Three California Girls Make A Modern Pop Classic

Wilson Phillips seemed to have arrived out of nowhere, though it was actually the result of several years’ hard work by three young, Los Angeles-based vocalists and songwriters with a distinguished Californian heritage. Chynna Phillips was the daughter of John and Michelle Phillips, formerly of The Mamas And The Papas, while the Beach Boys’ legendary Brian Wilson was the father of Carnie and Wendy Wilson.

The trio’s collective pedigree meant that Wilson Phillips’ music inevitably attracted scrutiny. However, Chynna, Carnie and Wendy were determined to stand or fall on their own merits. “There were a lot of people who said ‘you’re riding on the coattails of your parents’,” Wendy said in a 2022 Yahoo Entertainment interview, “but that made us feel like we had to prove ourselves even more.”

Order Wilson Phillips’ iconic “Hold On” as part of the NOW! 90s Pop deluxe compilation now.

Crucially, the trio’s collective decision not to rush-release music also worked in their favor. They wrote the songs for Wilson Phillips over a three-year period, with Chynna Phillips telling the Los Angeles Times the group “took that time to evolve – the more we practiced, the more we sang together, the easier it became, and we began to have our own sound.”

Overseen by future Alanis Morissette producer Glen Ballard and featuring an all-star musical cast including the Eagles’ Joe Walsh, Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, and Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne, Wilson Phillips was a highly consistent collection – and a timely reminder that well-crafted pop songs illuminated by sparkling harmonies and catchy melodies will never really go out of style.

With almost every song sounding like a potential hit, the album eventually sired five U.S Top 20 singles, including three chart-toppers courtesy of “Release Me,” “You’re In Love” and the group’s emotive signature song “Hold On.” The latter, based in part on Chynna Phillips’ own personal struggles with drugs and an abusive relationship, struck a chord with listeners worldwide, something which didn’t entirely surprise Wilson Phillips. “It’s funny, because I knew when the song was being written that it was inspired by something greater than myself,” Phillips told the Los Angeles Times. “I knew that it was going to touch a lot of people, and it did. And that’s a wonderful feeling.”

In the wake of “Hold On,” the Wilson Phillips album also touched music fans worldwide, yielding multi-platinum sales and a series of Grammy nominations as the record decamped inside the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 for a whole year. With hindsight, it’s only a surprise to recall that it never quite made the top (peaking at No. 2). But it did go on to become the best-selling album of all time by an all-female act – and it retained that record until the Spice Girls’ Spice finally surpassed it in 1996.

Order Wilson Phillips’ iconic “Hold On” as part of the NOW! 90s Pop deluxe compilation now.

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