Few musical groups from the ’90s are more worth remembering than TLC. The Atlanta trio dominated the decade with singles and albums announcing a sensibility as easy to recognize as it was impossible to duplicate, striking a perfect balance between keen curiosity and rough experience. Tender and assertive at once, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas would set the standard for every R&B girl group who succeeded them.
Though creative and personal tensions between the three ran high, it was only after Lopes’s abrupt, tragic death in a Honduras car accident that the group was wounded. Still, fond memories of TLC persisted among fans, and when Watkins and Thomas set up a Kickstarter to fund a new album in 2015, they exceeded their $150,000 goal by a quarter-million dollars. Heralded by the Snoop Dogg–featuring lead single “Way Back,” TLC is due for release at the end of the month; a music video for the song, released yesterday, is a further indication that the time for TLC is now.
Fittingly, the song itself, which cites Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and Michael Jackson in its chorus, is about the endurance of established bonds. Though Lopes’s voice has vanished, Watkins and Thomas compensate with lyrics that evoke continuity between past and present. Bouncy, loose, and grounded, the production is a ringer for the sounds that prevailed in TLC’s heyday. Add that to the ’90s-style tie-dye hues and neighborhood hangout vibes of the music video and the Doggystyle-vintage guest verse, it’s hard not to believe that whatever essence that made the group so special still lives on.