June 26th, 2005 | 51 replies

Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist

TLC - CrazySexyCool
Released 1994.
LaFace Records.
#377 on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums Of All Time
#77 on Q's Top 100 Albums Of All Time

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes (Crazy) - vocals
Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas (Sexy) - vocals
Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins (Cool) - vocals
If we're being totally honest, the average shelf-life of an R&B album (if R&B is taken to mean Destiny's Child rather than The Who) is roughly 18 months. Both R&B and rap really suffer from this alacrity of movement - while many rock records from the 90s mask their age pretty well, anyone with enough experience of the music can put an accurate date on any 90s R&B record they've never heard before. Some massively successful bands retain a grunge sound to this day, but anyone trying New Jack Swing now would in all likelihood get laughed out of the industry. And how do you think listeners in 5 year's time will react to the production style of KanYe West, given how horribly dated most of P Diddy and Jermaine Dupri's stuff sounds now? Only time will tell, I guess.

With that in mind, a timeless, classic record coming out of that scene is a real rarity. How many are there? For my money, there's only two certainties - The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, and this.

With a lot of urban music from that period, the back story can often seem a lot more interesting than the music. And here, too, it's tempting to claim TLC have been totaly overwhelmed by Lisa 'Left-Eye' Lopez. She was, after all, always the group's Unique Selling Point, and in their early days her visual presence brought a lot of attention to the group they wouldn't have got otherwise. For those not old enough to remember, she wore glasses with a condom over one eye. Something to do with promoting safe sex, apparently. Her reputation as R&B's consumate eccentric was secured when, shortly before the release of this, their second album, she was arrested. Why? Well, she burnt down her boyfriend's house, and tried to destory several of his cars too. The rumour at the time was that her boyfriend, the NFL star Andre Rison, hadn't bought her a present for a full two months. Hell hath no fury like a mentalist scorned. She only escaped a prison sentence by checking herself into rehab, claiming alcoholism. This event isnpired the name of the album - Left-Eye being the 'Crazy' contingent of the group.

After that, the group fell into bankruptcy, accusing LaFace Records of not giving them the royalties for this album. The twist? TLC's manager had just been through a nasty divorce with LA Reid, boss of LaFace. Later, Left-Eye returned to the headlines after going missing for a full week. Her solo album was pulled in America by her label, leading to her signing to - ye gods - Death Row in 2002. This proved to be the last year she'd see, as she died in Honduras as a result of a nasty car crash. Her death spelt the end of the group.

Awesome back story, no? Somehow, in the middle of all that, they released this - an album that soared above the group's problems. Left-Eye's problems will be forgotten (as far as base public consciousness goes, they already have been), but this won't. Aside from the critical acclaim it still recieves, it spawned four massive hits in Red Light Special, Creep, Diggin' On You, and the simply awesome Waterfalls, and remained in the charts for a long, long time, shifting 11 million copies in the US. It launched Jermaine Dupri and Babyface's careers; both would become major, major names in R&B in the coming years, yet neither would ever better what they did here. It even brought the mighty Outkast to public attention for the first time, with Andre 3000 showing up to rap on Sumthin' Wicked This Way Comes. And hell, at a time when Prince was an object of abject mockery, covering If I Was Ur Girlfriend reminded people just how great he used to be.

It proved to be something of a marker for the future, too. Destiny's Child were invented by this album - it's that simple. In the UK, Misteeq and Sugababes took the album to heart. In fact, you can trace any female modern soul singer who alludes to hip-hop in her sound back to this album, which includes......ooh, all of them.

There's a reason CrazySexyCool has proved itself so enduring - it's a consistently excellent record. The songwriting, production, arranging, and vocal performances throughout are among the best the genre's ever seen. In a genre notorious for delivering albums that consist of 2 singles and a load of casually tossed-off filler, this is a rare, precious commodity. Like The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, it's also crossed over to an audience that wouldn't usually go near anything like this, though on a smaller scale.

The long and short of it is that CrazySexyCool is just a brilliant album. It's proof that at its best, modern R&B really can compete with the highlights scraped by Motown. Only the skits and interludes really come in the way of this being a perfect distillation of the genre.

