Ranking the Best TLC Albums

Before we get started, let’s run through a few stats:

  • 85 million records sold worldwide
  • A diamond-selling sophomore album, the most successful of any girl group stateside
  • Also, the largest-selling girl group in U.S. history
  • The voices behind three decade-defining albums

In an era where y’all toss around “legend” and “classic” like old sunflower seed shells, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas are true poineers.

But as I’ve said before, numbers can’t always tell the full story. My wife can, though. She literally grew up with TLC, the first group to in her lifetime to positively embrace their sexuality and got her thinking about that whole feminism thing. Decades later, her very career is dedicated to empowering women to telling their stories – all stemming from the stories told by the three ladies of TLC way back in the 90s.

That’s a legacy.

Today, let’s revisit TLC’s beloved catalog of hits. As usual, we’ll be sticking to studio LPs – no compilations or Christmas cuts. But as a bonus, I’ll be throwing in the dearly departed Left Eye’s two solo LPs (but not the unreleased NINA album – more on that later). As always, rankings were determined by album quality, consistency, and impact.

7. Eye Legacy (2009)

Soul in Stereo rating: 3 stars out of 5

Read our review here

Edd said: Eye Legacy? What’s up with that title? Am I missing a pun or something? Anyway, back in 2009, several unreleased Left Eye tracks and a few remixes from her maligned 2001 solo debut and shelved sophomore album were patched together for Eye Legacy, a tribute to one of R&B and hip-hop’s most unsung heroes. It suffers from the same sins as most posthumous releases – an overload of guest stars, random production that lacks cohesion and some spotty mixing. While I’m not a big fan of Lisa’s Supernova album, the one thing that album had in spades was personality. Due to circumstances, this release lacks that important touch. It’s a nice collection of rarities for Left Eye fans but not much else.

Forgotten favorites: “Let’s Just Do It,” “Block Party”

6. Supernova (2001)

Soul in Stereo rating: 3 stars out 5

Edd said: Left Eye’s solo release seemed doomed from the start. Singles didn’t take off, sales stalled overseas – unfortunately, as with many things Left Eye, it controversy loomed larger than the talent. Though the intentions were good, Supernova wound up pretty flawed. You could tell Lisa really had something to say here but lacked the focus and cohesion to put it together for a solid project. It would have been much better received in today’s climate (especially her soul-bearing autobiographical tracks) but overall it feels like a missed opportunity.

Forgotten favorites: “Life is Like a Park,” “Hot”

5. TLC (2017)

Soul in Stereo rating: 3 stars out 5

Read our review here

Edd said: It’s barely three years old but I bet you already forgot about TLC’s comeback album. There’s probably a reason for that. It’s more of a frustrating album than a bad one; all the elements are in place for some really good tracks, and a few actually live up to potential. Overall though, the album feels loose and kind of unfinished, like a rough draft of a more polished project. Pull out a few songs for your playlist and keep it moving; the full LP is too much of a mixed bag.

Forgotten favorites: “Way Back,” “Start a Fire,” “Perfect Girls”

4. 3D (2002)

Soul in Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Man, y’all gave this album a hard time in 2002. I get it though – the wounds hadn’t yet healed from Lisa Lopes’ death months prior, leaving a gloomy cloud over this project. Also, the lack of a hit single kept this one from reaching the heights of its record-breaking predecessors. It may have been a big step down commercially but when it comes to quality, this one has plenty of wins. TLC finds great chemistry with Missy Elliott, Babyface, The Neptunes and Organized Noise, specifically. Their days of redefining music culture with every release were gone by 2002 but the magic hadn’t completely faded yet.

Forgotten favorites: “Hands Up,” “Give It To Me While It’s Hot,” “In Your Arms Tonight”

3. Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip (1992)

Soul in Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Ah, the moment it all began. If you weren’t around in 1992, it’s hard to convey how monumental this album was. Heck, as a man, I can’t even speak to how important this album was for young women and girls of the 90s. T-Boz’s husky vocals, Chilli’s airy delivery and Left Eye’s hyperactive raps seem like the ultimate sound clash on paper but together they blended into a potent force of empowerment, serving as the voice of a rising generation. The album has a few rough spots here and there but they’re not deal breakers. From their groundbreaking blend of rap and R&B to the unabashed feminism that resounded from the core of their lyrics, this is a landmark, groundbreaking debut.

Forgotten favorites: “Somethin’ You Wanna Know,” “Shock Dat Monkey,” “Das Da Way We Like ‘Em”

2. FanMail (1999)

Soul in Stereo rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: One of TLC’s greatest strengths was their ability to evolve their sound with each release. You’d think the album’s Y2K-era digital effects and stilted android voices would sound dated today, but that’s not the case at all.  FanMail features a completely different sound from previous efforts but still boasts the same infectious cuts and poignant messages that defined a decade of TLC hits. Arguably, the album cuts are stronger than the group’s two previous releases, making this one more than just a collection of singles. I’ve spent more time with this album than any of their others due to that depth. It’s a pretty underrated release in the long run.

Forgotten favorites: “FanMail,” “I Miss You So Much,” “If They Knew”

1. CrazySexyCool (1994)

Soul in Stereo rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Yep, this one was a given. TLC’s impressive first album established them as young women who unabashedly embraced their sexuality. Their second album was a portrait of their maturation — in both themes and sounds. It’s a coming-of-age project that would inspire strength and feminism in scores of young listeners. And, of course, the album is home to some of the most memorable songs of the 1990s. “Waterfalls,” “Creep,” “Red Light Special,” “Diggin on You” – they’re all here on this ONE album. Sure, some of the album cuts don’t always land, but this album’s lineup and legacy make it one of the greatest LPs in R&B history. A true classic.

Forgotten favorites: “Kick Your Game,” “Let’s Do It Again,” “Sumthin’ Wicked This Way Comes”

How would you rank TLC’s discography? Does CrazySexyCool deserve five stars? Do Left Eye’s albums deserve more love? Let us know below in the comments.

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3 Comments

  1. Crazy Sexy Cool is a five

  2. My ranking would probably go
    4. TLC
    3. …TLC Too
    2. CrazySexyCool
    1. Fanmail
    *Props for including Left Eye’s solo work. I don’t think Supernova delivered as a good album but there are some really good songs on it and I appreciate what Lisa was trying to do with it.

  3. My ranking would probably go
    4. TLC
    3. …TLC Too
    2. CrazySexyCool
    1. Fanmail
    *Props for including Left Eye’s solo work. I don’t think Supernova delivered as a good album but there are some really good songs on it and I appreciate what Lisa was trying to do with it.

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