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FanMail is the third studio album by American girl group TLC. It was released on February 23, 1999, by LaFace and Arista Records. The title of the album is a tribute to their fans who sent them fan mail during their hiatus. FanMail debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, selling 318,000 copies in its first week of release, and spent five weeks at number one.

FanMail
TLC - FanMail.png
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 23, 1999 (1999-02-23)
RecordedApril–December 1998
Studio
Genre
Length63:31
Label
Producer
TLC chronology
CrazySexyCool
(1994)
FanMail
(1999)
3D
(2002)
Singles from FanMail
  1. "No Scrubs"
    Released: February 2, 1999
  2. "Unpretty"
    Released: August 10, 1999
  3. "Dear Lie"
    Released: November 30, 1999

The album received eight nominations at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards, including one for Album of the Year, winning three. The album has been certified six-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. FanMail is TLC's second best-selling album after 1994's CrazySexyCool. To promote the album, TLC embarked on their first concert tour, the FanMail Tour.

BackgroundEdit

After the members of TLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 3, 1995, the group went on a recording hiatus. The suit was eventually settled on November 25, 1996.[1] Preliminary work on TLC's third studio album was delayed when friction arose between the group and their main producer Dallas Austin, who was by this time dating group member Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas and helping to raise their son Tron. Austin wanted $4.2 million and creative control to work on the project, resulting in a stand-off between the producer and the artists.

TLC eventually entered recording studios in April 1998 to start work on their then-untitled third album with producer Dallas Austin. While Austin contributed most to the album and served as its executive producer, TLC also worked with long-term producers Babyface and L.A. Reid, as well as Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The album was scheduled for release on November 10, 1998 but was pushed back to February 23, 1999.

The album took on a new world, futuristic style, which was highly popular throughout the late 1990s to early 2000s. This style was effectively portrayed in the album's most popular song "No Scrubs", along with the music video, which embraces a modern emphasis on female strength and independence. The album also featured a custom font design, cover art with decode-able binary code, along with pictures of the group members in metallic skin tones. The album's CD insert folds out to form a large poster featuring a picture of TLC and the names of thousands of people who sent them fan mail along their career. A limited edition of the album was released, and had an insert with a lenticular version of the cover placed in front of the original booklet in the jewel case. The album contained several tracks featuring vocals by the computer modulated voice Vic-E (Vikki), a talking android later featured in the FanMail Tour.

During the recording of FanMail, the group was offered many songs that would later be recorded by other artists, such as 702's "Where My Girls At?", Whitney Houston's "Heartbreak Hotel", and most notably, "...Baby One More Time", which was then famously recorded by Britney Spears for her debut album of the same name and released as her debut single which launched her career. T-Boz commented on rejecting the song to MTV News saying, "I was like, I like the song but do I think it's a hit? Do I think it's TLC? I'm not saying 'hit me baby.' No disrespect to Britney. It's good for her. But was I going to say 'hit me baby one more time'? Hell no! Every song isn't good for each artist, and when you're a real artist you know what you believe in and what you really want to sing. So, I'm clear that it was a hit, but I'm also clear that it wasn't for TLC." Chilli also added that the group was "not just passing up hits" and it "didn't feel [the song] represented the band appropriately."[2]

The album title is a tribute to TLC's fans after their five-year hiatus. The title came from group member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who also coined the group's first two album titles, Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip and CrazySexyCool. There is an explicit version and a clean version replacing certain curse words, some sexual remarks, and some racial slurs. The explicit version comes with a Parental Advisory sticker, their first album to do so. FanMail was the group's last album released during Lopes' lifetime, before she died on April 25, 2002 as she was killed in the car crash prior to the release of their fourth studio album. Lopes co-wrote five of the album's songs, while Watkins also co-wrote five and Thomas co-wrote one.

SinglesEdit

"FanMail", "Silly Ho", "I'm Good at Being Bad", and "My Life" served as promotional singles for the album. Those songs charted on the US Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.

"No Scrubs" was the official lead single and topped the US Billboard Hot 100 for four consecutive weeks, becoming TLC's biggest commercial success in years. It also ranked at number two on Billboard's Year-End Hot 100 of 1999.

Follow-up single "Unpretty" also topped the Billboard Hot 100, spending three weeks at number one and placing at number 20 on the Year-End Hot 100.

Originally, "Shout" was planned to be a single in the United States, while "Dear Lie" would be a single internationally, but only the latter would end up being released as a single with an accompanying music video. It peaked at number 51 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic     [3]
Entertainment WeeklyB−[4]
Robert Christgau   [5]
Muzik     [6]
NME8/10[7]
Q     [8]
Rolling Stone     [9]
Spin6/10[10]

The album received critical acclaim. Rolling Stone declared FanMail "equal parts steely bitch and sweet sister, superfreak and misty romantic, self-centered coffee achiever and spiritualized earth mama."

