Is TLC the greatest female group of all time?: Head to Head with Edd

Welcome back to Head to Head with Edd, where yours truly goes toe-to-toe with the superfans of the game’s biggest artists. We’ll take a look at the selected artist’s biggest hits and misses and see where we can find common ground.

Earlier this week, I ranked TLC’s discography from bottom to top and it brought back great memories. It felt only right to keep the convo going, so I hit up my R&B progeny Damon Dunn to talk about his favorite group of all time. Let’s see where we find common ground on these three R&B legends.

You know how we kick off: Name TLC’s three best albums

Damon:

1. CrazySexyCool

2. FanMail

3. Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip

CrazySexyCool is not only the best TLC album but probably the best album recorded by a girl group during the ‘90s. After a debut that put them on the map they seamlessly evolved from a New Jack Swing group to adapt the Hip-Hip Soul sound and made a legendary album full of hits – no wonder it went diamond and is my favourite album of all time.

While I prefer On The TLC Tip, FanMail is the better album once again seamlessly transitioning to the electro-pop sound without ditching the core TLC sound.

Edd:

1. CrazySexyCool

2. FanMail

3. Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip

Like R&B father, like R&B son. Damon nailed this one. The race for the top spot is pretty close but CrazySexyCool edges out FanMail due to that unbelievable roster of groundbreaking singles. FanMail is incredible in its own right though, especially the album cuts on the second half. On the TLC Tip was a highly influential release too, the album’s New Jack Swing sound just gets a little repetitive to me after awhile. Still, this is an incredible trio of albums.

What’s their worst album?

Damon: TLC

This project was kinda doomed from the start . I’m still don’t get why people were surprised that they started a Go-Fund Me kickstarter for this album – they made it clear the they were “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” since ‘92 (I do not apologise for that pun). But the album has a few good songs “Way Back” “Haters” and “Perfect Girls” but the rest of the album is TLC trying to adapt to the 2017 time while trying to please their fans who are wanting to hear classic TLC.

Edd: TLC

I mean, DUH. Look, I don’t hate on this album as much as some do – I think y’all are still salty about unloading your money on that kickstarter and seeing that 5th grade art project album cover as a result. The album isn’t great but, as Damon pointed out, it has its moments. Unfortunately, due to hype, the insanely high bar set by their 90s releases and the changing musical landscape, there was no way they were gonna please fans.

Name TLC’s most underrated album:

Damon: 3D

Left Eye’s untimely death really hindered this album but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad album because it’s far from it. Personally I love 3D – it’s full of great songs from start to finish and while some may not stand out as much as others but the songs that do stand out (“Turntable” “Quickie” “Girl Talk” “In Your Arms Tonight” “Give It To Me While It’s Hot”) really shine here. I always get sad when listening to this album (I’ve cried a few times during “Turntable” – especially when watching the video) but as a tribute album for Left Eye it does it’s part.

Edd: 3D

In some ways, I don’t think fans gave 3D a chance simply because Left Eye wasn’t around. ” “In Your Arms Tonight” “Give It To Me While It’s Hot,” “Hands Up” – those are all really good tracks that effectively evolve the group’s sound. Like the doomed self-titled album years later, 3D was facing an uphill battle from the start and there was no way to please all fans, especially with the cloud of Left Eye’s death still looming. But 3D is far from a disaster.

Ready to talk tracks? What’s TLC’s best single?

Damon: “Creep”

“Creep” was the perfect way to introduce the world to their new sound since New Jack Swing had left the music scene and Hip-Hop soul was the ruling R&B sound at the time. It spent four weeks at the top spot on the pop charts – also the remix with the Left Eye verse is also amazing.

Edd: “No Scrubs”

Isn’t it funny how TLC brags about ladies doing dirt on “Creep” and then turn around and calls out guys for creeping on  “No Scrubs?” Is it “Oochie Wally” or is it “One Mic,” ladies, make up your minds!

Anyway, I gotta go with “No Scrubs” as their best single. Not only is it insanely catchy, “scrub” actually became a part of pop culture lexicon. When your song becomes a noun, you win.

Worst single goes to…

Damon: “Come Get Some”

First of all, TLC has a really strong single game so this was hard for me but then I remembered this from the Greatest Hits album.  I’m not a fan of the crunk sound at all, Lil Jon screaming over this has always annoyed me. Chilli’s part is the only thing I like about the song really but except from that it’s Lil Jon’s screaming for 75% of the time that just plagued this song for me. But shoutouts to “I Bet” and “Meant To Be” they are great songs from their Best Of albums.

Edd: “Come Get Some”

Thanks … well, no thanks for reminding me of “Come Get Some.” I thought I was going to have to pick on “Damaged” or “I Bet,” two songs that actually have their merits and I sorta like. As you said, TLC’s single game is so strong that it’s hard to pick a bad one. But “Come Get Some?” Yeah, this ain’t it. It’s just a generic mid-00s crunk track with Lil Jon yelling in the background. I DO NOT miss those days. TLC was known as trendsetters – the last thing I want to hear is them riding other folks’ trends.

Which album cut should have been a single?

Damon: “Sumthin’ Wicked This Way Comes”

For this one I didn’t include promotional singles (sorry “Silly Ho”) but I instead went with this song just because it would’ve been a bonafide hit. Just imagine the first verse from “Waterfalls” just extended to a 4 minute song. Also we get Andre 3000 and Left Eye on the same song while T-Boz and Chilli still shine –- y’all were blessed during the ‘90s. While T-Boz’s answer would be “Case Of The Fake People” this song was a definitely missed opportunity for another successful single for the CrazySexyCool album.

