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Few calendar years hold as much reverence as 1994, as those three hundred and sixty-five days helped shape and mold the direction of music, film, fashion, and all other aspects of culture and entertainment a great deal. While it’s hard to narrow down the list of people, places and factors that contributed to the zeitgeist, TLC’s CrazySexyCool album stands among the more pivotal bodies of work to be consumed during that period.
Released on November 15, 1994, CrazySexyCool, which followed up the group’s multi-platinum debut, Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, served as a rallying cry for young women across the globe embracing their liberal nature, while analyzing various matters of the heart. With millions of copies sold and hailed as one of the most important R&B albums of the decade, CrazySexyCool is widely regarded as an influential masterpiece that has stood the test of time.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of this landmark release, REVOLT TV highlights five reasons why TLC’s CrazySexyCool album is an undisputed classic.
1. The Timeless Singles
Like many seminal albums in any genre, the first thing that comes to mind when referencing CrazySexyCool is its succession of classic hits that impacted not only the charts, but pop culture as a whole. The first of these was “Creep,” the album’s Dallas Austin-produced lead-single, which became the group’s first No. 1 pop hit in the US and closed out 1995 as the third hottest song of the year. Broaching the topic of infidelity, the song was well-received commercially and critically.
Building upon that success, TLC unleashed “Red Light Special,” a sultry, suggestive jam produced and penned by Babyface that reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, but would reach their apex via the album’s third single, “Waterfalls.” Produced by Organized Noize, with lyrics involving the illegal drug trade and AIDS awareness, the song spent seven weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, giving the group their second US No. 1. It’s regarded as one of the definitive songs of the ‘90s. Rounded out by the fourth and final single, “Diggin’ on You,” which reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, CrazySexyCool produced four Top 5 pop hits, unprecedented territory for a female R&B group that has yet to be duplicated.
2. The Empowering Lyrical Content
Many of the songs on TLC’s debut album cast the trio as mature teenyboppers with urban flavor and tomboy tendencies, placing them in the same bracket with youthful contemporaries like Kriss Kross, Immature, and Another Bad Creation. However, the group would change course on their sophomore album by touching on themes like romance and sexuality all from a feminist’s vantage point. Taking control of their agency as young black women, T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili’s evolution on CrazySexyCool was one that inspired not only a genre, but a generation.
3. The Masterful Production
Arriving as the New Jack Swing sound was fading and hip hop’s own was emerging, Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip drew from both of these sub-genres with production phenom Austin leading the charge behind the boards. In spite of their initial formula translating into three smash singles and multi-platinum status, TLC’s sophomore effort saw an expansion in the group’s sound, as they fully embraced their hip hop sensibilities, while progressing toward more contemporary grooves. While Austin, Jermaine Dupri and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds scored tracks on the album — most notably many of the album’s singles — CrazySexyCool also included contributions from Sean “Puffy” Combs, Organized Noize, and Chucky Thompson. This resulted in one of the more sonically rich R&B albums of its time.
4. The Music Videos
CrazySexyCool is driven by the actual music, but is also remembered due in large part to the four music videos that accompanied the album’s singles. Following two failed attempts at filming a clip for “Creep,” the group enlisted the help of director Matthew Rolston, whose decision to capture T-Boz, Chili and Left Eye clad in colorful pajama pants helped stamp the trio as style icons. Rolston’s chemistry with the group further manifested itself in the video for “Red Light Special,” which was shot in black-and-white and includes a cameo from a young Boris Kodjoe.
However, the most unforgettable visual in support of the album was “Waterfalls,” which was directed by F. Gary Gray. Performing in front of a scenic backdrop, TLC narrate a pair of cautionary tales, which include appearances from Bokeem Woodbine, Shyheim, Ella Joyce, Paul J. Alessi and Gabrielle Bramford. “Diggin’ on You,” the last of the four videos released in support of CrazySexyCool, was also directed by F. Gary Gray and uses the L.A. Live Mix version of the song. The clip includes the group’s performance of the song from the Budweiser Superfest, as well as footage from live sets at the MGM Grand Las Vegas and Madison Square Garden.
These visuals helped make TLC’s faces inescapable well into 1995 and all are mentioned among the definitive music videos of the decade.
5. It Made History
CrazySexyCool would catapult the divas into rare territory and mint them as the biggest female R&B group in the world at the time. Certified 12x platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America — with over 14 million copies sold worldwide — the album made TLC the first girl group in history to be awarded diamond status and remains the best-selling album by an American girl group. In addition to its commercial success, the project was also critically acclaimed and earned six Grammy nominations. The group would take home hardware for Best R&B Album and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals (“Creep). The trio also broke ground by winning four MTV Video Music Awards in 1995 including Video of the Year. This made TLC the first African-American act to ever receive the honor.
A number of R&B groups would follow in the footsteps of TLC and leave their mark on the music world. But, none have yet to duplicate the magic captured by T-Boz, Chili and Left Eye during the height of their reign.