Monday, November 28, 2011

Unlucky And Unmemorable: The End Of TLC Comes In

The Good: "Damaged" is well-written and well-performed
The Bad: WAY overproduced, Not a lot of decent lyrics, Vocals are disappointing
The Basics: With only two tracks that are truly decent, 3D ends the legacy of TLC on a downbeat.

Wow, is there a modern group that has had a greater combination of success and bad luck than the R&B trio TLC? The lead singer of the group T-Boz, suffered from sickle-cell disease, Left-Eye - chief lyricist at the beginning - became an arsonist and died in a car crash, and Chili's personal life conflicted with the producer of their third album. Following Left-Eye's death, Chili and T-Boz exhibited extraordinary character and resolve, essentially ending TLC rather than replacing Left-Eye and continuing without her. They released two albums following Lopes's death; 3D and a best-of album. 3D utilizes lyrics and raps already produced by Left-Eye and melded with new vocals by T-Boz and Chili.

With thirteen tracks, 3D is a very standard r&b/hip-hop album with the exception that almost none of the songs truly pop. Having listened to the album several times now, it's my feeling that this album was a mistake. The two best tracks on the album, "Turntable" and "Damaged" are TLC tracks in name only; Left-Eye is not credited with any lyrics or vocal part of either song. While certainly less exploitative than the numerous posthumous Notorious B.I.G. or Tupac albums that have been released, 3D strikes the listener as the last chance for a payday on the TLC name and reputation, so long as T-Boz and Chili insist on having integrity (which I see as a good thing!).

The album is largely comprised of generic r&b tracks that say very little and do it poorly. So, for example, the somewhat hypnotic "In Your Arms Tonight" declares, "If you feel my body / (And try to imagine how I feel) / La la la la la la la la [I kid you not! THESE are the lyrics!] / (When we're together) / It will free your mind yeah . . ." This is mush. Lyrically the album is largely devoid of meaning or quality.

In fact, the only two songs that have decent lyrics are "Damaged" ("My heart's had enough, it's too much to manage / I think you should know that I've been damaged") and "Turntable." "Turntable" tells a story of growing into self-reliance and hope. It's a song about having faith and at the very least, it SAYS something. It's one of the few tracks that is well written.

Strangely, 3D features a number of songs, like "Dirty Dirty" and "Good Love" that none of the members of TLC wrote or produced. Several of the tracks have writing credits for T-Boz and/or Chili buried after six other writers! The result is that qualitatively, this does not feel like an album of the same caliber as CrazySexyCool and it's hard to say that it even has the appearance of being a creative endeavor of TLC.

Above all, 3D suffers from a lack of emphasis on the vocal talents of the members of TLC. Obviously, Left-Eye could not contribute much beyond the raps that she had already recorded (her voice is credited on only one track and her writing on four tracks), but the talents of T-Boz and Chili seem to be sacrificed for production and sampling. The album SOUNDS assembled. The drum programming sounds mechanized and artificial.

There's no zest on 3D. There's no spark. The closest to anything alive and real comes in on "Damaged." It SAYS something and says it well. And it sounds like TLC.

But it's not enough to recommend this album.

There are much better r&b or hip-hop albums. There are much better TLC albums. This one is not worth your time or attention. It's tragic that TLC's artistic endeavors were cut short by such tragedies in the lives of the bandmembers, but if anything 3D is an argument to let the band rest in peace rather than capitalizing on their prior success with music that is theirs in name only.

The best tracks are "Damaged" and "Turntable," the rest of the album ought to be dumped in a deep, deep hole and forgotten.

For other, similar, artists, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
“I Don’t Want To” (single) – Toni Braxton
Break Every Rule - Tina Turner
“Hollaback Girl” (remixes) – Gwen Stefani


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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