Friday, June 30, 2017

Pride Month: TLC Song Facts

UNPRETTY by TLC

This song talks about girls' inner beauty. The first line (sung by T-Boz), "I wish I could tie you up in my shoes make you feel unpretty too," is talking about the people who say that a person is ugly. Chilli sings about satisfying her boyfriend for what he wants from her. In the video, directed by Paul Hunter, she and her boyfriend are looking at an online web page of a hospital which specializes in breast implants. Her boyfriend would like Chilli to get bigger breasts, but she thinks that she shouldn't. The video continues with more scenes of people compromising their health and principles for the sake of beauty, including a girl who uses bulimia to stay thin.

Dallas Austin, who also wrote and produced the trio's #1 hit "Creep," wrote this song based on a poem T-Boz composed called "Unpretty." He explained to Billboard: "Once I saw the title, I went to my keyboard and guitar and started playing melodies that would complement it. I didn't want it to be aggressive. I wanted it to be friendly - for a song called 'Unpretty' talking about how much you don't like stuff about yourself - so the message would come across to people with those kinds of problems or issues. I thought it would be unique to get it across in a sweet way."

Austin, who had first met the group back in high school long before they were famous, was careful to stay true to the girls' personalities by tailoring the verses for each of them: "When I write for TLC, I write for each one of the members. So when I do a Tionne part, it's different from what Chilli's part would be. When we first did 'Unpretty' it was one of the most exciting records we'd ever done because it was different. And it still stayed along the lines of TLC having messages for people."

This was used on the TV series Sabrina, the Teenage Witch in the 1999 episode "Aging, Not So Gracefully."

This earned Grammy Award nominations for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 2000, but lost both to Santana (for "Smooth" and "Maria Maria," respectively).

AIN'T 2 PROUD 2 BEG by TLC

This was the first Top 40 hit for TLC. It introduced the group and explained who represented each letter: Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas.

This contains samples of "Escape-ism" (James Brown), "Jungle Boogie" (Kool & the Gang), "School Boy Crush" (AWB), "Fly Robin Fly" (Silver Convention), and "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" (Bob James).

The video made sure to introduce each singer. When each girl sang her part, her name flashed on the screen. Like many of their songs, T-Boz sang the lyrics, Left Eye did the rap, and Chilli sang on the chorus.

This is about sex. They made it clear, however, that they advocated safe sex, by prominently displaying condoms. Lopes wore one over her left eye in their early days.

This is not the same song as the Temptations classic of the same name. In that song, a man swallows his pride and begs his girl to come back to him. In this, the girls state that they are not afraid to ask a man for sex.

It took a long time for radio stations to figure out what this song was about, but when they did, a lot of them censored the line, "Two inches or a yard, rock hard or if it's sagging - I ain't too proud to beg." The line was part of Left Eye's rap.

This was written by Dallas Austin, except for Left Eye's rap which, like the majority of what she sang, she wrote herself.

The Ooooooohhh...On the TLC Tip album sold over 3 million copies. Their next one sold 5 million, but TLC still managed to go broke and had to file for bankruptcy in 1995. Their contract paid them only 7% of revenue from album sales, which wasn't enough to cover their expenses when split three ways.

CREEP by TLC

This song is about a woman who is not happy with her man, so she sneaks around ("Creeps") and cheats on him.

This uses a sample from Slick Rick's 1988 song "Hey Young World."

This was written and produced by the Atlanta-based producer Dallas Austin. Though he had already made a name for himself working alongside producers like L.A. Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, and hot acts like Another Bad Creation and Bell Biv DeVoe, "Creep" would be an important song for Austin because it proved he could write from a female perspective.

The trio had mixed feelings about the adulterous relationship portrayed in the lyrics. Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins thought the subject was an important one. She told Billboard: "We thought that was a good relationship to talk about because a lot of people don't admit that's how they feel - that their man's playing on them and they want to be with him so they seek attention elsewhere, but they really want to be with their guy."

But Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who was on probation for setting her boyfriend's (pro football player Andre Rison) house on fire, didn't like the idea and refused to contribute a rap to the song. Austin remembered: "The reason there's not a rap on it is because Lisa said, 'Dallas, I don't want this to offend people personally. I don't want it to interfere with my relationships. If he thinks I'm doing this, it's going to cause problems and I'm making a record out of it.'"

Left Eye also didn't believe in an eye-for-an-eye when it came to cheating. She threatened to protest the single by wearing black tape over her mouth in the video.

Austin held onto the song for six months because he thought it might be too corny, but when he couldn't get it out of his head, he decided to record it.

This was TLC's first #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. They would have three more: "Waterfalls," "No Scrubs" and "Unpretty."

This won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1996. It was also nominated for Best R&B Song but lost to Stevie Wonder's "For Your Love."

The music video shows the group hanging out in their pajamas while T-Boz gets friendly with a trumpet player (played by former Janet Jackson dancer Omar Lopez). Two other videos were made, but went unreleased, including one that follows Chilli and T-Boz cheating on their boyfriends while Left Eye dances by herself.

TLC performed this on Saturday Night Live on the May 6, 1995 episode hosted by Bob Saget.

This was used in the TV series New York Undercover in the 1995 episode "CAT."

The song was inspired by a situation that T-Boz found herself in. "'Creep,' unfortunately, was one of my true stories," she told Billboard magazine with a laugh. "You're with a guy and he's not showing you attention, so another guy comes along and you're like, 'Hey, if you were where you were supposed to be, he couldn't be showing me attention right now!' I was in the middle of this drama, because the other guy was [my boyfriend's] friend, and my boyfriend was just not getting it together."

T-Boz shared her personal state of affairs with Dallas Austin, whom she grew up with in Atlanta, and Austin in turn penned "Creep."

NO SCRUBS by TLC

This song is about men who have nothing going for them, but hit on women just the same, even resorting to hopeless tactics like hollering at women from the passenger seat of their friend's car. The song vaulted the term "Scrub" into the popular lexicon, and it became a well-used word to describe a worthless man.

Future Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member Kandi Burruss wrote this with help from producer Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, and Tameka "Tiny" Cottle. Burruss and Cottle were members of the recently disbanded group Xscape, who had a hit in 1993 with "Just Kickin' It," and they had formed their own duo, which they called KAT (Kandi And Tameka). Briggs was an up-and-coming producer at LaFace records, home of TLC, and he had written what would become "No Scrubs," but with completely different lyrics. After meeting Briggs through their manager, Burruss and Cottle asked if they could try writing different lyrics to the song, which they then hoped to record. Burruss got the "No Scrubs" idea after talking about some of her ex-boyfriends - she and her friends used the word "Scrubs" a lot. She and Cottle finished the new lyrics and took them to Briggs, who instead of putting the song together for KAT, brought it to LaFace where the execs decided it would be a great song for TLC. Burruss, who had songwriting aspirations but didn't write in Xscape, was hesitant about giving up the song, but knew it was the right thing to do. It worked out well for her, as even though her singing career wound down, she became a popular songwriter, later teaming up with Briggs to write another man-basher: "Bills, Bills, Bills" for Destiny's Child.

This was the first single released from Fanmail, the followup to TLC's wildly successful second album CrazySexyCool, which sold over 11 million copies. "No Scrubs" kept them in the groove and was a major hit. The song was a no-brainer for radio stations, as it was a fresh sound from an established group that had already made the R&B, Pop and Adult Contemporary charts. A smooth, mid-tempo number with a very memorable title, it found a home on all these formats, as did their next single, "Unpretty."

The word "scrub" has developed many uses, including what you do to rid your computer of viruses or remove items from a budget. "Scrubs" are what hospital workers wear, and a show with that name debuted on NBC in 2001.

