Our Top 10 TLC Songs list looks at one of the biggest girl groups of all time. TLC originally stood for T-Boz (Tionne Watkins), Left Eye (Lisa Lopes) and Crystal Jones. Crystal came up with the idea of having a female version of Bell, Biv Devoe. Singer Pebbles introduced the group to L.A. Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. Reid was interested in signing T-Boz and Left Eye, but he wasn’t interested in Crystal. Crystal ended up leaving the group and was replaced with Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas. T-Boz and Left Eye wanted to retain the name TLC so Rozonda used the nickname “Chilli.” They signed with LaFace Records in 1991 and the rest was history. They ended up becoming one of the best-selling female groups of all time.
Their first album Oooooohhh…On the TLC Tip came out in 1992. It was a New Jack Swing album. The album was a critical and commercial success. The successful album peaked at number 14 on the Billboard 200 charts and number three on the R&B Hip-Hop charts. It sold over six million copies. It features the hit singles “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg,” “Baby-Baby-Baby,” “What About Your Friends” and “Hat 2 da Back.” During the success of their first album, the trio recorded a cover of the Christmas song ”Sleigh Ride.” It was featured on the Home Alone 2 soundtrack. They also recorded a cover of The Time’s hit single “Get It Up” for the Poetic Justice soundtrack.
TLC were going through personal problems. T-Boz discovered that she had Sickle Cell Anemia. She chose to keep it quiet until she got sick while they were on tour. They had to cancel their tours because of her illness. They also dealt with financial issues. They didn’t want to work with Pebbles anymore because they wanted more control over their career. They claimed they didn’t get much money while T-Boz was sick so they didn’t want to work with Pebbles anymore. Pebbles released them from their deal. Unfortunately, she still received money from their earnings because they were still signed at her record company. Left Eye started dating former NFL player Andre Rison. They had a violent relationship. It led to her infamously burning his house down. She was sentenced to five-year probation. She was also battling alcoholism.
They released their second album CrazySexyCool in 1994. It was critically acclaimed. It peaked at number three on the charts. It spent over two years on the charts. This is their breakthrough album because it sold over 23 million copies. They changed their style of music to be more sensual than it was on their debut album. It features the hit singles “Creep,” “Red Light Special,” “Waterfalls” and Diggin’ on You.” All of these singles debuted in the top 10 on the charts. TLC won numerous awards for this album. Despite the success of this album, the group had to file for bankruptcy. The trio had over three million dollars worth of debt. The debt was mostly because of Left Eye’s insurance payments and T-Boz’s medical bills. The biggest reason for their financial debt was the deal they made with Pebbles. They eventually sued LaFace Records and Pebbletone. The case eventually settled.
TLC began feuding with each other when they recorded their third album FanMail. The group had an issue with producer Dallas Austin who was dating Chilli at the time. Austin wanted millions to work with them as well as control of their album. This caused tension with the group and Austin. They compromised with Austin and he ended up producing the bulk of the album. The album came out in 1999. It debuted at number one on the charts. The album features the singles “No Scrubs,” “Unpretty,” “Silly Ho,” “I’m Good at Being Bad” and “Dear Lie.” The album sold over 10 million copies. They won three Grammy Awards with this album.
Unfortunately, their troubles didn’t end. Left Eye made statements that she couldn’t express herself in the group. She thought that her contributions were being reduced to bit parts. She said there were a lot of songs she wasn’t featured in on their albums. Left Eye challenged T-Boz and Chilli to do solo albums. The group ended their feud and never did the challenge. They faced a tragedy when Left Eye died in a car crash on April 25, 2002. They were recording their fourth album 3D before Left Eye passed away. T-Boz and Chilli decided to use three of Left Eye’s raps on the album. They decided to remain a duo because they didn’t want to replace Left Eye. 3D debuted at number six on the charts. It features the singles “Girl Talk,” “Hands Up” and “Damaged.” The album sold over one million copies. This was their lowest-selling album since their debut.
