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After a five-year hiatus, R&B group TLC came back on to the scene in 1999 with “FanMail.”
While “FanMail” (the title is inspired by all of the fans who continued to support the group during their absence) features the signature ballads for which the trio is known, it also delves more into serious social issues. They include female sexuality, the idea of beauty and establishing a healthy female identity.
“FanMail” also has a more futuristic tone, with a robotic female voice program named “Vic-E” being featured on backup vocals alongside group members Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas on several tracks.
“No Scrubs” was the first official single off the album and stayed in the Top Ten of Billboard’s Hot 100 for 17 consecutive weeks. The lyrics of “No Scrubs” describe how the girls do not want any “scrubs” (a guy with no job, no car, etc). As they put it, “A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me.” The single reinforces the futuristic theme of the album as it features an advanced synthesizer in the background that accompanies the trio’s vocals.
One of the more provocative tracks on the album is “I’m Good at Being Bad.” The track starts off smooth and melodic, but then there is a break down where the smooth beat switches to something with a little more hip-hop sound. Once the beat changes, the girls start rapping and yelling obscenities about what they want from a man and what they would do to him sexually. The trio asserts their independence and sexual prowess by demanding, not asking, what they want from a man.
“Unpretty” is a feel-good track about embracing all types of beauty. The vocals are accompanied by a guitar played by Dallas Austin. The lyrics find the girls talking about not submitting to society’s idea of beauty and finding beauty within yourself with lines like, “But if you can’t look inside you / Find out who am I, to / Be in the position to make me feel so damn unpretty.”
Another track that challenges the idea of the modern female stereotype is “Silly Ho.” The group members make it clear they do not need a man to do anything for them because they can do things for themselves; they aren’t “silly hoes.” The track also features “Vic-E” in the background and another futuristic beat.
TLC fell by the wayside a bit after “FanMail” was released, most likely because member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was killed in a car accident in Honduras in 2002. But the issues that are challenged in “FanMail” are still relevant to this day, and the group’s distinctive blend of R&B and hip-hop makes it worth the time to go back and revisit the album.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Kenna Egbune at Ikenna.email@example.com.