What Ever Happened to: CeCe Peniston

A couple of days ago, I dug through my CD collection and pulled out a gem – soul man Dave Hollister’s Chicago ’85, The Movie. Years ago, I ran into Dave and he was one of the nicest dudes you’d ever meet. I’ve never seen a guy so happy to be recognized. I even blogged about it way back when.

In the same blog, I mentioned the worst meeting I’ve ever had with a celebrity – Teddy Riley’s brother Markell. You’d think a guy whose career consisted of one and a half songs would be gracious to receive props from a fan, but you’d be wrong. I think he was just frontin’ for his wannabe Kelly Bundy arm candy.

The wifey told me that R&B starlet Monica had a similarly sour experience as a child when she met dance queen CeCe Peniston. A few years ago, Monica spoke candidly about the situation and when CeCe got word of it, she publicly apologized in an open letter. Now, that’s class.

WHERE IS MY APOLOGY, MARKELL?!?!?!?

Here’s a better question – what ever happened to CeCe?

CeCe Peniston was born in Dayton, Ohio, but grew up in Phoenix, Ariz. She honed her vocals in church and sharpened her performing skills in theater. She even excelled in beauty pagents – she was crowned Miss Black Arizona in 1989 and Miss Galaxy in 1990.

In early 1991, CeCe began her recording career, cutting her teeth by performing backup vocals for other up-and-coming artists. Through those connections, CeCe gained a solo deal and recorded her first single, “Finally.”

And then, boys and girls, life as we knew it changed.

Fellas, y’all think that girls are obsessed with that horrid “Refill” song? Its popularity had NOTHING on “Finally.” Girls from 8 to 80 sang that song constantly. And woe on your eardrums if that woman didn’t know the correct lyrics. Sadly, my cousin was one of those misinformed young women.

The real lyrics: “Finally it has happened to me/right in front of my face/and I just cannot hide it.”

My cousins’ rendition: “FINALLY it happened to BE/right in front of my PLACE/and you just cannot HAVE IT.”

When I politely told my cousin that she must have 10 pounds of wax in her ears because what she was singing made no sense, she replied ‘NUH UH! That’s right! And it’s a girl’s song so I would know!’

Playa please.

Made-up lyrics aside, that song captured the imaginations of women across the globe and it became an instant hit, rocketing up the dance charts and eventually selling 3 million copies worldwide.

After the success of “Finally,” CeCe rushed to the studio to record her solo debut. The album, titled Finally, of course, dropped in 1991 to much fanfare. More hits followed: “We Got A Love Thang” was CeCe’s second No. 1 hit on the dance charts, and “Keep On Walkin'” completed the trio of No. 1 dance hits. “Inside That I Cried” and “Crazy Love” followed, making CeCe a bonafide star.


By the mid-90s, the dance genre was slowly being overtaken by R&B and CeCe saw an opportunity for growth. CeCe’s 1994 sophomore effort, Thought ‘Ya Knew, was much more pop and R&B-influenced than her debut. Reviews were mixed but I was a fan of her new sound. I have no idea what’s going on the video for “I’m In the Mood” – ladies wearing powdered wigs, guys breathing fire, a fortune-teller dude slamming tarot cards like he’s playing Spades – but the song was pretty fun. “I’m Not Over You” was a bit more funky that the usual CeCe cut, while “I Will Be Received” was just good-ol’ Sunday-morning gospel.

Speaking of gospel, a year later, CeCe teamed with industry veterans Thelma Houston, Phoebe Snow, Albertina Walker and Lois Walden to form Sisters of Glory. The quintent released Good News In Hard Times in 1995.


Sadly, we never got a CeCe Peniston/CeCe Winans gospel collabo. I guess we missed out on Ce+Ce Gospel Factory.

CeCe returned to the world of secular music in 1996 with I’m Movin’ On. This time, she distanced herself even further from her dance roots, and instead fully embraced R&B and hip hop. And … that didn’t work out so well. I was a big fan of the single “Movin’ On” but good lord the intro rap is excruciating. Lord, bless guest rapper Suga T. Yes, the woman from E-40’s “Sprinkle Me” was sprinkling horrible ad-libs (UGGGGGGGGGGH!) all over CeCe’s decent song. Frankly, CeCe’s hip hop assimilation never worked out – she just didn’t fit comfortably in that era. But Suga T became an ad-lib pioneer, encouraging rappers like Master P and Rick Ross to grunt and groan like they’re putting in work on the toilet.

By the turn of the century, CeCe aimed to release another album and dropped a handful of singles in anticipation of it. Neither “Nobody Else,” “He Loves Me 2,” nor “My Boo” gained enough traction and her album never saw the light of day.

Since then, CeCe has sporadically released a few singles and covers but has remained relatively quiet.

Should She Come Back?: Things have come full circle and the dance….

BREAKING NEWS!!!

Apparently CeCe IS attempting a comeback this year with a self-titled album and a couple of new singles. But don’t get too excited, CeCe fans. “Celebrate” and “Stoopid.” both sound like they were recorded by one of the Housewives of Atlanta.

Let me finish my thought from above.


Should She Come Back?: Things have come full circle and the dance genre has made a huge comeback. Sounds like the perfect time for a CeCe comeback, right? But if CeCe is trying to appeal to the younger set, she’s setting herself up for a fall. Grown folks like to dance too, you know. If she can recapture the energy of “Finally” without becoming too inauthentic and ghetto (or, ahem, “Stoopid”), I think she would be welcomed back warmly. 


Unlike Markell Riley. I want my apology.

1 Comments

  1. “Finally” was my middle school theme song! I played that CD until it took an untimely death by way of getting left at WJ Christian Middle School over the summer and lost forever. *tear* A couple of years ago when I auditioned for American Idol that was back up song had I have made it to the second round. Hmmm, I may be making a venture over to iTunes…

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