Throughout the modern age we have been bombarded with band after band, some become iconic and leave a lasting impact on the world and music and others falling into insignificance after their initial success has faded. To me, far too many girl-groups fall into the latter category – they find success but it is short-lived and then they are all but forgotten. However, there is one girl group in particular whose legacy and importance is just as large as it was when they were originally about; the group is TLC.
TLC changed the game in a big big way, even their critics cannot ignore the fact that they sold a huge amount of records in the 1990’s and paved the way for many female artists to come. Their debut album is fifteen tracks of solid gold, covering a multitude of topics, rather than the usual boy orientated songs that are churned out so regularly. “Oooooooh…… On the TLC Tip” is proof that T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli weren’t about generic songs and vague lyrics – they arrived on the scene with a bang and continued to excel. It is songs such as What About Your Friends that highlight their value as female role models and as an alternative source of information on what it means to be a girl. The track is all about having a strong, dependable group of friends that you can depend on through anything and how those relationships are one of the most important things you can have in life.
I first fell in love with them after hearing the now iconic track Waterfalls. The song is nothing short of perfection in my eyes, once again managing to open up discussions on topics that most artists shy away from – such as death and illnesses like AIDS and the devastating consequences it has. The combination of such subjects with Left Eye’s heart-breaking yet also hopeful rap about finding yourself and not giving up makes it, in my opinion, one of the best songs ever written and is monumental in regards to teaching young people about growing up and the obstacles that they may face. On a different note to Waterfalls the group have a large catalogue of tracks all about empowerment and female independence – topics that are still desperately important to talk about. What makes them so great to me is that their unique sense of style and big personalities really make you warm to them and in a way, when listening to their songs and what they have to say about all of these issues it’s more like a big sister telling you rather than a seemingly distant pop group.
The group’s third album FanMail continued in the same vein as their previous offerings, discussing issues such as self-esteem and learning to love yourself. One song stands out to me as being of great importance to young women and that is Unpretty. Society constantly bombards us with strict expectations on how we should dress, look, behave and love – things that are sadly often brought into relationships too, where women can often be made to lose the confidence they had previously due to these expectations being placed upon them by their partner. This is what the band is singing about in the track – how, sometimes even if on the outside a person projects an image of happiness and confidence, underneath they can be lonely and think very little of themselves.
It is TLC’s attention-to-detail with their lyrics and their desire to educate their young audience on the importance of safe-sex that elevates them to true greatness in the field. They managed to create an image of female independence and still show young girls that being feminist is not only important but also nothing to be ashamed of – even in a society that more often that not tells us it is, all while being uber cool, super stylish and making brilliant music. Although Lisa’s tragic death meant we were only blessed with four albums – their legacy lives on and I hope that many more young people like myself will continue to discover TLC and their message.