Billboard magazine ranked the group as one of the greatest musical trios of all time. They have had several #1 hit singles, including "Creep", "Waterfalls", "No Scrubs", and "Unpretty". According to the RIAA and Billboard, TLC has sold more than 40 million records in the United States. In 2008, the group was inducted into the All Time Hot 100 Artist Hall of Fame by Billboard, at 56th place.
In early 2002, just before the release of TLC's fourth album, 3D, Lopes was killed in a car accident in Honduras. Watkins and Thomas promoted 3D as a duo, and in 2005, hosted a reality television show, R U the Girl, with a grand prize of a chance to record a song and perform once in concert with the surviving group members, both of whom have released solo material and continued to collaborate occasionally.
In 1990, Atlanta, Georgia, teenager Crystal Jones put out a call for two more girls to join her in a trio to be called 2nd Nature. Her request was eventually answered by Tionne Watkins, a native of Des Moines, Iowa, who moved to Atlanta with her family at an early age, and Lisa Lopes, a rapper who had just moved to the city from her native Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with only a keyboard and US$750 ($1,223 in current dollar terms).
The group eventually managed to arrange an audition with R&B singer Perri "Pebbles" Reid, who had started her own management and production company, Pebbitone. Impressed by the girls, Reid renamed the group "TLC" (an acronym for "Tender Loving Care" and also the members' initials) and arranged an audition for them with local record label LaFace Records, run by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Reid's then-husband, Antonio "L.A." Reid. The latter Reid saw potential in Watkins and Lopes but felt that Jones should be replaced; within a few days, part-time Damian Dame backup dancer Rozonda Thomas was brought in to replace Jones. The girls were signed to LaFace through a production deal with Pebbitone (with Perri Reid taking the role of the group's manager) (see Artist development deal) and almost immediately went into the studio with producers Reid and Edmonds, Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, and Marley Marl to produce their first album.
Ooooooohhh.... On the TLC Tip (1991-1992)
The first TLC album, Ooooooohhh.... On the TLC Tip, was released in February 25, 1992 by LaFace. The songs on the album are a blend of funk (Watkins), hip-hop (Lopes), and R&B (Thomas), similar to the "new jack swing" sound popularized by producer Teddy Riley in the late 1980s; TLC's sound was dubbed "new jill swing". The album was a critical and commercial success, being certified quadruple-platinum within a year and launching a number of US Hot 100 top ten singles with "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg", "What About Your Friends", and "Baby-Baby-Baby."
TLC's lyrics, chiefly written by Lopes and Dallas Austin, were playful, female-empowering anthems characterized by Lopes's quirky, nasal-toned raps, Watkins's low-voiced lead vocals, and Thomas's powerful vocals and harmonization. The musical formula was augmented by the girls' brightly-colored videos and curious costuming: each girl wore wrapped condoms on their clothing (Lopes also wore one in a pair of glasses over her left eye).
During TLC's first national tour, as MC Hammer's opening act, Lopes and Thomas discovered that Watkins had sickle-cell disease, an ailment which she kept a closely-guarded secret until she became ill while TLC was touring the Southwest US. Watkins continued to battle her condition and eventually became a spokesperson for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America in the late 1990s. At the conclusion of the tour, TLC decided to take more control of their careers and thus informed Perri Reid that they no longer wished her to be their manager. Reid released the group from its management deal, but they remained signed to Pebbitone, and Reid continued to receive a share of their earnings.
Lopes began dating Atlanta Falcons American football player Andre Rison shortly after the release of Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, and by 1994 the two were living together in Rison's upscale double-story home. Their relationship was allegedly filled with violent moments, and Lopes filed an assault charge against Rison on September 2, 1993. Rison denied battering her. Lopes was also battling alcoholism, having been a heavy drinker since her early teen years. After another fight between the couple in the early morning hours of June 9, 1994, Lopes tossed numerous pairs of Rison's newly purchased shoes into a bathtub, doused them with lighter fluid, and lit them on fire. The plexiglas bathtub quickly melted and set the structural frame of the house on fire. Lopes was arrested and indicted on charges of first-degree arson; she was sentenced to five years of probation and a $10,000 fine. Rison eventually reconciled with Lopes, and they continued dating on-and-off for most of the next few years.
