TLC’s 15 Best Deep Cuts & Album Tracks
As TLC, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas earned the title of the best-selling American female group of all time with their long string of platinum hits, including "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg," "Waterfalls" and "No Scrubs," but how well do you know the trio's discography? Here's a rundown of their best songs that aren't as well-known as their smashes.
Partly inspired by Tawana Brawley, an African-American teenager who alleged in 1987 that four white men had raped her, "His Story" is a tale about toxic masculinity and the women whose sexual assault and harassment allegations are too easily dismissed by society.
Left Eye takes us back to the beginning on "This Is How It Should Be Done," recalling her journey from Philadelphia to Atlanta, where she arrived with $750 and a keyboard, met T-Boz and Chilli and auditioned for LaFace to become the "L" of TLC. They get bonus points for sampling the Impressions' R&B hit "We're a Winner" and doing it justice.
On the set's penultimate track, the threesome boast about being independent and in control of their own lives after some trifling dude tries desperately to win them over by promising to take care of them financially.
Fellas, if you thought about stepping to T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli back in the day, you had to bring your A-game and come with something more clever than just your name. TLC's chemistry is undeniable on "Kick Your Game," and it's one of the few instances where Jermaine Dupri and the trio join forces to create a funky groove for the ages, making it a highlight on CrazySexyCool, which ended up selling over 14 million units worldwide.
Taking influences from the O'Jays' 1972 smash hit "Back Stabbers," TLC's "Case of the Fake People" is a classy send-off to all the opportunists out there, and it comes with a certain level of wisdom that's expected on a sophomore project.
With the arrival of CrazySexyCool, a modern masterpiece, TLC graduated from a boisterous sound to grown-and-sexy vibes. Take "Let's Do It Again," for instance. "You sexy thang you / Whatever it is you want from me you know I'll satisfy," T-Boz purrs in the first verse of this slow jam. The tension rises during the bridge, which borrows from Yarbrough and Peoples' "Don't Stop the Music."
"Switch" is the ultimate proof that there ain't no party like a TLC party. With Jean Wright's "Mr. Big Stuff" guitar riff sample leading the way, feminist heroes T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli let it be known that girls just wanna have fun and not every single gal strives to be in a committed relationship."
TLC's CrazySexyCool remains the best-selling album by an American girl group due to the platinum hits "Creep" and "Waterfalls," but don't sleep on the disc's closer. "Sumthin' Wicked This Way Comes" contains Left Eye's most poignant verse after "Waterfalls." The Organized Noize-produced track critiques the then-current state of the world, but the lyrics still ring true today. "I just don't understand / The ways of the world today / Sometimes I feel / Like there's nothing to live for / So I'm longing for the days of yesterday," the group broods on the song's refrain.
Featured on the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack, "This Is How It Works" is essentially sex education for grown ups, e.g., "Make it smooth, take your time / Make it groove, in, out, in / Make it last / Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss my ah."
Built around a sample of War's "Slippin' Into Darkness," the lyrical content of "I'm Good at Being Bad" comes as a bit of a surprise. The track opens with soft strings and lovey-dovey lines about sunny days, birds chirping and long, romantic walks on the beach. Then, without warning, a ferocious beat drops and the ladies of TLC reveal their raunchy fantasies, taking a page straight out of Lil' Kim's book. For nearly five explicit minutes, T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli spell out exactly what they expect in the bedroom. Initial pressings feature an interpolation of Donna Summer's 1975 disco hit, "Love to Love You Baby."
Part of what made TLC unstoppable in their heyday was their audacity to live by their own rules. "My Life," produced by Jermaine Dupri, is TLC's legacy in a nutshell, and Left Eye's rap takes it to new heights as she spits an epic verse that gives listeners a glimpse into her upbringing. To this day, superfans can't seem to wrap their heads around why this track was never released as a single.
As the third and final single from 1999's FanMail, "Dear Lie" was a moderate hit compared to "No Scrubs" and "Unpretty," which spent a combined total of seven weeks atop the charts. Co-written by T-Boz herself, the powerful ballad forces the listener to confront their demons and overcome them. The accompanying music video documents the final time all three members were spotted together in the same frame before Left Eye's untimely death in 2002.
In 1999, a new millennium was on the horizon and a lot of artists experimented with the idea of what the future would look and sound like. A handful of the tracks on FanMail predicted the future in the most uncanny way with dial-up sounds and a recurring android character named Vic-E. On the futuristic "Lovesick," a recent breakup takes a turn for the worse when T-Boz learns that her ex has moved onto another relationship just two weeks after calling it quits.
Although the pop/rock hybrid "Damaged" deals with the aftermath of an unhealthy relationship, many of the song's lyrics could act as a metaphor for Left Eye's painful absence following the rapper's fatal car accident, e.g. "My heart's at a low / I'm so much to manage." Peaking at No. 53, it marked the last time TLC would grace the Billboard Hot 100.
In 2017, TLC released their first studio album, which was funded through Kickstarter, in 15 years. After going "way back" with Snoop Dogg, putting "haters" in their place and declaring that "perfect girls ain't real," T-Boz and Chilli get sentimental on the set's closing number. "Thank you for stayin' by my side / Hope you all enjoy the ride," sing the two surviving TLC members on the chorus of "Joyride," which serves as a bittersweet ending to the group's remarkable career.