Deep Album Cuts Vol. 12: TLC

Between the release of TLC's greatest hits collection 20, the huge ratings for the VH1 biopic CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, and the J. Cole collaboration "Crooked Smile" giving the group their biggest radio hit in over a decade, it's been a pretty big month for TLC. So it felt like a good time to look back at the catalog of the biggest girl group of the '90s, which isn't very large, but had such huge hits that they couldn't help but overshadow the album tracks. I've always been a little ambivalent towards TLC, because every album had at least one hit so huge that I got completely sick of it and everything about them for a while ("Baby-Baby-Baby," "Waterfalls," "No Scrubs"). But when I actually think about it, I still like or love most of their singles, and with the album tracks, things being overplayed is a non-issue, so it's really easy to find things to enjoy about these songs.

In a way TLC are more timely than ever; they didn't necessarily have the best singing or rapping, but they combined them into a package with a unique sound and identity that translated into hits, and was more about melody and personality than street cred. That kinda paved the way for Nelly, the Black Eyed Peas, T-Pain, Drake, a whole lot of people in the 2000's, compared to where they kinda owned that niche in the '90s. And TLC were one of the biggest gigs for a lot great rap producers, including Organized Noize, Marley Marl, Jermaine Dupri, and Puff Daddy.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 12: TLC (Spotify playlist / Tidal playlist)

1. Depend On Myself
2. CrazySexyCool (Interlude)
3. Kick Your Game
4. His Story
5. My Life
6. Bad By Myself
7. Case of the Fake People
8. If They Knew
9. Das Da Way We Like 'Em
10. This Is How It Works
11. This Is How It Should Be Done
12. Give It To Me While It's Hot
13. Let's Do It Again
14. Don't Pull Out On Me Yet
15. Sumthin' Wicked This Way Comes featuring Andre 3000
16. Shout
17. All I Want For Christmas
18. In Your Arms Tonight
19. If I Was Your Girlfriend

Tracks 1, 4, 6, 9 and 11 from Ooooooohhh... On The TLC Tip (1992)
Track 17 from A LaFace Family Christmas (1993)
Tracks 2, 3, 7, 13, 15 and 19 from CrazySexyCool (1994)
Track 10 from Waiting To Exhale: Original Soundtrack Album (1995)
Tracks 5, 8, 14 and 16 from FanMail (1999)
Tracks 12 and 18 from 3D (2002)

It was nice to be able to pad out the collection with a couple compilation tracks. I've always been a big fan of their Christmas single, "Sleigh Ride," so I was pleasantly surprised to learn they have another holiday track that's almost as entertaining. And their Waiting To Exhale soundtrack contribution, seemingly one of the few songs on that album that wasn't a single, is one of their best Babyface collaborations alongside "Red Light Special."

Although I already knew CrazySexyCool, which will always be their peak, their revered classic, I came out of this becoming a big fan of Ooooooohhh... On The TLC Tip. I always loved how the singles from that were like the very tail end of the New Jack Swing era, but it also feels like the last great album of the 'wall of samples' era, there are some tracks on that record that are so thick with samples. I'm less of a fan of the later albums, but FanMail has some jams that don't have that adult contemporary "No Scrubs"/"Unpretty" sheen, and 3D is kind of an interesting peek at what directions they could've headed in in the 21st century if Left Eye hadn't died (although "Dirty, Dirty" was an anticlimactic Timbaland collaboration that wasn't as good as the Timbo knockoffs on Fanmail).

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
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