By Megan Gibb, Illustration by Anne Pomel
Throughout the modern age, we have been bombarded with band after band. Some become iconic, leaving a lasting impact on the world and music, and others fall into insignificance after their initial success has faded. To me, far too many girl groups fall into the latter category –they find success, but it’s short-lived and they are all but forgotten. However, there is one girl group in particular whose legacy and importance is just as large as it was when they were originally popular, and that group is TLC.
TLC changed the game in a big big way. Even their critics can’t ignore the fact that they sold a huge amount of records in the 90’s and paved the way for many female artists to come. Their debut album is fifteen tracks of solid gold, covering a multitude of topics, rather than the usual boy-orientated songs that are churned out so regularly. “Oooooooh…… On the TLC Tip” is proof that T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli weren’t about generic songs and vague lyrics – they arrived on the scene with a bang and continued to excel. Songs such as What About Your Friends that highlight their value as female role models and as an alternative source of information on what it means to be a girl. The track is all about having a strong, dependable group of friends that you can depend on through anything and how those relationships are one of the most important things you can have in life.
I first fell in love with them after hearing the ultra famous track “Waterfalls.” The song is nothing short of perfection in my eyes, once again managing to open up discussions on topics that most artists shy away from – such as death and illnesses like AIDS and the devastating consequences they have. The combination of such subjects with Left Eye’s heartbreaking yet hopeful rap about finding yourself and not giving up makes it, in my opinion, one of the best songs ever written–and is monumental in regards to teaching young people about growing up and the obstacles that they may face. The group has a large catalogue of tracks all about empowerment and female independence–topics that are still desperately important to talk about. What makes them so great to me is that their unique sense of style and big personalities really make you warm to them, and when listening to their songs and what they have to say about life, it’s almost like a big sister telling you rather than a seemingly distant pop group.
The group’s third album, FanMail, continued in the same vein as their previous offerings, discussing topics like self-esteem and learning to love yourself. The track “Unpretty” stands out to me as being hugely important to young women. Society constantly bombards us with strict expectations on how we should dress, look, behave and love –things that are sadly also often brought into relationships, where women can often be made to lose the confidence they had previously due to these expectations being placed upon them by their partner. This is what the band is singing about in the track: how, sometimes even if on the outside a person projects an image of happiness and confidence, underneath they can be lonely and think very little of themselves.
It is TLC’s attention to detail with their lyrics and their desire to educate their young audience on the importance of safe sex that elevates them to true greatness in the field. They managed to create an image of female independence and still show young girls that being feminist is not only important, but nothing to be ashamed of–even in a society that more often that not tells us it is–all while being uber cool, super stylish and making brilliant music. Although Lisa’s tragic death meant we were only blessed with four albums, their legacy lives on and I hope that many more young people like myself will continue to discover TLC and learn from their message.
Megan Gibb is 19 years old and lives in the UK. Her life mainly involves binge watching TV shows and getting too emotionally invested in video game characters.
Anne Pomel is a French illustrator. She studied graphic design, then moved to Paris and started to do illustrations for children’s magazines. Then she went back to school to study fashion, did several internships for fashion brands in Paris, returned to illustration and finally moved to Portland. She likes taking pictures and doing embroidery. She’s currently obsessed with Audrey Horne and pancakes. You can find her on tumblr and instagram.