TLC released Creep in 1994. To be honest, by then I was pretty far removed musically from chart-topping r&b, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t appreciate a great pop song when I heard one. I was hooked by the time T-Boz sang “the 22nd of loneliness”. The song`s pure poetry, its clever lyrics, to me at least, tapped in to something akin to what Prince was doing, and were open to interpretation. While its primary concern was infidelity, it also seemed to be about the other lies we tell to keep ourselves hidden…and fuck me I was hiding a lot back then. When I listened, the song sounded like it was admitting that we were all creeps – aligning itself with the self-loathing of Morrissey (before the fall) and the Radiohead song of the same name.
The track has been heralded as an “icon” of female empowerment, “girl power” – its story describing a woman who cheats on her man, to get revenge on him cheating on her. If this thinking appears more than flawed today then it`s definitely worth noting that Creep was written by a man – Dallas Austin – and that the band members initially baulked at singing it – and at the message it sent. Stating publicly that in such a situation they`d simply “dump his sorry ass”. Left-Eye in particular took issue with the song`s apparent promotion of promiscuity, flaunting the band`s previous stance on safe sex and AIDS awareness. Issues she addressed by penning the follow-up, Waterfalls. A hyper melancholic pop song, hidden by its bright clipped funk production. Detailing dead-ends and escapes that aren’t really escapes at all. The dangers of drugs, and love.
TLC`s Creep and Waterfalls have both been repressed on a fresh 45. I`m guessing that Be With Records have got their hands on these two classics care of Sleepy Brown – the label reissued his Sleepy`s Theme LP in 2018 – since Sleepy and Organized Noize were part of the team behind Waterfalls.