TLC - Now and Forever - The Hits
Despite ending up with a greater presence in the columns of tabloid newspapers than in the charts, TLC had a short but stellar life that only ended in early 2002, when Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was killed in a car accident in Honduras. From the flamboyant charity-shop chic of Ooooooohhh...On the TLC Tip, through the cool sexuality of CrazySexyCool and, finally, to the sharply styled R&B of Fanmail, TLC were like all the best girl groups, showing such an identity that you either got it and belonged or you didn't in which case, as with girls together, you'd best get well out of the way.
With Lopes' attention-grabbing wearing of a condom over her left eye to promote safe sex and a aggressively sexy presence, TLC hit first with Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg, which played the roadworks-as-music of The Bomb Squad off a sassy rap courtesy of the girls. With the song offering a soulful breather after each verse, the TLC style was set with how that clashed up against the raunch of the chorus, in which Lopes strutted with, "If I need it in the morning or the middle of the night, I ain't too proud to beg!" Sure it's the first, and oldest, song here but it's aged as well as PE's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back.
Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg was followed up by What About Your Friends and the ballad Baby Baby Baby, both of which were hits but with the release of their second album, CrazySexyCool, TLC's smooth sound took them to the top of both the singles and album charts, to a Grammy and to eleven million sales. With both Waterfalls and the wonderfully slinky Creep influenced by Prince, who was then locked into a futile battle with WEA, TLC outdid their predecessor with their easy funk and a smart way with a sexy lyric. Even Lopes' singing and rapping came out with the rough edges used by Prince about the time of his classic Sign O' The Times, with Waterfalls, in particular, sounding like it would have been a natural fit between If I Was Your Girlfriend and Strange Relationship. Before moving on from CrazySexyCool, TLC released, and had hits with, Red Light Special and Diggin' On You before releasing their third album, Fanmail.
Fanmail's presence here opens with the superb No Scrubs, which spins through a litany of men who don't make it to the TLC mark, dismissing the men who, "can't get no love...trying to holler at me." No Scrubs is the best song TLC ever did and with it's follow up, Unpretty, a smart song about unrealistic standards of female beauty, Fanmail went on to sell six million copies and earn TLC another Grammy but it wasn't to last. With Lopes moving on to solo recordings, she took a holiday in Honduras but when out driving a rental car, she lost control of it and died shortly after.
Far from the music, TLC left behind a book of tabloid cuttings covering arson, alcoholism, Watkins' fight against sickle cell anaemia, star struck romances and fallings out but they shouldn't be remembered for that when they can pull together a greatest hits collection as strong as this. From the bratty thrills of Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg to the cool swagger of No Scrubs, this is a reminder of just how good a band that TLC were, albeit one with an all-too-short existence. From the Ronettes to Destiny's Child, every few years throws up a girl group that barges aside all others to make it, some deserving, some not. During the nineties and against all the things that might have held them back, TLC made it with songs like Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg, Creep and No Scrubs. For once, it was fully deserved and this is the album to prove it.