Within The Genre - 5/5
Outside The Genre - 3.5/5

Recommended Downloads -


Produced by Organized Noize, a name Outkast fans might well recognize. I'll spell it out clear: any list of the best singles of the 90s that does not include this in the top 15 - at least - is among the worst lists ever written. Socially conscious at a time when it was unfashionable, this song belongs to a lineage you can trace right back through Sly & The Family Stone, Ray Charles, and Stevie Wonder. The arrangement and instrumentation is absolutely fantastic - if a bunch of great melodies had an orgy, the result would something a little like this - and the lyrics are the best on an album that maintains a shockingly high standard of songwriting. Left-Eye drops the album's best rap on this track too.

Red Light Special
Mean, moody, sultry, and understated, this Babyface-penned stunner showed a side of TLC we hadn't seen before, and didn't see after. T-Boz takes the lead vocal, her husky voice later underpinning Chili's higher-registered moans. As come-ons go, this is unbeatable - three lines in, T-Boz is already singing 'I'll let you touch it if you like to go down/I'll let you go further if you take the southern route'. Ouch, baby, ouch. 'Baby it's all yours, if you want it tonight/I'll give you the red light special, all through the night/Just come through my door, take off my clothes....' It borders on intimidating, which just makes it even sexier. Then again, maybe that says more about me than the song. The lead guitar on this track, by the way, is fantastic, and is probably another nod to Prince.

Really, any song on the album up to and including If I Was Ur Girlfriend could have taken this slot. The consistency really is that high. The reason I pick this is latent fanboyism - The Afghan Whigs covered it. Written by Dallas Austin, this is an anthem of infidelity. 'The 22nd of loneliness, and we've been through so many things/I love my man with all honesty, but I know he's cheating on me', T-Boz defiantly sings over a well-chosen Slick Rick sample ("Hey Young World"). Slicky produced, and excellently performed.

Further Listening
Ginuwine - The Batchelor
Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
Prince - Sign O' The Times

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user ratings (125)

Comments:Add a Comment 
June 26th 2005


Ace, ace, ace.

I've never liked TLC, though.

June 26th 2005


When I was 8 I liked pop music, and no I'm not making fun of the group. Too bad the whole group got torn apart after Left Eye's death.

June 26th 2005


I cant help but be blunt. TLC aren't worthy of anything more than what they are, and that's run of the mill, pop bulls***.

June 27th 2005


Album Rating: 4.0

I don't like Creep or Switch very much, but everything else on this CD is fantastic. They are really good singers (all three of them) and have a lot of great songs on this CD! You did an AMAZING review featuring many highlights of the album and a background of them. Very nice overall CD review and nice song recommendations except for Creep ;) but I do agree with most everything else you said. Yet another great review Iai!

June 27th 2005


dooooon't goo chaaasin' watafallss

October 21st 2008


Album Rating: 5.0

Tin_Heart you obviously don't know the difference between what's pop and what's not. Although TLC might have pop singles, it doesn't mean they're a pop group. N'Sync, The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Paramore, The Jonas Brothers, and Soulja Boy are all strictly pop that pay more attention to money than good music.

TLC made some great music and even though they do have pop songs, their overall category isn't all "run of the mill pop bullshit."

Staff Reviewer
February 16th 2010


don't go, jason waterfalls

Mars Blackmon
April 10th 2010


Tin_Heart is a pedophile

This album is a classic

September 19th 2010


I want to check this out, maybe even buy it for cheap.

September 19th 2010


burn the house down!

September 19th 2010


Album Rating: 4.5

album rules

Staff Reviewer
October 24th 2010


waterfalls is very nearly the best song of the 90s

February 5th 2011


Album Rating: 4.5

album turns me on

January 10th 2012


dont go chasin waterfallls [2]

August 16th 2012


I want you to get me some tissue....SO I CAN WIPE MY ASS~~!!!

Staff Reviewer
December 12th 2012


Album Rating: 4.0

AH nostalgia

Digging: Sincere Engineer - Bless My Psyche

February 7th 2013


bump thx

February 7th 2013


bump i agree thx

February 16th 2013


These girls... are so inspiring.

January 2nd 2014


Album Rating: 4.0

sexy music for sexy people like me

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