During the fall of 1994, TLC re-entered the studio with Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, Babyface, Organized Noize, and Sean "Puffy" Combs to record their second album, CrazySexyCool. Lopes was released from rehab to attend the recording sessions, but the finished album featured significantly less of her raps and vocals. The album instead focused more on the contributions from Watkins and Thomas, and had a smoother, more fluid sound, similar to the most successful single from the first album, the US #2 hit "Baby-Baby-Baby". All four singles from CrazySexyCool reached the top 5 of the US Hot 100, while "Creep" and "Waterfalls" peaked at no. 1, while Red Light Special reached no. 2 and "Diggin' on You" reached no. 5. "Waterfalls", an Organized Noise-produced song that featured an old-school soul-based musical arrangement, socially-conscious lyrics criticizing drug dealing and unsafe sex, and an introspective rap from Lopes, became TLC's biggest hit, and its million-dollar music video was an MTV staple for many months.
CrazySexyCool eventually sold over 11 million copies in the US, and became one of the first albums to ever receive a diamond certification from the RIAA, and won a 1996 Grammy Award for Best R&B Album and a 1996 Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group for "Creep". However, in the midst of their apparent success, the members of TLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 3, 1995.
They declared debts totaling 3.5 million dollars, much of it because of Lopes's insurance payments arising from the arson incident and Watkins's medical bills, but the primary reason being that each member of the group was taking home less than $35,000 a year after paying managers, producers, expenses, and taxes. They sought to renegotiate their 1991 contract with LaFace, under which they only received seven percent of the revenues from their album sales, and to dissolve their association with Pebbitone. Both Pebbitone and LaFace countered that TLC simply wanted more money and were in no real financial danger, resulting in two years of legal debates before the cases were finally settled in late 1996. TLC's contract was renegotiated, their production deal with Pebbitone and Perri Reid (who had separated from her husband by this time) was rescinded, and the group appeared on the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack with "This Is How It Works" and was set to re-enter the recording studio in 1997 after signing a new contract with LaFace.
Preliminary work on TLC's third album, FanMail, was delayed when friction arose between the group and their main producer Dallas Austin, who was by this time dating Thomas and helping to raise their young son Tron. Austin wanted $4.2 million and creative control to work on the project, resulting in a stand-off between the producer and the artists. During this period, Thomas appeared in the independent film HavPlenty, and Watkins co-starred in Hype Williams' 1998 film Belly with rappers Nas and DMX. Watkins made a solo song in late 1996 called "Touch Myself". Lopes started her own Lopes Productions artist development company and signed Blaque, a TLC-like female R&B trio. She also appeared on the "Not Tonight" remix with fellow female rappers Lil' Kim, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot, Da Brat and Angie Martinez, which garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance by a Duo, Band, or Group in 1998.
TLC eventually began working with other producers for the FanMail album, until finally negotiating with Austin, who produced the bulk of FanMail and gave the album a futuristic, more pop-based feel. FanMail was another success for TLC, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album sales chart and selling over 6 million copies in the U.S. The album featured the number-one hit "No Scrubs", produced by Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, and the single "Unpretty," an alternative rock-styled song about self-love written by Watkins and Dallas Austin (another version of it sampled Dennis Edwards' 1984 hit "Don't Look Any Further"), that also reached #1 on the Billboard chart. At the Lady of Soul Awards the group was honored with the Aretha Franklin Entertainer of the Year Award.
The videos for both songs were heavily featured on MTV and BET, and three more singles received decent radio play: "Silly Ho", "I'm Good at Being Bad", and Edmonds-written ballad, "Dear Lie". Like CrazySexyCool, FanMail won the Grammy for Best R&B Album of 2000 and Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for "No Scrubs". The group went on a worldwide tour simply named FanMail Tour. While the first leg of the tour sold poorly and made the group lose 500,000 dollars, most of the second leg of the tour was sold out. The group had a PayPerView special of their tour which at the time became PayPerView's highest grossing televised special.
