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The 8 best TLC songs

We track the formidable ’90s R&B band’s biggest hits to reveal the eight songs everyone should know

best songs of TLC
By Nick Levine |
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Sorry Destiny’s Child, but TLC were the queens of ’90s R&B. Cool and in control, Tionne ‘T-Boz’ Watkins, Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes and Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas set the pop-R&B agenda for nearly a decade. Since Left Eye passed away in 2002, T-Boz and Chilli have kept a relatively low profile, but return with their first album in 15 years, which, they say, will also be their last. 

The 8 best TLC songs

1
the best songs of TLC

‘Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg’ (1991)

Released in 1991, TLC’s debut single is a catchy slab of New Jack Swing that broke the group on both sides of the Atlantic. Edgy and self-confident, it’s a statement of sexual agency that still sounds fresh today: when these ladies get the horn, they sure as hell aren’t going to hide it. As if to prove the point, Left Eye appears in the video with a condom stretched over her left spectacle lens.

2
the best songs of TLC

‘Baby-Baby-Baby’ (1992)

On the second single from 1992’s debut album ‘Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip’, the group show their more romantic sides. ‘A girl like me won’t settle for less, I require plenty conversation with my sex,’ T-Boz explains unapologetically. Yearning and melodic, ‘Baby-Baby-Baby’ is textbook early ’90s R&B that was only held off number one in the States by Boyz II Men’s ‘End of the Road’.

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3
TLC

‘Creep’ (1994)

Released in 1994 as the lead single from ‘CrazySexyCool’ – TLC’s massive second album –‘Creep’ became the group’s first US chart-topper. Yet at the time, Left Eye objected to its provocative lyrics about a woman who responds to her boyfriend’s infidelity by cheating on him back. Now it’s clear this song is classic TLC: a slinky, horn-driven R&B hit that’s unafraid to delve into complex sexual politics.

4
best songs of TLC, Red Light Special

‘Red Light Special’ (1994)

Written by Babyface, the king of seductive ’90s R&B, the second ‘CrazySexyCool’ single could be TLC’s most sensual tune. ‘Red Light Special’ is just about subtle enough for radio play, but there’s no doubting what they’re singing about. When T-Boz purrs, ‘I’ll let you go further if you take the southern route,’ she’s definitely not planning a road trip through Texas.

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5
best songs of TLC, Waterfalls

‘Waterfalls’ (1994)

The third ‘CrazySexyCool’ single isn’t just TLC’s signature hit – it’s also one of the very best pop songs ever. Although ‘Waterfalls’ has become a karaoke classic that never quite loses its cool appeal, the socially conscious lyrics retain an intriguing ambiguity. When they sing, ‘three letters took him to his final resting place’, it’s most probably a reference to HIV.

6
best songs of TLC, No Scrubs

‘No Scrubs’ (1999)

Following a four-year hiatus, TLC returned with the superb, futuristic R&B of 1999’s ‘FanMail’. The group couldn’t have picked a better lead single: ‘No Scrubs’ drips with renewed purpose with as they call out an inadequate manchild who’s ‘always talkin’ about what he wants, and just sits on his broke ass.’ Slick, hooky and super-quotable, it’s another era-defining hit.

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7
TLC

‘Unpretty’ (1999)

Following a four-year hiatus, TLC returned with the superb, futuristic R&B of 1999’s ‘FanMail’. The group couldn’t have picked a better lead single: ‘No Scrubs’ drips with renewed purpose with as they call out an inadequate manchild who’s ‘always talkin’ about what he wants, and just sits on his broke ass.’ Slick, hooky and super-quotable, it’s another era-defining hit.

8
best songs of TLC, Damaged

‘Damaged’ (2002)

Completed in 2002 after Left Eye was tragically killed in a car accident, TLC’s fourth album ‘3D’ is poignant and surprisingly polished. Lead single ‘Girl Talk’ benefits from an incendiary Left Eye rap, but the album’s hidden gem is ‘Damaged’, a wistful companion to ‘Unpretty’ that confronts insecurity and relationship scars head-on. Sleek and emotionally literate, it’s the TLC hit that got away.

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