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Waterfalls (TLC song)

"Waterfalls" is a song by American recording group TLC. It was written by band member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes with Marqueze Etheridge and Organized Noize for TLC's second album, CrazySexyCool (1994), featuring production by the latter. The song was released as the third single from the album on May 29, 1995 in the United States, followed by a United Kingdom release on August 5, 1995.

Waterfalls by TLC US CD maxi-single.jpg
Standard artwork (US CD maxi-single pictured)
Single by TLC
from the album CrazySexyCool
ReleasedMay 29, 1995
Producer(s)Organized Noize
TLC singles chronology
"Red Light Special"
"Diggin' on You"
Audio sample
Music video
"Waterfalls" on YouTube

Often considered the group's signature song, "Waterfalls" was an international hit, topping the charts in many different territories. The song spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving the group their second US No. 1. The song was the No. 2 song of the year on the Billboard 1995 year-end chart. "Waterfalls" also peaked at No. 1 in New Zealand and Switzerland while reaching the top ten in many other countries. "Waterfalls" received critical acclaim, earning two Grammy nominations at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards in 1996 for Record of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

The song tackled issues of the illegal drug trade, promiscuity and HIV/AIDS. Jarett E. Nolan of BMG noted that "Waterfalls" was the first number one song ever to reference AIDS in one of its verses.[2] The accompanying music video for the song reflected its socially conscious lyrics. With a million-dollar budget, the video was an MTV staple credited for giving the single much of its success. It stayed atop the MTV Video Monitor chart for over a month, making TLC the first act to ever achieve this feat. The video won four MTV Video Music Awards in 1995, including top honors for Video of the Year. TLC was the first African-American act to ever receive the trophy.


"Waterfalls" is an R&B song,[1] written by TLC band member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes with Marqueze Etheridge and Organized Noize, who also produced the song. Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins perform the song with Lopes, who also provides a rap. The background vocals are performed by the members of TLC, as well as Debra Killings and Cee-Lo Green. Of Green's involvement, Watkins noted, "He was in Goodie Mob, we grew up together, we go way back. He (sang on the track) and it was amazing! I love his voice."[3]

The lyrics of the song reference 1990s issues such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic and violence associated with the illegal drug trade.[4] Watkins said that it was important for the group to "get the message across without seeming like preaching."[5]

The TLC song shares elements with Paul McCartney's song of the same name, which opens with the line "Don't go jumping waterfalls, please keep to the lake." McCartney himself noted the resemblance, stating "In fact, somebody had a hit, a few years ago, using the first line...then they go off into another song. It's like, 'Excuse me?'"[6]

Music videoEdit

The music video was directed by F. Gary Gray and features Ella Joyce, Bokeem Woodbine, Shyheim, Paul J. Alessi and Gabrielle Bramford. TLC had to force L.A. Reid to get the budget for the music video,[5] which was filmed at Universal Studios Hollywood from June 8–9, 1995.

Like the song itself, the video tackles issues of illegal drug trade and HIV/AIDS, two crises that plagued the 1990s. A young man (Shyheim) goes against his mother's advice to stop selling drugs, and is killed before a drug deal. In other scenes, a woman in a relationship is shown convincing her partner (Alessi) not to use a condom. Afterwards, he looks in the mirror and sees that he has an early symptom of AIDS visible on his face, in the form of Kaposi's sarcoma. He then sees a small photo frame on the dresser, showing all the people she has had sex with previously. The video also intercuts scenes of liquified versions of TLC performing to the song while standing on top of an ocean and performing in front of a real waterfall. At the end of the video, the young man involved with drug gangs appears in ghost form. He tries to hug his mother as she is walking down the streets; every time he tries to hug her, she walks right through him. The bedroom of the couple shows the man's face faded from the picture with the woman sitting alone on the bed; she too fades away, as they both die from AIDS.

The video won four awards at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards: Video of the Year, Best Group Video, Best R&B Video, and the Viewer's Choice Award. Watkins stated in retrospect that the "video spoke for a whole epidemic."[3]

Live performancesEdit

The song was performed at many awards shows, including the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards and the 1996 Grammy Awards. The group performed "Waterfalls" at the 1995 MTV Movie Awards wearing black tops and silver pants. The performance "was theatrical and kept true to the lyrical story."[7] They also performed the song at MTV's 20th Anniversary on August 1, 2001, making it Left Eye's final performance with the group before her death. In September 1995, TLC performed "Waterfalls" in a medley with "Creep" and "Diggin' on You" on the British TV chart show Top of the Pops, aired on BBC One in the United Kingdom.

