*Sixteen years ago TLC featured thousands of fans’ names on a pull-out poster in their third album FanMail. Now, they’re offering fans the chance to be even more involved in the process, both creatively and physically.
The group has launched a kickstarter campaign to fund their fifth and final album. While pledges start at $5, higher fan contributions will get you things like a custom TLC voicemail, signed vinyl, an exercise class with Chilli and even clothing from their vintage videos.
Billboard chatted with Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas about the details of their Kickstarter campaign, what “final album” really means for TLC and whether audio of the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes will be part of the album.
Why did you decide to make this album using Kickstarter?
It’s a combination of things. Our manager talked to us about Kickstarter long ago, and maybe he was just planting the seeds back then. Also, I got on Twitter later than most. I already had fans asking, “When are you coming back? We need more music!” Then once our biopic came out, the requests were just overwhelming. Fans have even been sending ideas for what they want a new album cover to look like — they get so creative. They have so much love for us, and we thought, “We gotta do this, and we have to involve the fans.”
Before Kickstarter, were you talking to labels? Was it that you couldn’t agree on terms with them?
That wasn’t it at all. We worked with L.A. Reid again when we did the movie — we did a song for the soundtrack (“Meant to Be”) and that was a good experience. We had a great time with him. But doing it this way, we have complete creative control. The only people we’ll be talking to and asking their opinion is the fans. That’s it. Doing stuff outside of the box is what TLC does. We came out of the box already out of the box. If we feel like we’re in the box, we’d go crazy. On FanMail, we had thousands of fans’ names inside the CD jacket, we dedicated the whole album to our fans, so this is not new to us — at least the fan involvement part. Kickstarter is perfect for us. It wasn’t something we heard about and just got to it. We did our research, met with the people at Kickstarter — they are brilliant, and they’re excited to work with us. We feel very good about this collaboration.
What kind of incentives are you offering for pledges?
Lots of fun stuff. Everybody knows how T-Boz and I are afraid of the dark, so we have TLC nightlights. And we love our onesies, so we’ll have an overnight onesie party with some fans. Plus personal things, like a workout session with me. We have things we can give them — things you can have in your hand — but it’s nothing like spending that quality time with fans that love you.
Have you started on the music?
Right now we’re working on getting the right team together: The right producers, the right writers. Because we all have to connect with these people and have working chemistry. When you don’t have that, you can be in the studio working with the best producers and writers but not get any magic. That’s what we’re working on and it’s looking good so far. People really want some good TLC music again.
Ne-Yo worked with you guys on “Meant to Be” for the biopic. Might he be on the album?
I hope so! We’re such huge fans of his work, he’s so talented and he totally gets us. We would love to have him come on board. The only thing that would keep him away is his own project, because he’s got his stuff out right now. But yeah, if he has the time, that would be awesome.
Anyone else you’re hoping to get?
There’s quite a few people. Not necessarily big names, because we didn’t get our biggest songs from people you knew. When we got with Dallas Austin, he was just getting on. He was kinda like the fourth member of TLC. I’ve talked to him about this album, and he’s very excited. He understands TLC better than most producers could, and he’s excited to be working with us as well. He was like, “Count me in!”
So this is a TLC album, but Left Eye is obviously no longer with us. Will she be involved in any way, like unreleased recordings?
You know, when we did the last album, 3D, during the time that she did pass away, the song “Girl Talk” was the only one that her rap was current — she did the rap specifically for that song. Before that, Lisa was working on her solo stuff and she wanted to go in a direction that was different from Left Eye with TLC. And we totally understood, respected and supported her, but a lot of that is different from the type of music that we do. At that time we were searching really hard to find stuff to go with songs we were working on to finish the [3D] album. So to answer your question, probably not, but I’m not going to say “no” because we’re open to it. But at the end of the day, everyone knows how much we love our sister. You go to our show, you feel her presence.
And you don’t want it to feel forced.
With our fans, they’ll know. They know when it’s forced and when it’s naturally a good thing. Like when the movie came out and people saw how Lil Mama did portraying our sister, the diehard TLC fans, they fell in love with her for doing such a good job. And that’s why they were okay with her doing some shows with us and repping Left Eye. So if something authentic can come together like that, we’re going to do it.
What about having Lil Mama on the album?
I don’t know. I’m not sure, we haven’t gone that far as collaborations. Right now we want to get that message out to our fans and say, “Hey, this is what we want to do and we want to do it with you guys. We have a ton of ideas, and we know you have them, because you guys have no problem telling us on Twitter.” (Laughs) I promise you, every single day I go on Twitter and Instagram and see something that blows me away. We still have the love for music; it will forever be in my heart. Being on stage and performing is one of my first loves, and I can’t wait to get back out there. But we gotta make sure it’s product that you guys love.
So what made you decide this was the final album?
We’re so blessed to have an amazing catalog. It’s rare to have a catalog that’s full of songs that people love and to get an opportunity to add to that, and to say it’s the last album. We don’t really know what the future holds, but this is so important to us and we want to do it right. We don’t want to get out there and lie to anybody, like we’re gonna do eight more albums, but this album right here is so important to us. And that’s it. If the stars are aligned later and it makes sense to do anther one, we can say, “Hey, we decided to make one more.” But now it feels like the final album. And to add to what we have, the songs have to stand up next to the ones you guys love so much. Otherwise, y’all will let us know it’s wack if it’s wack. (Laughs)
Is that a lot of pressure?
