TLC vs. Clive Davis

Happy #SongLyricsSunday! Today’s prompt is to celebrate Clive Davis’s 90th Birthday which is tomorrow. To celebrate, this post is dedicated to TLC, which was under the label LaFace Records (which was a joint venture between Babyface, L.A. Reid, and Davis’ Arista Record) for most of the 90s. In fact, Davis’ label Arista handled much of the group’s promotion, releases, and business aspects. He even didn’t like one song that would become the group’s signature, but we will explain more about it down below. Yet, there was one incident in 1996 that became a tense moment between the music exec and one of the best-selling female groups of the 90s: TLC talking Clive Davis hostage.

So How Did It Happen?

Before we jump to the actual event, let me first give a little bit of a backstory. TLC was signed to LaFace Records in 1991 with Pebbles Reid (Yes, the “Mercedes Boy” singer) as managers. The girls, being young adults at the time, didn’t read their contact at the time as a) they didn’t bother and b) they weren’t given a chance as Pebbles didn’t want them to read. It was an unfair contract that benefited the management and label hugely while making the three members poor as Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes explained in VH1’s Behind the Music (1998).

TLC released their first album entitled Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip in 1992 with massive success. Then, they released their second album (CrazySexyCool) in late 1994 which was even more successful than their debut album. The group won two Grammy Awards in 1996 for Best R&B Album and Best R&B Song (for the album’s first single “Creep”). It was at the press conference when TLC dropped a bombshell: “We are broke as broke can be”.

The girls hoped that LaFace and Pebbles would just give them better contact. While trying to renegotiate their contracts so the girls could get more money for each album sold, LaFace Records and Pebbles wouldn’t budge and didn’t want to talk to the group about their contracts. In fact, LaFace pointed the fingers at Arista for TLC’s contract problems, and Arista pointed their fingers back. Getting nowhere and frustrated, TLC decided to go to New York City to pay dear Clive Davis a visit.

To tell the whole story, I let Chili take it over as she explained it really well in this video:

After this incident, the girls were able to get a fair contract with LaFace Records, letting each member get more money with each record sold. They had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which happened in the summer of 1996. But, that helped them to restructure their finances and be able to earn more money.

I know this isn’t about a song (and I am getting there!), but I recently watched this interview when I had to stay home due to COVID infections at work. It was really interesting to hear Chili telling the story, even liked her Clive impressions. It was an eye-opening experience to hear the singer recount the story and the bold reasons why TLC did so.

The Hit Song by TLC That Clive Initially Didn’t Like

Finally, I get to talk about a song that is related to the prompt! One of the group’s most popular songs is “Waterfalls” which was released on the album CrazySexyCool. I think the site really sums up the song’s meaning really well by saying; “”Chasing Waterfalls” is TLC’s way of expressing how people chase intangible dreams with no thought of the consequences”.[1]

The first verse deals with a man who deals chasing his dreams of money and respect by dealing drugs. But, his mother doesn’t think it is a good idea. The second one talks about AIDS (which TLC was big on awareness when the album came out). The man in the second verse loves casual sex, but he contracts HIV and dies. This second verse was dedicated to AIDS victims. Fans would come up to the group at shows and told them that how TLC’s songs talked about AIDS and safe sex was very meaningful and appreciated at a time when no other artists would mention it in their music.[2]

The song was written by Marqueze Etheridge, Lisa Lopes, Organized Noize. Cee-Lo Green sings backup vocals on this track. “[Cee-Lo] was chilling in the studio,” T-Boz recounted, “so I was like, ‘Hey, you sing good, why don’t you [sing backup]?’ He was in Goodie Mob, we grew up together, and we go way back. He did and it was amazing! I love his voice. Then, everybody knew him as a rapper. Now, the world knows him as a singer, but he was like that years ago.”[2]

At first, Clive Davis didn’t like the song. According to, “he did not think that a song that portrays the devastation of AIDS on the body so graphically would hit on MTV”.[2] The group ushed Davis to release it as a single by writing a big post to him saying “please believe in us”. It also took the group’s mentor, L.A. Reid, to help get promotion for the single and a budget for the music video.

“Waterfalls” is such an iconic R&B song with its very deep lyrics. What do you like about this iconic 90s song? Listen to it below and let me know in the comments!

The video was directed by F. Gary Gray and was filmed at Universal Studios Hollywood.

The Rules for #SongLyricsSunday

(This challenge is currently hosted by the generous Jim Adams.)

Anyone can participate in #SongLyricsSunday, even if you aren’t a music blogger! If you want to participate, here are the rules:

  • Post the lyrics to the song of your choice, whether it fits the theme or not.
  • Please try to include the songwriter(s) – it’s a good idea to give credit where credit is due.
  • Make sure you also credit the singer/band and if you desire you can provide a link to where you found the lyrics.
  • Link to the YouTube video, or pull it into your post so others can listen to the song.
  • Pingback to this post will eventually work, as long as you are being patient, but you can also place your link in the comments if you don’t like to wait.
  • Read at least one other person’s blog, so we can all share new and fantastic music and create amazing new blogging friends in the process.
  • Feel free to suggest future prompts.
  • Have fun and enjoy the music.

Latest Articles

explore more