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From 1991 to 2002, TLC established that they would become one of the most influential female R&B groups in music. Although they haven’t released an album in 15 years, that success still lingers today.
It’s been 14 years since the tragic passing of member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and remaining members Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas have returned with TLC’s comeback single “Way Back,” off their forthcoming and final album. The track premiered on iHeartRadio on May 4 and has that smooth TLC tone to it, while the lyrics reflect the group’s longstanding bond.
It’s been nearly 20 years, yet TLC fans are still singing along to chart toppers like “No Scrubs,” “Creep” and “Unpretty.” The Atlanta trio’s second album CrazySexyCool featured four No. 1s on the Billboard Charts and is the only album by an all-female R&B group to be certified diamond (over 10 million copies sold).
TLC’s mix of strong singing and rapping, with their colourful, oversized ensembles and infectious energy, made them a standout in the ever-crowded market of girl groups back in the ’90s. They were one of the first female groups to combine singing, rapping and dancing. That impact has lasted throughout the years, and led other groups like Destiny’s Child and the Spice Girls to follow in their footsteps.
But it’s not just TLC’s groundbreaking musical style that solidified them as front-runners in the R&B genre over the years. Rather, it’s the subtle social cues embedded in their music.
TLC kept fans interested by consistently delivering messages in their songs worthy of our attention. TLC provided a strong voice for young women—specifically, women of colour—that was one of confidence and self-awareness, but never entitlement.
Yet, TLC’s message wasn’t only to empower women. They continually aimed to spread social consciousness across all genders and races with their music. They weren’t the kind of R&B group that only sang love songs, but instead, rapped about sisterhood, safe sex and social issues. The group’s Grammy-nominated “Waterfalls” is one of these songs.
As the third single off 1995’s CrazySexyCool album, “Waterfalls” sought to educate the younger generation of the risks of living a life of dissoluteness. The video featured two storylines: one of a young man murdered after a drug deal goes wrong, the other of a couple having unprotected sex and, in turn, dying from AIDS. It’s songs like “Waterfalls,” with meaningful lyrics and its heavy music video, that has remained relevant amidst today’s social conversations.
And TLC fans still want more. The group’s upcoming self-titled album, set to drop June 30, is entirely funded by Kickstarter, with pledges starting at $5. This will be their first album solely featuring T-Boz and Chilli. To date, the Kickstarter fund has raised more the $430,000, all because of their unwavering fan base.
Maybe their comeback is a piece of nostalgia, fueling what fans want to see more of in today’s music industry. But, more likely, it’s something that Left Eye, T-Boz and Chilli delivered from the get-go—some much-needed cultural TLC.