It is pressure. But we’re always very nervous about things — we don’t take anything for granted. We want to bring that love and energy and entertainment to our fans. We want them to walk away like, “Wow, you can tell they still love us,” because we do. It’s not about us going out there and performing for a check — we love what we do. It’s important to make sure the product is up to par. Trust me, if the subject matter isn’t right, if the tracks aren’t jamming, we won’t do them. And we gotta make up new TLC dances. I already have a couple in my head. We got new dances, we gotta figure out crazy new outfits — and we’ll be going through this with our fans [on Kickstarter]. For instance, I know for a fact that if Michael Jackson — who happens to be my husband, he’s my baby — if I could say I helped him pick out that jacket in “Thriller,” I mean come on, that would be crazy. That’s something you would remember the rest of your life.
It’s All About H.E.R. Music / WATCH
*H.E.R. is a soulful R&B singer, who plays electric guitar with the style of Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. Yet, she has her own style of singing and her own manner of playing the guitar.
While it is more common to see female singing recording artists playing piano during their performances, it’s a bit more of a rarity to see the combination of a female singer-electric guitarist, especially one that has designed a Fender Stratocaster for the iconic guitar maker. In essence, she is the first Black woman to have her own signature Strat, which she showcased when she appeared on “Saturday Night Live” this past October (2020).
As the show’s musical guest, H.E.R. performed her new single “Damage” and debuted “Hold On.”
During the two-time Grammy-winner’s extraordinary vocal showcase on “SNL”, it was difficult to miss her guitar brilliance and even harder to miss the uniquely designed guitar she was playing.
“The H.E.R. Stratocaster makes a statement as bold as the artist who inspired it,” said a Fender company executive.
“I’ve looked up to a lot of guitar players, but there haven’t been many Black female artists who have been in this position and have been able to represent Black women,” H.E.R. said. “The goal is to inspire with this guitar.”
H.E.R. adds that the idea of what’s she is doing as a guitarist goes beyond inspiration, as she wants to leave a legacy.
“The legacy I want to leave is just to inspire and pass the torch on to the next girls who want to kill it on the guitar,” said H.E.R.
Exclusive Clips From ‘Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas’ For Those Of Us Who Don’t Have Apple TV+ (Watch)
*We’ve got exclusive clips from today’s premiere of “Mariah Carey’s Magical Christmas Special,” along with Mimi’s new Christmas anthem “Oh Santa” featuring guests Jennifer Hudson and Ariana Grande that premiered last night on YouTube.
The special has a storyline: “Faced with a holiday cheer crisis, the North Pole knows there’s only one person who can save the day: Santa’s great friend, Mariah Carey. Combining musical performances, dynamic dancing and groundbreaking animation, the undisputed Queen of Christmas jumps into action to create a holiday spectacular to make the whole world merry.”
Other celebs in the special include Tiffany Haddish, Billy Eichner, Snoop Dogg, Jermaine Dupri, Misty Copeland and Mykal-Michelle Harris. Extra special appearances are also made by Carey’s twins, son Moroccan and daughter Monroe.
Watch exclusive clips, and the video for “Oh Santa” featuring a buzzed about, harmonized whistle note run at the end of the song between Mariah and Ariana.
Teyana Taylor Retires from Music After Saying She Feels ‘Underappreciated’ as an Artist
*Teyana Taylor appears to have announced her retirement from the music industry.
The singer took to Instagram on Friday to share Spotify’s year-round stats of her “2020 Artist Wrapped,” and thanked her fans for their support. She also called out the music industry for making her feel “super under appreciated as an artist.”
She writes: “I ain’t gone front in times of feeling super under appreciated as a artist, receiving little to no real push from the ‘machine,’ constantly getting the shorter end of the stick, being overlooked … I’m retiring this chapter of my story with the comfort that i can depart with peace of mind seeing that all the hard work & passion put in was indeed loved & supported somewhere in the world!”
Taylor continues, “All hustlers have the understanding that when one door closes another will open.”
Check out the full post below.
View this post on Instagram
Taylor also called out the Grammys for the lack of women nominated for the Best R&B Album category: “Y’all was better off just saying best MALE R&B ALBUM,” she tweeted, “cause all I see is dick in this category.”
Drake has also chimed in on the outcry over the 2021 Grammy nominations after The Weeknd called out the Recording Academy for being “corrupt.”
The lineup of 2021 Grammy nominees was revealed late last month, and The Weeknd received zero nominations, even though, as TMZ points out, his single, “Blinding Lights,” topped the charts and his album, “After Hours,” hit to #1.
The Weeknd responded to the diss in a tweet hours after the nominees for the 63rd Grammy Awards were announced on Tuesday.
“The Grammys remain corrupt,” he wrote. “You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…”
Drake also made time to speak out about how the annual music awarda show is having a “disconnect” from recognizing “impactful music.”
“I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards and just accept that what once was the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artists that exist now and the ones that come after,” Drake wrote on his Instagram story.
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