“Hold On” was THE song of summer 1990 (for reference, THE song of summer ‘89 was “Keep On Movin” by Soul II Soul and THE song of summer ‘91 was “I Wanna Sex You Up” by Color Me Badd.) En Vogue’s debut single seemed to be coming out of every stereo, booming from every jeep, playing out of every apartment in Brooklyn from its release in the spring until folks went back to school in September. “Hold On” was so pervasive that when LL Cool J wanted to kick his “comeback” off in earnest, he borrowed the “feel” of “Hold On” for “The Boomin’ System”, the track that kicked off the Mama Said Knock You Out comeback campaign.
The En Vogue ladies were and are more than capable of carrying a tune, and “Hold On” was their introduction to the world. Many vocal groups of that era emphasized style over substance, and “Hold On” opens with an acapella snatch of Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Lovin’ You”. That intro essentially kicked off the hip-hop/doo-wop trend that quickly gave birth to Color Me Badd and Boyz II Men. It was also a feat of production by two guys who unfairly left out of any discussion about producers from that era; Club Nouveau’s Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy. Like Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison”, which came out weeks before, “Hold On” is an R&B song with hip-hop beats. This is a bit different from new jack swing, which was more of a merger of the two genres. “Hold On” broke doors down.