The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #159: Waterfalls by TLC (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #159: Waterfalls by TLC.

TLC was an all-girl group that consisted of Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, “Lisa, “Left-eye” Lopes and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins. In their heyday during the 1990s, they were one of the most successful music acts in the world; with four #1 songs, 9 Top Ten hits, four multi-platinum albums and overall album sales of 85 million copies worldwide. TLC is the best selling American all-girl group of all-time. They have won multiple Grammy and MTV Awards, too.

Since their inception, TLC have released songs that have a unique blend of Hip Hop. Funk, Soul and Pop. All three girls were terrific dancers, as well as, singers and rappers; thus, they appealed to a broad cross-section of listeners. Some listeners came for the music, some for the performances, some for the beauty of the three girls so, not surprisingly, when the titled their second album, “CrazySexyCool”, fans and critics, alike, all agreed that the title was an apt description of the group, itself.

From “CrazySexyCool” came two #1 hits, “Creep” and “Waterfalls”. By the time the album had come out, TLC had already developed a lot of credibility with their audience. So, when they decided to use their platform to address some concerns they had as women and as people of colour, about the way many black men were living their lives, they were taken seriously. “Waterfalls” is the song they used to speak their minds. It is a song that uses waterfalls as a metaphor for beautiful and tempting things that can turn out to hold dangerous consequences if you get too close and/or are too careless. The song is broken down into sections/verses that deal with the consequences of being tempted by the allure of easy money made from selling drugs, the nature of fidelity and the problems that arise from promiscuity (particularly, in acquiring diseases, such as AIDS) and finally, Lopes does a rap verse about some of the issues she was going through; particularly, with her boyfriend, at the time, former All-Pro NFL receiver, Andre, “Bad Moon” Rison. Offering social commentary on a single can be a risky move because a band can end up sounding preachy and judgemental but, for TLC, the song was well-received and is generally regarded as one of their finest moments as a group. In fact, the argument can be made that “Waterfalls” ranks among the greatest songs ever written about “life on the street” for people of colour; ranking right up their with classics such as “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five or anything put out by the likes of N.W.A. or Public Enemy.

There is no telling how high TLC may have climbed in their careers if not for the sudden and tragic death of Lisa “Left-eye” Lopes in a car accident in Costa Rica. Watkins and Thomas retired the group after the death of their friend and colleague. But, TLC leaves behind a legacy of excellence that routinely causes them to be mentioned as being one of the best all-girl groups of all-time.

So, without further delay, here are TLC with their #1 smash hit, “Waterfalls”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Waterfalls” by TLC, can be found here.

The link to the official website for TLC, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for always supporting the best female artists and bands from around the world. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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