TLC brings back the sound of classic soul, summer and triumph on “It’s Sunny”

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After almost unparalleled success in the 1990s, TLC suffered the loss of a core member in 2002. Fifteen years later, the group is gaining ground. TLC’s new single, “It’s Sunny,” references soul classics and uses catchy hooks to indicate the start of summer, and the beginning of a new era for the group.

TLC and 1990s R&B

TLC’s new single, “It’s Sunny,” brings back the catchy hooks and party feel of the group’s early days in the mid-1990s. TLC churned out a series of memorable, danceable hits throughout the 1990s, such as “Creep,” “Unpretty” and “No Scrubs.” While they didn’t exactly disappear after the death of core member, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, their new recording sounds like a triumphant return after a period of mourning.

Girl groups abounded in the 1990s. Names that read like alphabet soup, hit after hit comprised of hip-hop swagger and soulful harmonies, fashion statements and larger-than-life attitudes all exemplify the girl groups of the 1990s.

From 1994 until the death of Lisa Lopes in 2002, TLC topped charts with their catchy hooks and life-affirming lyrics. While they tackled body issues and female sexuality decades before contemporary performers, there was always an atmosphere of fun that surrounded the group. Lopes’ death no doubt represented dark days for TLC, but the two remaining members sound determined to carry on.

“It’s Sunny”

To truly appreciate this single, audiences need to listen to it more than once. There is a great deal happening in one recording, and one listen does not allow for proper appreciation of it. “It’s Sunny” is a triumphant sing-a-long that has arrived just in time for summer.

The first thing most listeners will notice is the clever use of musical references that show up in terms of the song’s basis on an up-tempo version of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny.” The horns from Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” create a bridge between song parts, and around the halfway mark, the song breaks down, and a sample of Hebb singing his hit song is presented in throwback acapella. The group sings the word “sunny” over and over, along with syllables that sound like “buh-ba”to the beat of “September.” There is a lot happening in this song; it sounds like a party that is a bit too full, and everyone is talking at once, but somehow, the intended audience knows exactly what is going on.

The song does refer to dark days and the singers state they “can’t believe it’s been another year.” Listeners can make the lyrics personal, or consider what they must mean for the group. The song is an upbeat ode to good times.

TLC is a group well-aware of loss and struggle. With “It’s Sunny” they offer listeners a glimmer of hope and triumph using bright-sounding horns and thoughtful, yet happy lyrics and the inclusion of R&B staples associated with good times.

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