During and after the release of FanMail, Lopes made it known to the press on multiple occasions that she felt that she was unable to fully express herself working with TLC and Austin. Her contributions to the songs had been reduced to periodic eight-bar raps, and studio session singers such as Debra Killings often took her place on the background vocals for the groups' songs. In its November 28, 1999 issue, Entertainment Weekly ran a letter from Lopes that challenged her group mates to record solo albums and let the fans judge which of the three was the most talented:
"I challenge Tionne 'Player' Watkins (T-boz) and Rozonda 'Hater' Thomas (Chilli) to an album entitled The Challenge... a 3-CD set that contains three solo albums. Each (album)... will be due to the record label by October 1, 2000... I also challenge producer Dallas 'The Manipulator' Austin to produce all of the material and do it at a fraction of his normal rate. As I think about it, I'm sure LaFace would not mind throwing in a $1.5 million dollar prize for the winner."
The ladies eventually settled the feud, and The Challenge was never followed through. After the conclusion of the successful FanMail tour, the ladies, however, took some time off and pursued personal interests. Lopes was the first to begin recording her solo album, Supernova. In 2000, Spice Girl Melanie C released a single co-written with Lopes in the UK and Europe, called "Never Be the Same Again"; it became a hit reaching #1 in many countries.
Before the recording of their fourth album, 3D, there was a dispute between Lopes on one side and Watkins and Thomas on the other. Lopes originally wanted to withdraw from the group in order to see if they could duplicate their prior success without her contributions. Lopes eventually pursued solo stardom and recorded her first album Supernova, however it underperformed overseas and was never officially released in the United States. Before the album was completed, Lopes died in a car crash.
Returning from yet another hiatus after Lopes's death in a car crash in 2002 while on missionary work in Honduras, Watkins, Thomas and Austin decided that they would complete the remainder of their fourth album, to be called 3D, which also featured production from Rodney Jerkins, The Neptunes, Raphael Saadiq, Missy Elliott and Timbaland. The decision was also made that TLC would retire after the release and promotion of 3D, rather than replace Lopes and continue. Lopes had already completed her vocals for four songs; the remainder were performed by the remaining group members alone, who eulogized Lopes on a number of the tracks.
The first single for 3D was "Girl Talk", the video for which featured Watkins and Thomas alone in live-action segments and Lopes in animated segments. Its follow-up, "Hands Up", featured only Watkins and Thomas in its video, but took place in a nightclub named Club Lopes (Lopes' production company's "eye" logo was a prominent feature on the club's walls). The album only sold two million copies in its first year of release, and "Girl Talk" was the only single to reach the U.S. top forty with a peak position of number 28; "Hands Up" never charted, and a third single, "Damaged", reached number 53. However, the singles enjoyed a bit more success in Europe and Asia.
In June 2003, at Zootopia, an annual concert hosted by New York radio station Z100 held at Giants Stadium, TLC appeared in what was announced to be their last performance. The group, introduced by Carson Daly, showed a video montage dedicated to Lopes, and went on to perform songs against video footage of Lopes performing the same songs, and wearing the same outfits, that were appearing onstage.
Now & Forever: The Hits (2003-2005)
In 2003, LaFace had scheduled the release of Now and Forever: The Hits, a TLC greatest hits album with a new song, "Come Get Some", featuring Lil Jon and Sean P of the YoungBloodZ. However, the compilation was not released domestically until June 2005, although versions of the compilation were released internationally in 2004 and the album was also available as a legal download from the iTunes Store in November 2004. On June 21, 2005, Now and Forever: The Hits was quietly released in the United States; the album debuted at number 53 with 20,000 copies sold.
On May 15, 2007, Now and Forever: The Video Hits was released in the United States, after over four years of delayed release dates.
On August 20, 2007 a new greatest hits album was released in the UK called Crazy Sexy Hits: The Very Best of TLC, a play on the group's best selling album title Crazy Sexy Cool. Now and Forever: The Video Hits was also released in the UK for the first time on the same date. The album fared better than previous compilation Now and Forever: The Hits, peaking at #57 on the UK album chart (Now and Forever: The Hits made #86).
R U the Girl
On June 25, 2004, Watkins and Thomas announced that they were pitching a reality television show where contestants would compete for a chance to record a single and perform in concert with the two of them. The show was eventually picked up for development by UPN. R U the Girl with Watkins and Thomas debuted on UPN on July 27, 2005. The winner of the show would record with them on a new single and perform the track with them in a live concert finale in Atlanta. Roughly 4.1 million viewers tuned in for the season finale of R U The Girl on September 20, 2005, with 20-year-old Tiffany "O'so Krispie" Baker as the winner. Despite media speculation that the winner of the series was to become a new, permanent member of TLC, Watkins and Thomas have stated never to replace Lopes with a new member.
