It’s been a long time coming. Yep. When it comes to TLC, that’s definitely an understatement. The sexy (Chilli) and cool (T-Boz) members of TLC have pushed forward as a duo since the loss of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. Despite several tours, a juicy biopic and sporadic single releases, TLC is the first studio album from the group in 15 years (since 2002’s 3D). The new, self-titled project came later than fans expected. Their 2015 Kickstarter campaign blew the doors off their funding ask. However, the album took “a long time coming” to create. Here is my take on each of the songs from the new album.
Well, hello there. This song will keep the rock the tweeters of your speakers. They proudly boast that they, “Forever keep it crazy, sexy, with the AC blast” and “play in every country”. So many groups couldn’t (or shouldn’t) have the audacity to make such a bold introductory statement. But, it’s TLC and they pull it off well.
The album’s first single has an infectious backyard boogie. The smooth harmonies of T-Boz and Chilli (along with Snoop Dogg’s rap) will easily take you back down memory lane. It feels like 1995 all over again. There’s also an extended version of the song on the album, which is better than the short version because it includes Chilli’s saucy bridge.
An upbeat, positive song about being on the brighter side of life’s struggles. The song samples Earth, Wind & Fire’s classic hit, “September”. Add in some live horns, drums and a hint of disco, and it’s instant vintage greatness.
My least favorite track on the album. I must admit this one has grown on me though. Plus, you have to give it to TLC. They know how to make people feel better about themselves. This song reiterates the notion that haters are irrelevant and shouldn’t be given any attention.
Just think “Unpretty” 2017. This song tackles self image issues, specifically with the current social media trends of filters, selfies and enhancements. TLC urges us to let it all go, be real and love yourself.
Left Eye’s sole presence on the album is lifted from a TLC interview from MTV’s Past, Present and Future (filmed over 20 years ago). The eerie thing is just 3 years before her untimely passing, her voice was taken from another piece of that same interview to create pieces of the Fanmail album’s title track. This reminds me of how much her energy is missed.
Start A Fire
I wasn’t ready. What kind of sticky, sultry, acoustic neo soul seduction is this? You have to hear it to understand it. Even after 25 years, this song proves TLC still has some musical tricks up their sleeve. Hands down one of the best songs on the album.
TLC gut punches us right after they hand us the cigarette we needed after “Start A Fire”. This song reminds us why TLC still matters and always has. They sing, “I lost some stars/My heart bleeds red, white and blue”. The song pays tribute to fallen soldiers and calls out the injustice happening in America today. “American Gold” (one of several songs co-written by T-Boz) is the most intense offering on TLC.
TLC has always spoken boldly about their bedroom requirements. “Scandalous” continues that trend. They still ain’t too proud to beg, but only if it’s worth it. T-Boz and Chilli drift into trendy waters, with the techno trap tinged production. They pull it off exceptionally well though.
Well this one likely won’t be played on the radio. However, it’s not due to lack of potential. In fact, this is another one of the album’s great standouts. This must be what happens when a scrub persists to the point of insanity. This time, they just simply say, “aye mutha%$^&*” and walk away. Left Eye would have delivered a hot, fiesty rap to this one.
This song is the obvious choice for the album’s closer. It’s the curtain call that reminds us of the bittersweet reality that TLC is done (at least making albums). They thank the fans for sticking by them the whole time. Although the mood of the song is upbeat, you can’t help but feel a melancholy chill in the air after it ends.
Will TLC go down as their greatest album ever? Probably not. CrazySexyCool will still hold that title in the hearts of many. However, T-Boz and Chilli don’t try to recreate their past successes here. That alone is what makes them so legendary. This is not to say that they don’t recognize their brightest moments themselves. The album artwork and CD packaging even borrows from their past.
There are bright colors, like O000oh On The TLC Tip. The inside of the CD jacket has similar formatting to CrazySexyCool. Their outfits have a futuristic flare, much like the Fanmail era. No other girl group’s legacy has mattered as much. They simply speak from the heart as they’ve always done and deliver some kick ass music along the way. It seems a piece of TLC is better than none at all. Sounds like they still have too much great music left in them to totally call it quits.