Commercial performanceEdit

In the United States, FanMail debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts with 318,000 copies sold in its first week, becoming TLC's first number-one album on both charts.[11] On June 21, 2000, it was certified six-times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[12] According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album had sold 4.8 million copies in the United States as of June 2017;[13] it had sold an additional 877,000 copies through the BMG Music Club as of February 2003.[14] Internationally, the album reached the top 10 in New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom. FanMail had sold over 10 million copies worldwide as of December 2011.[15]

Track listingEdit

No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
1."FanMail"Dallas AustinCyptron3:59
2."The Vic-E Interpretation – Interlude"AustinCyptron0:19
3."Silly Ho"AustinCyptron4:15
4."Whispering Playa – Interlude"
  • Austin
  • Marshall Lorenzo Martin
Austin0:52
5."No Scrubs"Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs3:34
6."I'm Good at Being Bad"Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis5:39
7."If They Knew"
  • Austin
  • Ricciano Lumpkins
  • Lopes
  • Martin
  • Watkins
  • Austin
  • Lumpkins
4:04
8."I Miss You So Much"
  • Babyface
  • Simmons
4:56
9."Unpretty"
  • Austin
  • Watkins
Austin4:38
10."My Life"
  • Dupri
  • Carl So-Lowe[a]
4:01
11."Shout"
  • Austin
  • Lopes
  • Martin
  • Watkins
Austin3:57
12."Come On Down"Diane Warren4:17
13."Dear Lie"
  • Babyface
  • Watkins
Babyface5:10
14."Communicate – Interlude"AustinAustin0:51
15."Lovesick"Austin3:52
16."Automatic"AustinAustin4:31
17."Don't Pull Out on Me Yet"Austin
  • Austin
  • Briggs[b]
4:33
Japanese edition bonus tracks
No.TitleWriter(s)Producer(s)Length
18."U in Me"AustinAustin3:50

Digital download trackEdit

  • "I Need That" (MP3.com exclusive track) – 3:52
    • Released online by TLC on MP3.com to promote the FanMail Tour. Produced by Rico Lumpkins for PWPX, LLC. Written by R. Lumpkins, L. Lopes, and S. Chunn. Left Eye's rap was later expanded and rerecorded on the track "Gimme Some" from Toni Braxton's album The Heat as well as being completely reused and shortened on the track "Whoop De Woo" from the compilation Now and Forever: The Hits, originally intended for the group's fourth album 3D.

Notes

  • ^a signifies a co-producer.
  • ^b signifies an additional vocal producer.
  • "I'm Good at Being Bad" contains elements from "Slippin' into Darkness" by War.
  • On initial pressings of the album, "Whispering Playa – Interlude" featured a sample of "Cold Blooded" by Rick James playing in the background.[16] The sample was removed on subsequent editions, likely due to copyright reasons, with the background music being a clip of another TLC song, "U in Me", instead.[17]
  • The song "I'm Good at Being Bad" originally featured interpolated lyrics from Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby", but the interpolated lyrics were later removed on later pressings of the explicit version. They were never removed from the clean version of the album.

PersonnelEdit

TLC

Additional personnel

  • Dallas Austin – arranger, background vocals, producer, executive producer
  • Babyface – Synclavier, acoustic guitar, guitar, keyboards, producer, drum programming, executive producer
  • Necia Bray- background vocals
  • Kandi Burruss – arranger, background vocals
  • Tameka Cottle – arranger, background vocals
  • Jermaine Dupri – producer, mixing
  • Debra Killings – background vocals
  • Ricciano "Ricco" Lumpkins – producer, engineer, keyboards, Synclavier, drum programming

ChartsEdit

Certifications and salesEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[53] Platinum 70,000^
Belgium (BEA)[54] Gold 25,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[55] 4× Platinum 400,000^
France (SNEP)[56] Gold 100,000*
Japan (RIAJ)[57] Million 1,000,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[58] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[59] Platinum 15,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[60] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[61] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[12] 6× Platinum 5,677,000[i]
Summaries
Europe (IFPI)[63] Platinum 1,000,000*
Worldwide N/A 10,000,000[15]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Tracks 1–5, 7, 9, 11 and 13–17
  2. ^ Tracks 1, 11 and 15; vocals on track 6
  3. ^ Track 6
  4. ^ Vocals on track 6
  5. ^ Tracks 8 and 13
  6. ^ a b Track 8
  7. ^ Track 10
  8. ^ Tracks 11 and 15
  9. ^ As of June 2017, FanMail had sold 4.8 million copies in the United States according to Nielsen SoundScan,[13] which does not count albums sold through clubs like the BMG Music Club,[62] where it had sold 877,000 copies as of February 2003.[14] Combined, it has sold over 5,677,000 copies in the US.

ReferencesEdit

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  3. ^ FanMail at AllMusic
  4. ^ "Fan Mail".
  5. ^ Christgau, Robert. "TLC". Robert Christgau.
  6. ^ Muzik review Archived 2008-10-06 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "TLC : Fanmail". NME.
  8. ^ Q review Archived 2008-10-06 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "TLC: Fanmail : Music Reviews". Rolling Stone. July 9, 2008.
  10. ^ Clover, Joshua (May 1999). "Reviews". Spin. Vol. 15 no. 5. pp. 146–7. Retrieved January 22, 2017 – via Google Books.
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