TLC – No Scrubs

First Hit #1: April 10, 1999

There’s a trend developing which started in 1998, and that’s a pop song as dating advice for young girls. TLC is the latest group to tackle the issue, taking on the men that they do not find worthy of their affection. TLC, as it turns out, prefers a man who puts in a lot of effort into his life, though it’s fairly simplistic and often equates effort with a healthy bank account. Scrubs are slovenly and not particularly interesting, sure, but the song makes a lot of reference to their lack of funds overall. It’s kind of simplistic, actually.

But it’s also really catchy, and the chorus is one of those things that will get stuck in someone’s head for days. And the chorus itself actually references the lack of effort part in a way that doesn’t reference wealth. It specifically refers to someone who sounds like a bit of a hanger on, riding their successful friends (literally and figuratively) in order to get into the circle of more interesting people. It also crystallizes the song in a way, since it’s the emphasis that it’s not all about money, but about people who are putting the effort in, since that’s the image they want people carrying with them. It’s just a shame that the song becomes so focused on money, when there’s a wide spectrum of ways one can be a scrub.

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One Response to TLC – No Scrubs

  1. RBerman says:

    Groovy R&B with a great melody and tight harmonies. In general it’s a Girl Power song, like Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” (, to give a vintage example; many others from Pink to BeyoncĂ© could be cited more recently. In particular it’s an anti-leech rant, like Hall & Oates’ “Maneater” or Wham!’s “Everything She Wants.” It makes its point in second person, addressing the leech directly, whereas Paula Cole’s “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” ( and Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” ( reached the same cautionary conclusion through a first person narrative. Its lineage goes all the way back to the Old Testament book of Proverbs, an instruction manual for upper class adolescents navigating the pubertal shoals of drugs, friends, and lovers.

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