Edd: “If They Knew”

I love me some “Sumthin’ Wicked This Way Comes” but I think the better bet for a single was “If They Knew” from FanMail. It fit into the sound of  the time, I can picture the video in my head (half “Creep,” half robotic “No Scrubs” dance moves cuz that’s what you did in the late 90s) and it’s just a super underrated cut.  

TLC has some incredibly iconic videos. Which one is the best?

Damon: “What About Your Friends”

Honestly any video from that era would have been my choice (is it only me who has a weird fascination with that era?) but the “What About Your Friends” video is everything I want and more from them during their early days – bright colours, oversized clothes, dancing and the low budget look. It might not be any cinematic masterpiece but it’s what I love about TLC so I’m more than happy.

Edd: “Waterfalls”

Gotta be “Waterfalls.” I still remember MTV doing the “Making of” special on this one, and that was a big deal back then. The storytelling was much more cinematic that the usual “sit on a stoop and nod your head up and down” video tropes at the time. And trust, it might look goofy now but the ladies turning into T-1000-style water constructs was next-level imagery. Easily one of the best videos of the era, maybe one of the best of all time.

T-Boz, Left Eye or Chilli – who had the best shot at being a solo star?

Damon: Left Eye

This one is a given , Lisa embodies star quality. Ignoring the commercial flop of her debut and looking at her work between 1998 and 2002, guest features on songs by some legends – Donell Jones, Toni Braxton, Goodie Mob, Lil Kim, Will Smith, *Nsync and more – and also forming the girl group Blaque who’s debut went platinum. Obviously now we are just left with unfulfilled potential and many what ifs due to her untimely death. But the member that I would like to see solo stuff from today is Chilli just because she’s one of my favourite vocalists and probably my favourite member of the group.

Edd: Left Eye

It’s pretty crazy that the only high-profile solo material we got from the ladies was Left Eye’s ill-fated debut and that T-Boz song. YOU KNOW THE ONE.

But yeah, Left Eye obviously was the choice for breakout star. She’s a pretty elite rapper, has a distinct style, and most importantly in 2020, she would have been a must-follow on social media. Talent is fourth or fifth on the list of musical priorities today – if you IG is poppin’, you’re a star. And can you IMAGINE what Left Eye’s Twitter would look like in the 21st century? She’d be the queen of social media.

And yep, the music would be pretty good too, so there’s that.

While we’re talking about Left Eye, what was her best rap verse?

Damon: “Waterfalls”

This verse is legendary and for a reason. This steals the show on “Waterfalls” and every time I listen to that song I spend the entire second chorus saving my breath so I can perform this to an audience of zero. But shout out to her verses from “Space Cowboy” “I’m Good At Being Bad” and “U Know What’s Up.”

Edd: “Waterfalls”

“Waterfalls” is the one for sure. I mean, this woman said:

Who’s to blame for tooting ‘caine into your own vein?
What a shame, you shoot and aim for someone else’s brain
You claim the insane, and name this day in time
For falling prey to crime
I say the system’s got you victim to your own mind

And reading it doesn’t even convey the incredible cadence in which she delivered it. Masterful penmanship and masterful flow, that’s hip-hop ladies and gents, spare me your sleepy ~ v i b e z ~

But shout out to her being “the lady going craaaaazy on your pop-sickle” on Keith Sweat’s “How Do You Like It.” That always cracked me up.

Does TLC have any classic albums? If so, how many?

Damon: CrazySexyCool is a definite classic , you can make the argument for FanMail but I’m going to stick with one classic album, however the inner stan in me would say five but I’m a reasonable stan (a rare case in certain fandoms). I mean, come on it, has four classic singles, an all-star production team, successful in charts and sales and it’s one of the best and influential albums of the ‘90s.

Edd: LOL at “reasonable stan.” That’s like saying “no, your honor, I’m just slightly psychotic.” While I wouldn’t say it’s a five-star album (yes, people have been giving me grief about my rating all week, give a playa a break), CrazySexyCool is definitely a classic album, for all the reasons Damon mentioned. And while I’m typically the guy who is way too stingy with the term “classic,” I wouldn’t be too mad if someone tapped FanMail or On the TLC Tip as well. Both are filled with critically and commercially celebrated tracks and both were turning points in R&B fandom.

Is TLC the greatest female R&B group of all time?

Damon: I’m going to say yes. The Supremes were a close second but I feel like they were a Destiny’s Child of the ‘60s while every member of TLC stand out as individuals while also working well as a group. Their run in the 90s is unmatched by any girl group in history and that’s why they are the best of all time.

Edd: Best female group of the 90s? Without a doubt. All time? That’s a lot trickier. They’re neck and neck with the Supremes, who have like 12 No. 1 singles of their own and are probably more influential on a wider scale. I will say in all certainty that there hasn’t been a female group better than TLC since their historic run – yes, Beyhive, including Destiny’s Child. They’re unmatched.

Who did you agree with most? Is Damon the crazy/sexy/coolest or does Edd deserve the fanmail? Let us know below.

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3 Comments

  1. I was with you Ed until your very last sentence. LOL!

  2. If the third lineup of Destiny’s Child had been the lineup from the get-go, I’d rate them a little higher. But for much of the group, it was all about Beyonce. TLC is better because like Edd said, each member was an individual and you felt each of their contributions to the group. Left Eye was dope af, but we lost any of the three, it was never going to be the same.

    Chili was The One for me, too.

  3. I wouldn’t compare TLC to any other girl group. People do this all the time and it’s really misleading. They weren’t a vocal group, they were a trio of unique individual artists who formed a supergroup. It’s like comparing LSG to Boyz II Men or Shai, or comparing Mint Condition (a band) to 112 (a vocal group). They just do different things.

    This is a common mistake. TLC is peerless not just because they were monstrous commercially and creatively, but because their very existence is an anomaly.

    For the record, the best girl groups are LaBelle, En Vogue and The Supremes. In that order.

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