Can We" would become one of SWV's signature cuts, continue their streak of charting singles that catered to their core audience, and stands as one of the group's last defining moments at the height of their decorated career.
"Sometimes it's soft as a misty rain/That gently touches my soul," SWV member Coko purrs on "Rain," a single that is regarded as one of their finest contributions to date. Written and produced by Brian Alexander Morgan, "Rain," which contains a sample of "Portrait of Tracy" by Jaco Pastorius, was the most successful single from Release Some Tension, peaking at No. 25 on the Hot 100 and cracking the Top 10 of the Hot R&B Singles chart.