The story of TLC post the car crash that killed Lisa ‘Left-Eye’ Lopez in 2002 has been one that combines dignity with desire. Comfortably one of the biggest pop bands in the world at the time (they’re still the second best selling girl group ever), surviving members Rozonda Thomas and Tionne Watkins have kept their promise not to replace their lost colleague, yet have still operated on and off as a duo over the years. Talk of new material has come to little and so the hits are once again being revisited, this time on the back of an upcoming biopic based on their story.
What a story it is though and, in part, what hits they were. Two decades old some of them may be but they still sound amazingly contemporary. The earliest tracks, taken from debut Oooooooh….On The TLC Tip, are as frothy and exuberant as the title suggests (especially ‘Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg’) but by follow up Crazy…Sexy….Cool, the trio had taken control of their own sound and destiny. ‘Red Light Special’ and ‘Diggin’ On You’ are sultry enough ballads, yet it was the double whammy of ‘Creep’ and ‘Waterfalls’ that announced them as a commercial and credible force – Afghan Whigs would go on to cover the former in stylish fashion.
As the movie will no doubt reflect, TLC would never quite be the same again afterwards – battling debt, internal conflict, addiction and the law. On record though there was still joy to be had, especially the mighty ‘No Scrubs’ and the still accurate take on female body issues ‘Unpretty’, but Lopez was already on her way out by the time she took her fateful trip to Honduras. 20 doesn’t rake over such painful ground, however, instead focusing on their musical legacy. While some of their influence still extends over today’s pop females, many of the key elements – the attitude, political outlook and sense of social responsibility – has been lost. TLC reflected a spirit and pride that is sadly lacking from the likes of Rihanna and her ilk. They did crazy. They did sexy. But they also did cool too and that was made them one of a kind.