TLC took a break from recording music. They reunited to do the reality show R U The Girl. It was rumored that the show was about replacing Left Eye. The winner of the show only recorded one song with the group. They released the single “I Bet.” The single didn’t do well on the charts. TLC started a kickstarter campaign to raise money to record their fifth and final album. They were asking for $150,000 and managed to make over $400,000. Their fifth album TLC came out in 2017. It was a pop and r&b album. The album debuted at number 138 on the charts. It peaked at number 20 on the R&B Hip-Hop charts. It features the singles “Joy Ride,” “Haters” and “Way Back.”
TLC faced a lot of obstacles throughout their career. Despite the obstacles, they were still one of the most successful girl groups of all time. There were a lot of girl groups who came and went while they were able to be successful. This Top 10 TLC Songs list will feature TLC’s hit songs.
# 10 – Creep
The first song on our Top 10 TLC Songs list is the controversial “Creep” from the uber successful CrazySexyCool album. This cheating anthem has an r&b sound. This song is about a woman who isn’t happy with her relationship so she decides to cheat on her man. Here is some trivia about the unique song. This is TLC’s first number one hit song. TLC had mixed feelings about the song because of the subject. T-Boz thought it was an important subject to sing, but Left Eye didn’t agree. She refused to perform on the track. The song is different because females don’t brag about cheating on their boyfriends. The music is distinctive. It was a reinvention for the trio. It was a transition from New Jack Swing to r&b. This is a sample of Slick Rick’s “Hey Young World” and Shinehead’s “Who the Cap Fits.” It has a heavy beat and combines up-in-your-face sex talk with sensuality. They mixed it with street aggression for hip-hop fans. T-Boz’s vocals were husky and sensual. The music was great for her vocals.
# 9 – Diggin’ on You
The next song on our Top 10 TLC Songs list is the sultry and tight “Diggin’ on You” from the empowering CrazySexyCool album. This enticing ballad has an r&b sound. This romantic song is about young love. This doesn’t sound like a typical Babyface love song. This sounds like a street version of one of his love songs. He wrote this song to fit their style. The music is soft and melodic. It’s r&b meets hip hop. The drums give the song a nod factor. It’s not a typical ballad. T-Boz and Chilli sing lead on the song. T-Boz uses her lower register while Chilli is in a higher register. Their voices blended well together. Their tones are different, but they managed to blend with the music.
# 8 – Get It Up
This jamming song is from the Poetic Justice soundtrack. It has a jeep beat that will have you out of your seat. This song can easily get overshadowed because of the success of Janet Jackson’s “Again,” but it was successful in its own right. This head bopper is a remake of The Time’s song of the same name. This sounds like something Prince would have sang even though it’s The Time’s song. It has an infectious r&b, dance, pop and New Jack Swing sound that is relevant. It has a killer beat that is hard to sit still through. This song is about sex from a woman’s point of view. T-Boz uses her deep vocals that are impeccable with the music. Chilli shows some versatility because she does runs in the song that she doesn’t do often. She has a beautiful voice which doesn’t get showcased enough in their songs. She comes in after the bridge when she should have been in the song more than she was. Left Eye’s rap is on point. She speeds through her rhymes. She could give male rappers a run for their money. Her rhymes may be hard to understand, but she sounds good doing it.
# 7 – Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg
This attention-seeking song is the lead single from the popular album Oooooooh…On the TLC Tip. This contagious song has multiple samples. It’s a sample of “Escapism” by James Brown, “Jungle Boogie” by Kool & the Gang, “School Boy Crush” by AWB, as well as other samples. This aggressive upbeat song is about a woman begging for sex. Women weren’t usually this bold about wanting sex. Women are usually subtler about wanting sex. TLC didn’t hold back any punches when they wanted the world to know that they wanted to have sex with their man.
Here is some trivia about this head banger. Writer Dallas Austin wanted to feature Left Eye on the song more so the song could have a harder edge. T-Boz’s vocals are deep throated almost to a point where she blends in with the music. Chilli uses her signature soprano vocals, which were a good contrast to T-Boz’s deep vocals. Left Eye is clearly the star of the song because her rap vocals dominate the song. She does a great job with her rap lyrics.
# 6 – What About Your Friends
This vengeful song is the third single from the New Jack Swing filled album Oooooooh…On the TLC Tip. This enjoyable up-tempo song has an r&b and New Jack Swing sound. It contains a sample from “Blues & Pants” by James Brown. This song is about their friends turning their backs on them once they became successful. The drum programming is off the charts. It is the perfect summer jam. You can hear this song at cookouts or in the club. T-Boz uses her signature husky growl. Left Eye’s rhymes are easy to listen to and sing along with. Chilli is the vocal star of the song. She showed that she can sing in a lower register. She also uses her signature soprano vocals. She went a step further and held little notes. This song is one of the best songs from that album.
