Ryan, Jasmine, and Chelsea are Love Dollhouse — three charming and talented young women from Detroit who may have delivered the song of the summer with “Can I.” Written by Claude Kelly (Britney Spears, Bruno Mars) and Ashley Rose, and produced by Jon Jon Traxx (Beyoncé, Jessie J), “Can I” is a smooth slice of timeless pop-R&B that will appeal to listeners of all ages. “When we first heard it, it took us back,” says Jasmine. “It reminds me a bit of The Temptations’ ‘My Girl’ says Chelsea, who then sweetly trills that song’s opening line: “I’ve got sunshine…on a cloudy day.”
With a pinch of Motown here and a dash of TLC there, “Can I” is a perfect introduction to Love Dollhouse’s lush, elastic harmonies, slinky hooks, and soulful grooves. Lyrically, the song upends the male/female dynamic by putting the girl in the power seat. As Ryan puts it: “The girl has got her eye on a guy, and she’s flirting, telling him to come on over to her side.” Adds Chelsea: “She’s saying, ‘I like you. I’m pursuing you,’ which we feel has a bigger message. We’re telling girls that it’s okay to take initiative. It’s okay to be free and express your love, and still be classy.”
The girls come by their message of strength, female empowerment, and positivity naturally, with two members of Love Dollhouse, long-time friends Ryan and Jasmine, building the group from the ground up in middle school with guidance along the way from the groups longtime manager Dawn. This process has paid off with their recent signing to Steve Rifkind and Russell Simmons’ All Def Music label and Capitol Records.
“It’s pretty amazing, because growing up, I always thought that I could go big one day and sing professionally, I always believed it!,” says Ryan, who has also done some modeling and acting, appearing in AMC’s series Low Winter Sun. Ryan’s father was a singer in an R&B duo called Guesss, who were signed to Warner Bros. Records in the mid-’90s. As a kid, she absorbed the music her parents listened to, artists like Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and Prince. “Those are the people I still look up to today,” she says. “I still love my mainstream artists, I love entertainers.” Ryan can’t remember a time when she wasn’t singing and goading her school friends into singing with her. “I just always loved being in a group.”
At 12, Ryan met the girl who would fulfill her musical destiny, her classmate Jasmine. Raised in a large family with uncles who sang, one was even in a group, Jasmine grew up listening to gospel artists like Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, and J. Moss. She also loved Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey, and Lauryn Hill. “I always wanted to be a singer, but never thought it was something I actually had a chance at doing,” she says. When she met Ryan, something clicked. “We bonded through music,” Ryan says. “We loved singing together and creating harmonies.”
Ryan and Jasmine idolized TLC, Destiny’s Child, and The Supremes and knew they wanted to be a trio. They went through a few member changes, recorded with various local producers, and even appeared on America’s Got Talent before cementing their current line-up with Chelsea in June 2013. “Chelsea walked into the audition and sang and she was perfect,” Ryan says. “We hugged. It was like we knew each other for a long time.”
Transfixed by such songbirds as Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys, Chelsea also harbored a desire to perform. “I would sing ‘Fallin’’ at every family event, every holiday party, and every talent show,” she says with a laugh. “I was obsessed.” After high school, she put her music dreams on ice and attended college at Central Michigan University, never in her wildest dreams did she think she would only make it through her freshman year because her dream was about to come true. She was in a transition period when a friend of a friend suggested she audition for Love Dollhouse. “They were popular in Detroit, and I was one of the few who didn’t know who they were,” Chelsea recalls. The chemistry was instant. “Once Chelsea joined, we knew it was right,” Jasmine says. “We want to express individuality and the idea that we can be three totally different people and make it work.”
Now the girls are in the studio creating more gems that they plan to release throughout 2014. “I think I speak for all three of us when I say that we feel pure bliss and relief,” Chelsea says. “Leading up to this moment, we’ve all been through a lot. We’ve had setbacks, on our own and as a group, and it’s going to be so liberating and rewarding to see all the hard work pay off,” says Ryan and Jasmine.
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