On October 4, 2005, "I Bet", the first new Watkins and Thomas single in over two years, was released to radio and iTunes, credited to "R U The Girl with Watkins & Thomas" with no mention of the TLC name on the package. The song was also appended to pressings of Now and Forever: The Hits released after October 11, 2005. "I Bet" failed to chart in America and Europe, ending reports that Watkins and Thomas were putting the finishing touches on a repackaged Greatest Hits album.
On June 24, 2008, Watkins and Thomas made a special appearance on the BET Awards. They, along with the original members of En Vogue and SWV, performed in Alicia Keys' tribute to girl groups. Watkins, Thomas, and Keys performed "Waterfalls". TLC were also presenters at the BETJ Virtual Awards on November 25, 2008.
In March 2009, Watkins and Thomas announced plans to perform together in a concert series in Japan featuring seventeen of TLC's songs.
On August 25, 2009 it was announced that Watkins and Thomas would perform together at the Justin Timberlake and Friends benefit concert at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Events Center on October 17, 2009.
Awards and nominations
|Year||Result||Award||Category||Song or Album|
|1993||Nominated||Grammy Award||Best R&B Song||"Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg"|
|1996||Won||Best R&B Album||CrazySexyCool|
|Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||"Creep"|
|Nominated||Record of the Year||"Waterfalls"|
|Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||"Waterfalls"|
|2000||Won||Best R&B Album||Fanmail|
|Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||"No Scrubs"|
|Nominated||Album of the Year||Fanmail|
|Record of the Year||"No Scrubs"|
|Song of the Year||"Unpretty"|
|Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||"Unpretty"|
|Best Music Video, Short Form||"Unpretty"|
|2003||Nominated||Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||"Girl Talk"|
|2004||Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal||"Hands Up"|
|1995||Won||MTV Video Music Awards||Video of the Year||"Waterfalls"|
|Best Group Video||"Waterfalls"|
|Best R&B Video||"Waterfalls"|
|Nominated||Best Special Effects||"Waterfalls"|
|Best Art Direction||"Waterfalls"|
|2000||Won||Best Group Video||"No Scrubs|
|Nominated||Viewer's Choice||"No Scrubs"|
|Best Hip Hop Video||"No Scrubs"|
|Best Editing||"No Scrubs"|
|Best Direction||"No Scrubs"|
|Best Art Direction||"No Scrubs"|
|1996||Won||Billboard Music Award||Artist of the Year||
|R&B Artist of the Year||
|R&B Single of the Year||"Creep"|
|1997||Nominated||American Music Award||Favorite Soul/R&B Album||CrazySexyCool|
|Favorite Soul/R&B Band, Duo or Group||
|Favorite Artist of the Year||
|2000||Won||Favorite Band, Duo or Group - Soul/Rhythm & Blues||
|1996||Won||Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards||Best R&B/Soul Single - Group, Band or Duo||"Creep"|
|Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year - Group, Band or Duo||CrazySexyCool|
|1997||Best R&B/Soul Single - Group, Band or Duo||"Waterfalls"|
|1999||Aretha Franklin Award (Entertainer of the Year)||
|Best R&B/Soul Single - Group, Band or Duo||"No Scrubs"|
|Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year - Group, Band or Duo||Fanmail|
|2003||Nominated||Best R&B/Soul Single - Group, Band or Duo||"Girl Talk"|
|Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year - Group, Band or Duo||3D|
|1997||Won||Soul Train Music Award||Best R&B/Soul Single - Group, Band or Duo||"Waterfalls"|
|Best R&B/Soul Album - Group, Band or Duo||CrazySexyCool|
|Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video||"Waterfalls"|
|1999||Best R&B/Soul Single - Group, Band or Duo||"No Scrubs"|
|Best R&B/Soul Album - Group, Band or Duo||Fanmail|
|2003||Nominated||Best R&B/Soul Single - Group, Band or Duo||"Girl Talk"|
|2003||Nominated||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Duo or Group||
Biography from Wikipedia