TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ Initially Was Not a Hit

No girl group has had as much impact on merging hip hop and R&B music as TLC. The group’s sophomore album CrazySexyCool is their most influential and successful record to date. It solidified them as a force to be reckoned with due to its songs lyrical content. The biggest hit from the album was “Waterfalls,” which initially didn’t appear to pan out that way. 

TLC poses on red carpet in 1995 amid the success of 'Waterfalls'
TLC 1995 | Ron Galella / Contributor

The song didn’t initially take off

“Waterfalls” is a socially conscious record that touches on major issues including drug abuse, gun violence, unprotected sex, and the AIDS crisis. The song was released as their third single from CrazySexyCool in May of 1995, behind the midtempo single “Creep” and the sensual ballad “Red Light Special.” But radio stations barely played it at the beginning, and fans weren’t receptive either.

“Radio wasn’t jumping on the record. They didn’t know what we were talking about,” Chilli told AllHipHop in 2014. But the group felt the song was important enough for them to fight for it to go further. 

“Waterfalls’” music video and visual messaging helped the song register with fans and become a No. 1 hit 

Because of the initial lackluster success of “Waterfalls,” Clive Davis, the parent company’s label head of LaFace Records, was not on board with the idea of shooting a visual for the single. But the group was adamant that the message was an important one to tell.

The group convinced their manager L.A. Reid to give them a big budget of $1 million for a video concept. T-Boz remembers telling Reid, “If you believe in us, we’ll make you the best music video ever.” With a visual to dramatize the lyrics via storytelling of a young man succumbing to gun violence and a man dying of AIDS, audiences were captivated. 

Source: YouTube

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“The video brought it to life. Videos then told the story. Radio was still on “Creep” because they had seen the video. Once we teamed up with F. Gary Gray to bring our vision to life, it was over at that point. The rest was history,” Chilli told AllHipHop of how the single took off.

Waterfalls” spent seven weeks at No. 1. It also earned two Grammy nominations. 

Their album sold over 10 million copies but the group didn’t see a return on their investment due to a bad record contract

Following “Waterfalls,” the final single from the album to be released was “Diggin’ On You.” CrazySexyCool peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and spent over two years on the Billboard album charts. 

The album was certified Diamond by the RIAA, making the group the first girl group in history to be awarded the status. It has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, becoming the best-selling album by an American girl group. CrazySexyCool is the second best-selling album worldwide behind the Spices Girls’ Spice

Despite such, the group realized quickly they were in debt due to their bad recording contract. They filed for bankruptcy shortly after and renegotiated under a separate deal.

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