28
Nov 02

TLC – “Girl Talk”

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Hey, do you remember when R&B used to get called “man-hating” all the time? That was a strange one. Songs about useless boyfriends are a barnacled pop tradition, but strap them onto platinum beats and suddenly masculinity is under siege! TLC’s “No Scrubs” – pretty much the core and only example backing up this flimsy argument – got some men so angry they recorded a ‘parody’ version which sat sheepishly in the Import racks for a while before slinking off with its tail firmly between its legs. And speaking of firm between the legs, you have to wonder what Sporty Thievez will make of “Girl Talk”, which tackles tackle with the same pitiless plain-speaking “No Scrubs” applied to wallets.

Actually the song’s more forgiving than that implies – work on your technique and we won’t gossip about your shortcomings, it’s saying – but it throws out a few neat and nasty one-liners (an Austin Powers reference that actually works, for instance), and it’s a pleasantly pointed reminder of a group who mixed earthiness with pop smarts. Most of both came from Left-Eye, though – her posthumous cameo isn’t the greatest thing about this song but her squawky, sparky flow was always the best sound on any TLC tune, even when the production was particularly shiny. And here it isn’t – the band have been long outflanked on sauciness and sonics by any number of their pop descendents, and an intriguingly dry stutter-bass opening soon loses out to pretty, predictable string patches. Good rhymes, good chorus, it’ll sound fine on the Greatest Hits – but even if Lisa had lived this would sound like a dignified exit, not a comeback.

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