TLC was one of my favorite girl groups when I was younger and I still like them even now. When they released their third album, I was first in line to get it and I instantly found a few songs to love. It saw the girls take on a different musical direction, while keeping their classic sound on a few tracks and it led to instant classics. But even when I was listening to this album back then, the second half never interested me that much and I found the same is true even today.
The album starts off strong with the title track “Fanmail,” which has this cool futuristic, robotic sound to it. This is one of those songs that is easy to like because the chorus is so simple and catchy that you’ll be singing it before it’s over. There is a slight break in the song where rapper Left Eye describes some of the negative fan mail they have received over the years that feels almost of place. I don’t see what it has to do with the topic of being lonely and trying to find love online. But what is cool about this break is that it has one of their older songs “Diggin’” playing in the background. Either way, it’s still a strong start to the album.
The next track “Silly Ho” sounds like it could be club anthem just because it has such a big, bombastic sound. Besides, you can picture everyone on the dance floor hollering “Whoop whoop whoop woo” when it comes on. It continues with the futuristic sound found on the opening track with the robotic voice providing a rap. It’s a song that gets you hopping up and down with no sense of control. It’s a fun song about being an independent woman and not whoring yourself out to anybody.
While not every song is amazing, there are some that are just awesome. The classic “No Scrubs” has to be one of the best anthems for women. With a message of don’t date deadbeat guys, every woman or man can relate to this song. It’s fun, catchy, and has one of Left Eye’s best raps yet. Another great song is “I’m Good at Being Bad.” What makes this song so memorable is there is a sweet/nasty dynamic going on. It starts out with soft, sweet music, and lyrics about being romantic. By the chorus the music has more of a hip-hop feel and the lyrics talk about nasty, rough sex. When I read the lyrics my first thought was “Why was I listening to this when I was 10?” Still, it’s an interesting song.
The first half of the album has some awesome songs like “Unpretty,” which has a message about finding the beauty in yourself that is still relevant today, maybe even more so, but the second half is when it starts to get weak. It’s not that the songs are bad, they’re just unforgettable or something that you wouldn’t listen to on a regular basis. “Come On Down” is a slow song that’s a huge innuendo for sex. To make the song even weirder, it has a slight church feeling because an organ can be heard in the background during the chorus. “Lovesick” is a decent song in itself and it’s really cool how it uses phone dials and tones as a basis for the music, but there’s nothing about it that makes it stand out from the others. The same problem is found on the track “Automatic.” These aren’t bad, but there’s nothing interesting about them to keep you listening. At this point in the album I lost interest.
This album is different for the band because of the sound they experiment with here. Their classic RnB sound can still be found on songs like “My Life,” but for the most part they go with this robotic theme that finds them incorporating electronic sounds in their music. I think it’s exciting for the music because it’s different and something that reach people outside of their fanbase. It sounds so good that it makes me want them to have the entire album like this.
Overall, the album gets 7/10. There are some great songs on here that later on turned into classics, but the second half of the album is full of unmemorable tracks that really don’t keep your interest for long. But it’s still a pretty solid album that finds the band experimenting with an electronic sound along with a futuristic theme that works so well, I wish they had the chance to do it again. It’s unfortunate that Left Eye is no longer with us, but I hope the rest of TLC don’t actually find another member or go with a hologram. It wouldn’t be the same.