The group Sporty Thievz released a response song from the male perspective called "No Pigeons." This renewed the popularity of "No Scrubs" as radio stations played the songs back-to-back.

This song is heavy on the "C" and light on the "T" and "L." It was the first TLC song that Chilli (Rozanda Thomas), sang lead on by herself; T-Boz (Tionne Watkins) did most of their lead vocals to that point. Kevin Briggs is the one who decided she would sing on it, and he worked with her to get the vocal down. He thought her vocal range was right for the track, and liked the idea of having her get her first lead. "We had some resistance from the other girls at one point, but we ended up working it out," said Briggs.

This won Grammys for Best Rhythm & Blues Song and for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance by a Group.

This song is TLC's biggest seller in the UK, selling 553,200 copies.

The futuristic music video, directed by Hype Williams, has the trio performing in space on metallic sets, with multiple wardrobe changes and a dance sequence in front of a TLC logo. The clip won the 1999 MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video.

The vocal melody in Ed Sheeran's 2017 hit "Shape Of You" bears much resemblance to the one used in this song. When Sheeran sings:

Girl, you know I want your love
Your love was handmade for somebody like me

It's pretty close to:

No, I don't want no scrubs
A scrub is a guy that can't get no love from me

It was close enough that Sheeran added the "No Scrubs" songwriters to the credits of "Shape Of You," likely to avoid a lawsuit.

WATERFALLS by TLC

"Chasing Waterfalls" is TLC's way of expressing how people chase intangible dreams with no thought of the consequences. The first verse is talking about an inner city mother and son relationship. He is chasing "waterfalls" (money and respect by dealing drugs), but his mother knows this cannot end well. The second verse deals with a man's relationship with a woman. His "waterfall" is casual sex - he has a "natural obsession for temptation." This could mean he is cheating on someone or the woman he is seeing is cheating on someone. Either way, he contracts HIV and dies ("three letters took him to his final resting place"). TLC were big on AIDS awareness - Left Eye would often wear condoms attached to her clothes and in her glasses to promote safe sex.

Cee-Lo Green sang backup on this. He's well-known as a songwriter and producer, and as a member of Goodie Mob and Gnarls Barkley. Cee-Lo recalled to The Guardian newspaper March 22, 2008: "I was working at the same studio and of course I know the girls too, because we were on the same label, so they just asked me. I didn't realize at the time what a big song it was going to be."

The Atlanta production team Organized Noize, who produced the track, wrote this song with Marqueze Etheridge, and TLC's Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes came up with the rap. Lopes was dealing with some personal problems at the time, which are expressed in her rap. She had a very turbulent relationship with the football player Andre Rison, and on June 9, 1994 she burned his new shoes in his bathtub, which set fire to his entire $2 million mansion. She pled guilty to arson, but did reconcile with Rison.

This makes the "songs discussed in movies" list thanks to its use in the 2010 film The Other Guys, where Michael Keaton's character keeps unknowingly quoting TLC songs, starting with this one.

The video won the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year in 1995, beating out "Buddy Holly" by Weezer and "Basket Case" by Green Day. The "Waterfalls" clip had lots of fancy computer generated effects, including a lot of water, which was notoriously difficult to render.

The rap lyrics Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes performed on this song were engraved in her casket. Lopes died in a car accident in Honduras in 2002.

Three-piece British girl group Stooshe released a cover of this song for their third single from their self-titled debut album in 2012. "We are huge fans and have met T-Boz, who told us she loved our version," Courtney Rumbold of the trio told The Sun. "It's meeting heroes like that that spurs us on, and we have the most loyal of fans." Their version peaked at #21 on the UK singles chart.

Stooshe managed to secure cameos from TLC's T-Boz and Chilli for their accompanying music video.

T-Boz and Chilli re-recorded the song with Japanese popstar Namie Amuro to mark their twentieth anniversary. The new version of the track was dedicated to their fans in Japan and finds Namie rapping Left Eye's verse almost at a whisper.

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