100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #81 TLC – Creep

Released: 1994

CrazySexyCool found TLC on the cusp, between artistic stations with no obvious final destination. It was an album that took the trio and their ultra slick 90’s brand of R&B to a global audience, with Waterfalls inescapable for months on radio stations from LA to Sydney. But amongst that and it’s other gems – a game cover of Prince’s If I Was Your Girlfriend, the g-funk strut of Kick Your Game, Red Light Special’s ultimate booty call – lurked syrupy MOR (Diggin’ On You, Let’s Do It Again), and an indescribably bad cameo from Busta Rhymes on Can I Get A Witness.

Whatever the arguments about occasional lapses in quality control, CrazySexyCool was also a coincidental theatre in a battle to liberate pop’s women of colour from a supplicant role, one that had changed little since the exploitative days of Motown. It was a conflict that took in the still conservatively owned topic of sexual politics and female expression, one that would divide the players and dominate the backdrop to the album’s lead single.

Austere, deep in Philly vibes with a plaintive trumpet loop and disconsolate strings, Creep sounded – still sounds – like it came off a different album. It was also a confession and cry for help in one; this story of revenge on infidelity by infidelity split the group, Lisa Lefteye Lopes eventually backing down from a threat to cover her mouth with tape in objection when shooting took place for the song’s video; to Lopes, cheating because you can represented a lack of courage, not of options.

That arguments by men about women’s moral boundaries are still in public discourse more than twenty five years later is a sombre reminder of how little society has progressed since, but remorse by any name has rarely satisfied more.