Review Summary: While not as groundbreaking as CrazySexyCool, "FanMail" shows just how important TLC were.
Like Beyonce and Britney now, TLC were a soundtrack of the times in the 90's. Their 1992 debut, "Ooooo...On the TLC Tip," was a feminine take on New Jack Swing, with hip-hop, new R&B, and some dance club beats.
1994's "CrazySexyCool" defined mid-90's R&B/Pop with a sultry, smoothed-out sound polished by Babyface.
With 1999's "Fan Mail," TLC continue to inspire; this time, however with Timbaland's help, they move way past typical Hip-Hop Soul. Tim's work with Missy Elliott and Aaliyah proved urban music can be both cutting edge and popular, and TLC prove this also on "Fan Mail." The record's electronic dance background makes the girls sounmore firstly and dangerous than ever before. The bells, drums, and sampling are only emphasize the best writing on any TLC album. The songs have three major subject matter of hip-hop/R&B culture during the 90's.
First is the media...and lashing back at it. With the title and opening title track, the girls reach out to their fans for sticking by them through thick and thin (filing for bankruptcy despite a 10-million selling album.) "My Life," one of the albums best songs, goes deep to the girls dealing with pressures as pop stars, from papparazzi to rumors of breaking up.
Second is society and breaking down what makes certain men- and women- act the way they do. The #1 smash "No Scrubs" keeps TLC's independent woman reputation in tact, turning down a guy with no respect for women or himself. "Silly Ho," the one song that truly demonstrates the group's new sound, slams a girl who hooks up constantly. Another #1, "Unpretty," is an alternative Pop tune of self-beauty . Its softer, subtler counterpart, "Come On Down," is a fantasy song where the girls invite their fans to a world where they can be loved.
Unfortunately, the third subject matter, relationships, is where FanMail clearly does not measure up to CrazySexyCool. While that album came off as a constant night of passion, FanMail is received as its disheartening morning after. "If They Knew," a tale of infidelity from both sides, would better be handled on the Jerry Springer show than the dance floor. "Lovesick" and "Automatic" bring the album to a disappointing end with sloppy electro beats, and angry lyrics that go nowhere. However, two beautiful ballads ("I Miss You So Much" and "Dear Lie"), despite their opposite messages prove that TLC does have a soft side. The sexy yet romantic closer "Don't Pul Out On Me Yet" restored hope that TLC will give it to you good, as long as you are good to them.
The girls may have went too far on trying to crack the CrazySexyCool code, but the great thing about FanMail is that it became THE female urban album of our generation to evoke integrity in women, and companionship with their special someone. TLC should definitely be in the history books for that accomplishment.