Going Shopping: TLC's 'CrazySexyCool'

On January 13, 2016


Ah, TLC. What can be said that shows enough appreciation to one of the greatest female groups of all time. My very first memory of TLC was obviously “Waterfalls.” I remember listening to it on the car stereo after my mom picked us up from school and my sister saying “turn it up! I love this song.” She kept talking about how it was so sad, and I didn’t really understand why, but if she liked the song, that meant TLC was cool and I would learn about them too.

I had a friend in middle school named Kristin who was like, the ultimate cool girl. Finally, in 6th grade, she finally let me be her friend. Sort of. We would always meet in the bathroom and ask “are you mad at me” because we were 11 years old and drama could be found in any and all situations if we tried hard enough. She would sometimes decide day by day if I was her friend. One time after a sleepover we had a girl scout meeting and she told me my shoes were stupid, and that I was annoying her, and then an hour later she asked to have a sleepover again. Her mom would always let her come to school with sparkles on her eyes, even though we had a very strict Catholic school uniform, and two strands on her face when her hair was up in a ponytail. She told me about people like Ja Rule and J-Lo and taught me things like what “slut” meant, what beer tasted like and what sex was. Which was when your parents kiss and roll around naked, obviously.

Anyway, Kristin became obsessed with TLC in 6th and 7th grade. She used to draw a black line underneath her left eye in homage to Lisa ‘Left-Eye’ Lopes whenever we would have playdates. I remember being at her house and her replaying “Scrubs” on repeat, making me and Kim, our other friend, learn what moves we could so we could perform this song for the talent show. She got mad at me the week of the talent show, or Lip Sync, as we called it at St. Pats, and told me I wasn’t allowed to be in the group anymore. It was only going to be her and Kim, which was weird, since TLC has three people. But I let it go… when in actuality held onto it until my early twenties and didn’t realize that it was burned inside of me until I had to sit down with my therapist and go through all the grudges I held in my life that I never let go of. Wonder how you’re doing, Kristin. Remember when you made out with a boy in 7th grade and told me you would kill me if I told your mom?

Anyway, TLC is my middle school. When Lisa passed away that fateful day in a car wreck, Kristin came into school in her uniform, but also with red eyes and a very light marking under her eye. She’s the one who broke the news to us, and seeing her get upset, made me upset, even though I didn’t feel the same she did about the band. After Left-Eye’s death, I tapped into their music more than ever. That’s a way of grieving, right? When someone dies there’s an automatic pull to get close to them, even if you weren’t so close before. When I was 12, I did the same thing. I would sneak on MTV upstairs in my moms room and wait for their videos to come on. I knew “Scrubs”, and after watching their other videos, I became infatuated with Chilli. She was so pretty and her stomach had so many muscles and I remembered anytime anyone asked me who my favorite musician was, I would always say “Chilli from TLC” for a least a month or so. Other than Boys II Men, TLC was my first introduction to R&B and slow jams.

It wasn’t until I was older did I realize how important TLC was for young women at the time. “Waterfalls” became one of the saddest songs ever written once I got into high school and started losing classmates to drugs. It’s weird when you get older and music you used to listen to when you were younger finally makes sense.

TLC was a powerful trio of musicians who did not give a shit about what anyone thought. They were nice, not too corporate, and when Lisa decided to rap, she always killed it. I remember watching a documentary on them on VH1, and hearing about Left-Eyes arson stint (in which I remember thinking, oh my gosh what a crazy badass she is) their bankruptcy challenges and issues with their labels, you remember that these girls were only around their early 20’s when life hit them quick. They continued to make brutally honest songs like the beauty that is “Unpretty” and the witty “Silly Ho”. Re-listening to the album Fanmail now and realizing that “Don’t Pull Out On Me, Yet” had a meaning I couldn’t even fathom when I was 11, but oh my, that is one hell of a feminist anthem. After revisiting the album CrazySexyCool a couple of years ago, and hearing lyrics I never understood when I was younger made such an impact to me. Working in the music industry takes a toll on your health and well-being, especially being a woman, (it’s true, unfortunately), and for a couple of months I surrounded myself with an all female cast playlist, just to give me that extra umph when I was applying to jobs. Holy shit, TLC was the absolute best. They won multiple Grammy’s and were also the first girl group to make record breaking sales on a tour. TLC did more for girls in the music industry than a lot of people that exist today, and I hope all of us ladies can take a minute at times, maybe at least once a week, and pour one out for the trio. Thanks for all you did for us, ladies, you’re legends.

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