Still CrazySexyCool: the enduring influence of TLC
- Arusa Qureshi
- 27 June 2017
With the group set to release their first new material in 15 years, we take a look back at their legacy
Do you remember when you found your first girl gang? A group that you held in such high regard that their music, fashion, and every move influenced how you lived your life. In the 90s, R&B supergroups dominated the hearts and minds of teenage girls all around the world, with female empowerment and self-determination leading much of the conversation. But of all the girl groups that pushed this message, none were more successful or prominent in their efforts than TLC.
Apart from being the best-selling American girl group of all time, TLC paved the way for many future all-female bands, from Spice Girls in the UK to Destiny's Child in the US, delivering a sound that was both uniquely marketable and socially self-aware. Their music offered a rare blend of power-driven R&B and confident hip hop, merged with fashion that was bold and moves that were effortlessly cool. With the combination of T-Boz and Chilli's commanding vocals and Left Eye's rapping, their songs consistently conveyed feminist themes and spoke of issues that mattered from sexual agency to female solidarity. For young women in the 90s, TLC were a symbol of fearlessness but for women of colour, they were much more; a declaration of pride, tenacity and self-worth.
More than 20 years later, their influence is seen clearly in the music of modern day girl groups. Last year, while making her new reality TV series, Chasing Destiny, Kelly Rowland gave a number of interviews where she noted how vital it was for young women of colour to have role models. As she told Galore: 'I feel like it's so important for young girls to feel like they can see someone who looks like them who they can identify with.' The show, which followed Rowland as she put together a girl group in the same vein as Destiny's Child, placed a particular emphasis on African-American women, with Rowland stating in the same interview: 'I just wanted to make sure that I tapped into the feeling of the way I felt when I saw TLC.'
Girl groups can get a lot of flak for merely existing these days, with trolls regularly on the look-out for ways to belittle and diminish their efforts. Fifth Harmony are just one example, having faced an onslaught of both racist and sexist abuse online on multiple occasions. But while they may seem trivial to a lot of people, these groups have the power to affect the lives of young girls in ways that are unimaginable. TLC's function and significance went far beyond merely the commercial and the reaction to the upcoming release of their self-titled new album underlines this, with first single 'Way Back' already confirming that the duo are still at the top of their game.
Despite largely stepping away from the limelight after the tragic death of Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes in 2002, T-Boz and Chilli announced in 2015 that they would be releasing the album with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. A mere 48 hours later, they surpassed their goal, with the album quickly becoming the 'fastest most funded pop project in Kickstarter history'. As well as emphasising their popularity, the campaign acted as further proof of their lasting impact across generations.
For women everywhere, and women of colour in particular, TLC are a group that will always remain synonymous with the very idea of female independence and empowerment. Their's is a girl gang that will forever be remembered and known for their infectious energy, unrelenting sense of cool, and enduring message of sisterhood.
New album TLC is out on Fri 30 Jun, via 852 Musiq.