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POP 'N' FRESH

Blaque positions itself as a pop act, not R&B, thank you very much. The Billboard charts seem to agree.

The Blaque girls are living large.

Shamari Fears, Natina Reed and Brandi Williams watched their second single, Bring It All to Me, groove its way into the Top 5 recently, just as the girls got ready to join TLC's national tour.

Such success is getting to be old hat for the teen trio, though.

"It doesn't feel any different because our first single went Top 10," said Reed, 18, calling from Los Angeles where the group just performed for Don Cornelius' birthday party on Soul Train. "But it's still good."

"When we first started, I wasn't paying attention because I thought, "We aren't going to climb,' " said Reed, remembering the chart run of the single 808. "I didn't want to pay attention because I didn't want to jinx myself. So when I started paying attention to the Billboard charts, I was like, "Oh, snap!, we are Top 10.' "

Getting to the release of 808, written by Reed and R. Kelly, was the hard part. Reed wrote jingles for Now & Later candies and Sprite before hooking up with Detroit natives Fears, 18, and Williams, 16, in Atlanta through Left Eye Productions, run by Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez of TLC.

Lopez helped create Blaque _ which stands for Believing in Life and Achieving a Quest for Unity in Everything and is pronounced black _ and got them signed to Columbia Records.

But Blaque is not TLC Jr.

The Blaque album is filled with pop songs such as I Do, ballads such as a soulful remake of Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time and Release Me, the futuristic R&B sound heard on 808 and Mind of a King, and laid-back grooves such as Bring It All to Me, which features vocals from Blaque's pals 'N Sync.

"We are a pop group," said Reed. When an ethnic group first goes out with an album, they are automatically labeled R&B. It's something we have to change.

Reed said Blaque is thankful for its stint on the 'N Sync tour last year because it helped the group reach a different audience.

"We came out at the 'N Sync shows, and we grabbed that audience and they listened to us," said Reed. "We like all kinds of music and to know that all kinds of people are listening to our music really makes me feel good."

Blaque is set to release I Do, a song Reed wrote, as its next single. However, that could change.

"We just put out the singles the people want," Reed said. "We may like that one, but if everybody comes up to us and said we're really feeling Track 9 (Mind of a King), we'll put that one out next."

What fans won't hear unless they buy the album, though, is the humorous pretend radio callers who run throughout the album, screaming, swearing and dissing Blaque as trying to be TLC, trying to be SWV, trying to be anything but fly.

"We just wanted to show people how regular we are, let people hear what some people say to groups and we give the reaction the groups want to give," Reed said. "It's comical."

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