# 5 – Baby-Baby-Baby
This teasing song is the second single from the dazzling Oooooooh…On the TLC Tip album. This ballad has a smooth r&b and pop sound. This appealing song is about love. This sounds like a typical Babyface track. This was one of the most successful singles from the album and it’s easy to see why. T-Boz and Chilli were being vocally sassy while showing a side of vulnerability. They were demanding that the man be good to them while letting them know that they want to be loved. T-Boz uses her deep vocals. Chilli’s vocals can send chills up and down your spine. She does runs as well as hold notes towards the end. Left Eye’s rhymes weren’t featured on this track. They weren’t needed for the song. It worked well without them. This showed that the trio could sing a ballad since it’s one of the few ballads on this album.
# 4 – Red Light Special
The next song on our Top 10 TLC Songs list is the sexy “Red Light Special” from the sultry CrazySexyCool album. This sensual song has an r&b, soft rock and quiet storm sound. This sultry song is about them telling their man how to please them in bed. The second you hear the baby-making music, you know it is a Babyface song. Here is some trivia about the song. The guitar riffs were inspired by Slash from Guns N’ Roses. The guitar riffs give the song a rock edge. The percussion, keys and strings were a perfect musical marriage. The trio didn’t hold back vocally. T-Boz sounds as if she is using her bedroom voice when she tells her man exactly how to please her. Chilli pours her heart out when she sensuously lets her man know that she is all his if he wants her. This is another song that didn’t feature Left Eye’s rhymes. This song was too sensual to include rap lyrics.
# 3 – No Scrubs
This feminist inspired song is the lead single from the highly enjoyable album FanMail. This up-tempo song has an r&b and hip pop sound. This trendy song is about a man who has nothing to offer, but wants to flirt. This song is unique because it tells women what to look for in a “scrub.” The trio explained to the listeners what a “scrub” is and why they can’t get with them. Here is some trivia about the song. Writers Kandi Burress and Tameka “Tiny” Cottle were originally going to sing the song, but Dallas Austin gave it to TLC. He wanted Chilli to sing lead. He made the right choice because her vocals were impeccable. It gave Chilli a chance to sing lead instead of being a secondary vocalist. She uses a lower register instead of her signature soprano vocals. Burress and Cottle harmonize well in the background. Left Eye’s rhymes didn’t appear in the r&b version, but she is in the remix.
# 2 – Unpretty
This inspirational song is the second single from the Grammy Award winning album FanMail. This touching ballad has an r&b, pop rock and alternative rock sound. This message-filled song is about inner beauty. T-Boz got the idea to write this song when she was in the hospital. She was watching a talk show and saw women being disparaged by men. This healing song has a deep message about self-esteem. TLC didn’t do songs like this so it was a great change for them to sing a song that wasn’t about sex or having fun. The alternative rock vibe is a different touch for the group. The acoustic guitar drives the music. T-Boz uses her contralto voice because she sings high and low throughout the song. Chilli sings softly and uses her soprano vocals. They both wear their hearts on their sleeves as they sing the emotional lyrics.
# 1 – Waterfalls
The number one song on our Top 10 TLC Songs list is the heartfelt “Waterfalls” from the chart-topping album CrazySexyCool. This expressive ballad has an r&b sound. This sincere song is about people taking risks without thinking about the consequences. One verse is about a drug dealer trying to raise money. Another verse is about casual sex that leads to a sexually transmitted disease. It was a great touch for TLC to talk about these issues because they are important. This isn’t a typical TLC song because it has a deep message and refreshing message and wasn’t just about them having sex/fun. All three members of the group make appearances in the song. T-Boz’s deep-throated vocals fit nicely with the instrumentation. You can hear the pain in her voice as she sings each lyric. Chilli’s vocals are pretty good even though she’s not in the song that much. Left Eye’s rhymes were impressive. You can hear the pain in her rhymes and it was just what the song needed.
Top 10 TLC Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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