Created by Pussycat Dolls originator Robin Antin, New Girl Group G.R.L. marks their first studio EP as a group following their Top 40 success of “Wild Wild Love” with Pitbull. Their self titled EP “G.R.L.,” consists of five new tracks including their new single “Ugly Heart,” which was released on June 3.

Signed to Dr. Luke’s label Kemosabe and RCA Records G.R.L. consists of Simone Battle, Lauren Bennett, Emmalyn Estrada, Natasha Slayton and Paula Van Oppen. The EP carries an assorted mix of sounds but all featuring up-tempo dance tracks. The EP starts out with their official first single, “Ugly Heart.” Written and composed by Ryan Baharloo, Ester Dean, Lukasz Gottwald, Henry Walter, and John Charles Monds and executive produced by Max Martin, the track features infectious ukulele instrumentals as the ladies sing about leaving an unstable relationship because of their partners’ imperious behavior. “Ugly Heart” is an up-tempo and high-energy track with Ke$ha vibes. The vocals are powerful and impeccable which makes the track very summer friendly and sets the tone for what the rest of the album is going to sound like.

Imagine the Pussycat Dolls and The Spice girls collaborating on a song? It would be “Show Me What You Got,” the second track on the EP. On this sassy track, we hear the girls playing hard to get with their male interests, urging him to show them that he has something more and substantial to offer. The track features a consistent bass on the verses that make it very dance friendly. The ad-libs on the song are impeccable as all the high notes are belted when necessary. The track also gives off a feel good vibe. Definitely a song you want to sing at the top of your lungs on a road trip with your friends.

“Rewind” is the third song on the EP The beginning of the song gives off a 90’s vibe. It starts off very laid back and groovy, then we hear harmonies rocketing in the chorus. G.R.L. recognizes vulnerability on this track. You hear the girls reminiscing and fighting for what used to be a perfect relationship.

The fourth song, “Don’t Talk about Love” is the most mainstream song out of all the songs on the EP. It is about letting go, feeling good and not having to worry about anything. The song gives a nice summer beach vibe. It has an electronic and slight rock sound to it. It sounds like an Avril Lavigne track that could feature Calvin Harris or Zedd. Definitely an EDM Club thumper. The instrumental breakdown after the repetitive chorus is voguish and sexy as the girls “shh” while the instrumental goes on. I can visualize them doing a pussycat dolls-esque dance breakdown for their live performances with this track.

The last track on the EP is titled “Girls Are Always Right” which definitely confirms the audience for the group. The song is such a ladies anthem as it promotes girl power. It can be compared to Fifth Harmony’s “Miss Movin’ On” in terms its message. This could very much be the second official single for the girls because a lot of other girls will relate to this song. The track is airy and has the right amount of pop and dance elements. Although, I really enjoyed the variety of sounds from the girls, I think that at least one ballad on the EP would have enabled the girls to really highlight the distinction and power in their unique voices; as individuals and as a group.

G.R.L. has done a fantastic job in establishing their brand as a pop group. This group is definitely worth a listen as the EP displays superb vocals and quality. If there’s a label that defined these girls and this project, it is definitely not generic or boring.

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We had the opportunity to exclusively interview the members of the  G.R.L.: Simone Battle, Lauren Bennett, Emmalyn Estrada, Natasha Slayton and Paula Van Oppen. Check out what the ladies had to say about their brand new self-titled EP. 

Can you discuss how G.R.L. was formed?

Lauren: I was the first member of this group. Robin Antin and me knew that we wanted to start a group together … We wanted to try something new and we kind of found each girl piece by piece. Paula was the second one, Natasha was third and Simone was fourth. When we found each other, we realized that G.R.L. was something new and something different. Each member has their own identity and when we teamed up with Dr. Luke, he was the one that finalized G.R.L. as the name of the group.

Can you talk about how involved Robin Antin is with the group?

Natasha: She is super involved with every single aspect of the group. She is basically the founder and creator of the group so she oversees everything from the fashion to the dance routines. She just makes sure everything goes smoothly. She makes sure we get along at all times, she’s involved with every part of it.

Let’s talk about the EP. When you girls started recording, did you know what you wanted it to sound like?

Simone: We wanted it to be very girl charged. We wanted an EP that will inspire and empower girls and guys out there who are just down for the cause of how amazing girls are.

Natasha: We wanted something super fun, super pop, something that every body could relate to or find meaning behind … We want people to dance and feel good … We all have so many different inspirations and influences, so as we were recording, it kind of grew with us. We added some R&B flavors; we still have a major string of pop, we have a little bit of electro and dance music.

Lauren: One of the things that I like most about the EP is that every song has it’s own feel, it’s own story, very different. There is definitely something for everyone. There is something for the club, there is more of an R&B tune and I’m just repeating everything Natasha just said. [Laughter] 

I noticed that there is not a ballad on the EP. 

