First Hit #1: July 8, 1995
Waterfalls captures the essence of TLC better than their previous hit Creep. They didn’t have to make a song that actually said anything, they had a memorable chorus, another great beat, and their general ability to make a smooth jam. However, TLC wanted to do something else, they wanted to make a song with meaning, so instead it’s a song about social issues – specifically drug dealing and AIDS. It’s also a pop song that requires thought to actually understand, the catchy chorus sounds oddly restrictive until Lisa Lopes’ rap verse comes in, which makes everything that came before congeal – it’s about the danger of dreams, which sounds restrictive but in the context it explains the characters’ actions, which lead to their deaths. It’s a song about how there’s no shortcuts, and shortcuts are dangerous. The drug dealer died because he thought dealing drugs was a way to financial freedom, the AIDS victim died because he went home with a woman who was not selective with her sex partners. It’s a song that decries dangerous shortcuts to pleasure, and as a result it’s actually a successful attempt at a message song. It is obvious, but it requires a bit of thought to connect the dots, and without that thought it can just wash over you. I have a great deal of respect for TLC, they were consistently better than they had to be.
The song does suffer in the video, as it’s extended in order to complete the visual of the story, but since the song was tightly constructed originally it doesn’t actually have the sound to underline the extended portion, leading to a somewhat tedious bit of instrumental that interrupts the flow.