The year was 1994, and R&B super group TLC followed up to their debut ‘Ohhhh….On the TLC Tip’, with the now iconic CrazySexyCool album. The title of the album represented each member’s supposed personality. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (Crazy), and Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas (Sexy), Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins (Cool) were already well known around the urban markets from their highly successful first album which included the Top 100 hits: “Ain’t To Proud To Beg,” “Baby Baby Baby,“ and “What About Your Friends.”
But once CrazySexyCool hit, the music/fashion/pop world would never be the same. This album signified TLC’s step into adulthood. Everything just clicked perfectly with what was going on in R&B/Pop in the mid-90’s. TLC pulled off something that’s very rare in the world of music entertainment: they had a sound that was interesting and unique for both men and women. The songs were super catchy, the groups fashion sense was edgy and cool plus all three had that around-the-way-girl look or (since this was 1994), a homey-lover-friend vibe about them that the guys all loved.
With this release, TLC earned sold more than 10 million albums with the RIAA and they were the first all-girl group to achieve that accomplishment. The wildly successful album went on to sell over 23 million copies and earned TLC a spot in music/pop history. Let’s take a look at why this album was such a big movement for TLC.
With noted producers such as Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs, the album was expected to crank out some monster hits, and it more than delivered. The trio’s first release from the album was the smooth, laid back-type jam “Creep.” It outlined T-Boz’s love for her man, but her desire not to hurt him by him knowing about her cheating on him. In effect, she was creeping around so she wouldn’t get caught. While the song’s groove was very cool and catchy, there were two other main takeaways from the single. The first takeaway was the actual slang term ‘creep’. The term ‘creepin’ was a new-ish type slang back in 1994 and is still used and popular today referring to cheating on your partner without them knowing. The second main takeaway: the video that accompanied the song.
The public were used to seeing the trio all covered up in baggy jeans and hoodies, but TLC surprised everyone by being in silk pajamas that showed off their bodies during the whole video. Guys got a little tease of ‘what was under the hoodie’ for the girls in the previous TLC video “Hat to Da Back” in a daydream sequence where the girls wore form fitting dresses, but this was different altogether. More than a few guys recorded the video from BET or MTV and paused the tape when T-Boz pulled the move where you could see more of her – ahem – assets than she ever shown before:
The group then followed up with the slow jam “Red Light Special” which vaguely mirrored one of the groups previous slow jam hits “Baby Baby Baby” except with more adult-like bedroom lyrics and a raunchy (for 1995) video that reversed roles a bit where men (instead of the women) stripped down to their underwear and played the submissive role to the trio in the clip.
Riding the successes of “Creep” and “Red Light Special,” TLC then released what would be their biggest hit to date, “Waterfalls”. The main message on this bluesy-type song was to stay focused your journey or path and not to get caught up with other distractions or it could cost you. “Waterfalls” was a big step for TLC as a group because until this song, they were a mainly playful group that never really had any deep type of message in their previous songs. The song was actually written by Left Eye (and a member of Organized Noise, an Atlanta based production company responsible for writing hits for Outkast and Goodie Mob just to name a few). While tame by today’s standards, the song tackled once taboo subjects such as drug dealing and catching the HIV virus by not being safe while having sex and using condoms. TLC once again upped their video game by having movie-like 3D special effects for the “Waterfalls” video that were rarely seen in the mid-90’s.
The trio would finally release the mid-tempo “Diggin on You” as their fourth and final single from the album.
One of the biggest things about TLC back when CrazySexyCool was released, maybe even more than their music itself, was their fashion sense. TLC hit the scene wearing the then super trendy, bright, and baggy Cross Colours clothing as their main source of outfits. They would then accent the outfits with anything from glasses with a condom wrapper for the lens to oversized hats with loads of condom wrappers taped to it (hey, it was the 90’s!). Not to mention the huge unlaced Timbs the group usually preferred as footwear. But with a more adult-like vibe to the music on CrazySexyCool, TLC’s fashion sense also evolved. While the overall look stayed somewhat similar (oversized and comfortable) TLC began to appear in photos with more mid-drift baring outfits that showed off their toned abs and great bodies. Not to mention Left Eye began to rock the band aid under her…..left eye….and started that trend for teens all around the country that were big TLC fans. Between the fashion and flavor from the first and second albums, TLC showed that they weren’t afraid to take risks….again, condom wrappers as the lens in some glasses!….to make the public take notice of their style.
CrazySexyCool was nominated six times and ended up winning two Grammys. Rolling Stone named the album one of the best 500 albums of all time and called TLC’ the best and most soulful R&B girl group since the Supremes’. Back in 2013, a VH-1 movie was made about the group and their time together and it was clear that ‘CrazySexyCool’ was the high point of this legendary groups career. TLC remains one of the top selling groups (male or female) of all time and the feelings and songs from the classic album will always capture the time period perfectly.
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Remember When: A Look Back At TLC’s ‘CrazySexyCool’ Album was originally published on theurbandaily.com