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TLC offers up "juicy" biopic on VH1

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Monday, October 21, 2013

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The world needs a little more TLC -- at least that's how Rozonda "Chili" Thomas and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins feel.

The two singers put an end to the R&B group, which has sold more than 65 million records worldwide and scored chart-topping hits such as "Waterfalls," "No Scrubs," "Creep" and "Unpretty," in 2004, after trying to continue following the April 2002 death of third member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes in a car crash in the Honduras. But last week they released "20," a collection of hits plus "Meant To Be," TLC's first new single in nine years.

And on Monday, Oct. 21, (9 p.m. EDT) VH1 premieres "CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story," which Thomas calls a "juicy" biopic directed by Charles Stone III ("Drumline," "Mr. 3000," "Paid in Full") and starring Keke Palmer (Thomas), Drew Sidora (Watkins) and Natia "Lil Mama" Kirkland (Lopes).

"This is a great year for TLC," says Thomas, 42, who dated and had a son with TLC producer Dallas Austin. "We have the biopic and the album and the new songs and...It's just time for us to do everything again, you know?"

This year's TLC activity is the culmination of work Thomas and Watkins began in 2009, after regrouping for performances in Japan and Los Angeles. The duo has performed sporadically ever since -- including on the 2011 "American Idol" season finale -- and recorded a song for a 2012 tribute to the Japanese band L'Arc-En-Ciel. TLC also guested on rapper J. Cole's single "Crooked Smile," and during July the duo performed at the MixTape Festival in Hershey, Pa.

Thomas and Watkins also served as executive producers of the "CrazySexyCool" film -- named after the group's 11-times platinum 1994 album -- which Thomas says is "totally about the three of us and all the trials and tribulations that we've gone through and all the way up to where we are today. We're gonna touch on a lot of things people did not know about, things we were going through and help people understand some of the things they heard about. They're gonna get the back story."

Thomas and Watkins were also gratified when L.A. Reid, who signed the group to his LaFace Records label in 1991, gave the project a hearty thumbs-up. "L.A. came to the set, it was probably the last day we were shooting, and he was really blown away," Thomas recalls. "That was some good confirmation for Tionne and I that we were on the right track, 'cause he was the person who was responsible for putting us out as a group. So for him to approve meant a lot to us."

Thomas says that doing the film helped she and Watkins get some perspective on TLC's success -- and why there's still an appetite for the group today.

"I think, for starters, lyrically we always talked about relevant stuff, but mostly it was the music and the chemistry between the three of us," she explains. "The fact that you have three people in a group and we're all so different but we each hold the same weight in the group, it's like God put us together -- seriously. We're very different people, but it all works.

"And the people who love TLC, everybody has their favorite girl in the group or the one you felt you could relate to the most, but collectively they loved us together. And we're touchable, you know? Very touchable. Everyone kind of feel like we were their friends or family or whatever. They felt close to us. They still do."

The "whirlwind" of TLC produced its share of controversies, including business and interpersonal conflicts; in 2000, for instance, the outspoken Lopes -- who in 1994 burned down boyfriend and NFL star Andre Rison's mansion after setting fire to his tennis shoes -- challenged her bandmates publicly to each record solo albums and let fans determine whose was best. But as years have passed Thomas feels TLC's music has endured beyond the controversies.

"Y'know what; I used to say to the girls all the time when we first came out, 'We're gonna be the biggest girl group ever,' " Thomas remembers with a laugh. "It was definitely not from a narcissistic point of view or anything like that. I just believed in us so much, and in everything we stood for. I just felt that.

"And it happened. I don't think I'll ever get used to some of the reactions and stuff, and things that people say to me are so heartfelt. To know that our songs affected people the way that they did, and still do, it's amazing to me."

Thomas promises that more songs are on the way, too, in addition to the Ne-Yo co-written "Meant To Be." "We are definitely recording new music," she notes, adding that Austin and J. Cole have been producing the sessions, with an anticipated 2014 release of the first TLC album since 2003's "3D."

And, Thomas promises, "We are going to tour. We just really want to get out there and perform and do shows, and thank God people still want to see us."

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