With the release of their new track — the breezy, wistful ode to friendship “Meant To Be” — TLC instantly remind listeners why they are the best-selling female R&B group in music history. Sonically reminiscent of their earlier work, the Ne-Yo-penned track is, as the Los Angeles Times put it, “a tender, introspective nod to their storied career,” which saw Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes sell 65 million albums worldwide and become cultural icons in the process.
In fact it’s hard to overstate the impact that TLC had upon the music world when they shot to superstardom in the ’90s. Their public struggles, high-profile romances, and flamboyant fashions may have kept them in the headlines, but it was their music — a fierce blend of pop, funk, and hip-hop-tinged urban soul — and empowering, confident attitude that enabled them to change the face of the music industry forever. TLC made their mark with three best-selling albums, 1992’s quadruple platinum Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip, 1994’s Diamond-certified CrazySexyCool (which has sold over 23 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling album by a girl group in the U.S.), and 1999’s FanMail, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart and has been certified 6x-platinum. They also racked up four No. 1 singles, (“Creep,” “Waterfalls,” “No Scrubs,” and “Unpretty”), ten Top 10 singles, and four Grammy Awards, and were ranked the seventh most successful act of the ’90s by Billboard.
But the group’s momentum came to halt with the tragic death of Lopes in a car crash in April 2002. Thomas and Watkins paid tribute to her by finishing the group’s fourth album, 3D, which went double-platinum, before going on hiatus to deal with their loss. Though the two have performed together in the time since her death, the time never felt right for a proper TLC return until now. It was while serving as executive producers on the VH1 biopic CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, which chronicles group’s humble beginnings in Atlanta and dizzying rise to fame, that Thomas and Watkins felt inspired to write the next chapter of their story and bring their music to a new generation of fans.
Watkins and Thomas reunited with their mentor, Epic Records chief L.A. Reid (who originally signed TLC to his LaFace Records in 1991) and went into the studio to record brand-new music. The sessions resulted in so many great songs that the group has decided to release a full album of original material in 2014. In the meantime, “Meant To Be” will be included on TLC’s latest release, a collection of hits entitled 20 (a nod to their 20-year career), which is due from Epic Records on October 15th.