Lauren: I wish that we had a ballad actually to be honest. I think the message right now is that we are a pop and dance group, so more up-tempo songs for us and choreography.

Do you girls have any personal favorites on the EP?

Emmalyn: Well, Natasha and me are going to say the same thing just because of our similar experiences but our favorite is “Ugly Heart” because we sing the part “I wonder does it blow your mind, that I’m leaving you far behind.” We can tell you that we really feel what we sing and that is something that we are really proud of because we got through it – whatever bad experiences we had. We can move forward and really say “We’re leaving you far behind.” We’re good.

Lauren: Connecting with the lyrics is important because if you sing about something that you’ve experienced, it makes it authentic. I think every song that we have, there is something in it that you can relate to it at some point … My favorite is “Rewind.” Simone’s favorite is “Ugly Heart.”

Natasha: I was listening to our EP today, I was having an issue this morning and I started listening to the songs and I have to say, I am a fan of us …  Really all the songs uplifted me and it may be feel powerful and confident and positive again. I really hope that people listening feel that way, too.

Should the fans be expecting a new music video after “Ugly Heart” or a second single announcement?

Lauren: I think the EP was the next step for us to see the feedback; To see what sounds that people are really connecting to with us. We have not finished recording the album so we never really know. We might record a song tomorrow that is going to be the next single. It might be one off the EP, it might not be, but by just releasing the EP, we are waiting to see what happens.

What were your emotions when you found out that the EP was going to be released?

Simone: It’s definitely a really gratifying feeling to get such amazing feedback from the fans because they have been waiting for so long. They’ve been waiting since before we were G.R.L. to hear new music from us, it’s finally here. We kept our word and we cherish the support from our families and friends. It felt really good and it made it worthwhile. This is why we make music; to share it with the world because it could have an impact on someone’s life. It was a good moment for all of us.

Lauren: You never know. When you’re listening to a song that is yours or a song that you’re singing on, it’s hard to tell whether you like it or not. If you ever listen to a voice recording of yourself, you’re like “whoa, that sounds weird.” It’s hard to know how other people are going to see it, so it’s really cool to get positive really feedback. Not just on the EP but for the video of “Ugly Heart”. The reaction to it exceeded our expectations.

How was it working with Pitbull for “Wild Wild Love”?

Simone: It was a lot more fun than it was work. He was very hospitable, too. When we were shooting the video in Miami, he took us out to a restaurant and he always made sure we had drinks and we were dancing. He’s definitely a lot of fun to just hang out with and he’s also very supportive. He shows us the ropes. We’re a new act, he’s just really cool.

Lauren: He’s very charming. He carries himself very well.

For the upcoming album, are there any specific people that you want to feature?

Simone: We’d all love to work with Pharrell, Iggy Azalea, Ariana Grande.

Lauren: It would be really cool to work with a girl that also dances. She would get down with us and do choreography with us.

Emmalyn: Like J.Lo?

Lauren: That would be fantastic. She would kill it.

Would you consider doing a girl group mash up with the current girl groups like Danity Kane, Little Mix & Fifth Harmony?

Lauren: Definitely.

Natasha: That would be so awesome.

Simone: The more, the merrier.

Lauren: We met Little Mix in Chicago recently and it was really cool, really nice girls. I am British as well, so to team up with someone who’s British would be great. It would be cool to kind of help each other out. There are a lot of groups coming out of the UK, there is not a lot coming out of the United States.

How soon can we expect your album and what do you want it to sound like?

Simone: We would love to have it out by the end of the year, but you can’t really put a deadline on it. We want the best. If “Ugly Heart” does really well, hopefully we’ll be able to work with more writers and producers. We would want the album to be very eclectic, full of different sounds and vibes that really highlights how many flavors there are in this group. On our EP, there is a song, energy, vibe for everybody … G.R.L. is all about our differences. We want all of every song to be kind of different.

Lauren: Coming back to ballads, I think that would be one of the best things for the group. A lot of the songs that we have are fun and upbeat but they do not fully showing what we capable of doing vocally as a group. I think a ballad would show more depth in our voices.

Emmalyn: It would show a different side of G.R.L. Simone plays guitar and the piano, I play the piano as well, Natasha plays the guitar, Paula can play bass, so we are really musical and we have not really gotten to show that side of us yet so it would be cool for us to be able to do that for the album.

Would you consider re-recording some of your solo projects as a group for the album or live concerts?

Lauren: It would be cool to perform it down the road at some point because we’ll get to show where we started but for the album, it’s going to be something new that people haven’t heard before.

-Igee Okafor

Photo Credit: Courtesy Robin Antin/ RCA Records