Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back In the Day: No Scrubs

I'm a little late to this juncture (something I tend to keep repeating, but look for an influx of posts over the next few days as I begin to hit the ground running for a real job search), but here is the much overdue next installment of Back in the Day.

While 2008 threatened to be the year of the new boyband (Day26, NLT, V Factory, Menudo, Brutha, Jackie Boyz, etc.), 2009, now halfway through is shaping up to be the year of the chick band. And I say chick, not "girl", because the groups that are shaping up seem to be a smattering of street-smart chicks, rather than the hyper-innocent pop groups that sprouted up in the earlier part of this decade (I'm looking at you, Innosense). We have lots of potentially good stuff to look forward to -- Electrik Red, Sophia Fresh, Paradiso Girls, Jada, Candy Coated Chaos, heck -- even Girlicious and the Pussycat Dolls, as much as I'm a bit unsure to state this, are churning out floor-stomping hits that make you feel cool and sexy to be a woman (I still feel Doll Domination was a pretty poor bow, but "Hush Hush; Hush Hush" is turning into one of my new jams, and I'm not afraid to admit it).

This takes me back to the girl groups of yore who were so cool, you envisioned yourself being one of them, dancing and swaggering around beside them. Destiny's Child certainly had a hard-to-surpass reign in the early 2000s, but there would have been no DC3, if there hadn't been for a little group called TLC.

For every person who is a pop, r&B and girl group fan, TLC is an absolute must. In fact, it pains me to think that this trio of incredibly talented women only released four albums of original material with its original members.

TLC was comprised of Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez and Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas. The group made their debut back in 1992 on the now legendary LaFace label with their album, Ooooooohhh...On the TLC Tip. The best known single from the album was their debut single -- "Ain't 2 Proud To Beg". The majority of the album was produced by Dallas Austin, properly solidifing his career as an r&B producer. He would go on to work with Blu Cantrell and P!NK.

However, TLC's career would go to all kinds of new heights with the release of their sophomore album, Crazysexycool, in late 1994. The album provided r&B classics "Diggin' On You", "Red Light Special", "Creep", and of course, the monumental and epic "Waterfalls". Both "Creep" and "Waterfalls" went to #1 on the Hot 100 chart. It was this album that first truly introduced me to the girls, and I knew every word to "Waterfalls" (including Left Eye's rap). I still do.

Despite their success with the album (it has sold over 15 million copies worldwide to date), TLC filed for bankruptcy the following summer after its release due to bad business deals.

Fans had to wait for what felt like an eternity for the group's third album -- FanMail -- which finally saw release in February of 1999. The holdups were varied, ranging from baby drama between Chilli and producer Dallas Austin, and questions of solo projects. However, once "No Scrubs" saw the light of radio, there was no turning back -- and it was one of the many reasons why 1999 was such a glory year for pop.

The song introduced several new slang terms into the cultural lexicon, the most obvious being the term scrub which was omnipresent as "bringing sexy back" was in 2006. The song also won the group two Grammy Awards that year -- one of them being for Best R&B Song. It was written (and produced) by She'kspere, who is woefully under-represented in today's very urban-twinged pop market, as well as two members of fellow R&B girl group Xscape. Aside from his work on Destiny's Child's sophomore and breakthrough album The Writings On the Wall, and the *NSYNC track "It Makes Me Ill" off their No Strings Attrached album, I don't know of much more of his capabilities.

"No Scrubs" saw at the #1 position on the Hot 100 from April to early May 1999, sitting at the top for four weeks, sandwiched inbetween Cher ("Believe") and Ricky Martin ("Livin' La Vida Loca") in the hit timeline.

Fanmail is overall my favorite TLC album in terms of content, although it would be totally remiss to not suggest CrazySexyCool into everyone's iTunes playlist. Other tracks worthy of listening include "FanMail", "I'm Good At Being Bad", "Silly Ho", "Dear Lie" and of course, "Unpretty", which also went to #1 and would be the group's last.

The group's final and fourth album, 3D, which included the moderate hit "Girl Talk", was released in late 2002, a little more than a half year after Left Eye was killed in an automobile accident in Honduras that past April. She was in the country for a charity mission, and footage from her visit there, including disturbing film footage from inside the car as it crashed was aired in a documentary, entitled The Last Days of Left Eye, broadcast in 2007 on Vh1. Since Left Eye's death, TLC's legacy continues on in its influence on current pop, r&B and urban music, and a mix of their greatest hits, dubbed Now and Forever: The Hits was released in 2005.


Nikki said...

I absolutely adore 'No Scrubs' even if I wasn't aware of its hit status during the time. It kinda became my friend's anthem for a while and she got me addicted to it as well - it's truly brilliant.

Myfizzypop said...

shockingly, waterfalls is darren's least fave song ever along with dreams by gabrielle!! it's amazing we ever got together at all! I forgave him cos he likes the rap in Never Be The Same Again by Mel C

Mike said...

TLC were amazing! The were one of the first urban acts to really break through in Australia and I still remember feeling extremely cool when I bought their albums/singles. Great post!

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