Remaining members T-Boz and Chilli performed the song along with Alicia Keys and fellow girl groups En Vogue and SWV at the 2008 BET Awards. Thomas and Watkins appeared on Good Morning America on October 15, 2013 to perform the song during promotion for the greatest hits 20 and the VH1 biopic CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story.[8]

On November 24, 2013, TLC performed at the 2013 American Music Awards with special guest Lil Mama, who performed Left Eye's rap in tribute to her.

Critical receptionEdit

"Waterfalls" has received critical acclaim from music critics. Entertainment Weekly described the song as a "Prince-inspired ballad" that "hint[s] at the artistic greatness TLC might achieve if freed from commercial concerns."[9] Nigel Butler of Sputnikmusic compared the song to esteemed artists such as Sly and the Family Stone, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder.[10] Butler wrote, "The arrangement and instrumentation is absolutely fantastic - if a bunch of great melodies had an orgy, the result would something a little like this - and the lyrics are the best on an album that maintains a shockingly high standard of songwriting. Left-Eye drops the album's best rap on this track too."[10]

The song was nominated for two Grammys at the 1996 Grammy Awards: Record of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. It was also ranked 13th in VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the Past 25 Years and 8th on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of the 1990s.[11] In 2010, Billboard awarded the song the top position of summer songs in 1995.

Billboard named the song #10 on their list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.[12]


Jeff Benjamin of Fuse wrote that the track was "far more than just another pop hit: The track told a cautionary tale of HIV and AIDS, and its video depicted a man who didn't wear a condom with his girlfriend and later watched his body degenerate in the mirror."[3] AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that "Waterfalls, "with its gently insistent horns and guitar lines and instantly memorable chorus, ... ranks as one of the classic R&B songs of the '90s."[13] Sputnikmusic's Butler asserted that "any list of the best singles of the 90s that does not include this in the top 15 — at least — is among the worst lists ever written."[10]

Thomas and Watkins rerecorded "Waterfalls" with Japanese pop and R&B singer Namie Amuro in 2013 for the song's twentieth anniversary.[14] The song peaked at number twelve on Japan's Hot 100 chart. That same year, the song was referenced in the film We're the Millers as Will Poulter performs Lopes's rap.[15] The song also appears in the film's end credits. In 2015, the horror-comedy show Scream Queens featured the song in the pilot and is referenced numerous times in other episodes. It appears in the 2019 Marvel Studios film Captain Marvel, which is set in 1995.[16]


Track listingsEdit

US/International CD single

  1. "Waterfalls" (Single Version) – 4:18
  2. "Waterfalls" (ONP Remix) – 4:36
  3. "Waterfalls" (Dallas Austin Remix) – 4:28
  4. "Waterfalls" (Instrumental) – 4:39

European CD Single

  1. "Waterfalls" (No Rap Edit) - 3:32
  2. "Waterfalls" (Single Version) – 4:18
  3. "Waterfalls" (ONP Remix) – 4:36
  4. "Waterfalls" (Dallas Austin Remix) – 4:28
  5. "Waterfalls" (Instrumental) – 4:39

2001 US re-release CD single

  1. "Waterfalls" (Single Edit) – 4:18
  2. "Waterfalls" (Dallas Austin Remix) – 4:28
  3. "Waterfalls" (Instrumental) – 4:42
  4. "Waterfalls" (ONP Remix) – 4:35
  5. "Waterfalls" (ONP Instrumental) – 4:37
  6. "Waterfalls" (Album Version) – 4:39

Waterfalls (20th Anniversary Edition) Digital Single

  1. Waterfalls (20th Anniversary Edition) featuring Namie Amuro– 4:35



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[59] Platinum 70,000^
Germany (BVMI)[61] Gold 250,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[62] Platinum 15,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[63] Platinum 10,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[64] Platinum 600,000 
United States (RIAA)[66] Platinum 1,200,000[65]

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

Stooshe versionEdit

Single by Stooshe
B-side"See Me Like This"
Released11 November 2012
FormatDigital download
LabelWarner Music UK
Songwriter(s)Marqueze Etheridge, Lisa Lopes, Organized Noize
Producer(s)Future Cut
Stooshe singles chronology
"Black Heart"

"Waterfalls" was recorded by British girl group Stooshe originally recorded for their self-titled debut album, released through Warner Music UK on 11 November 2012.[67] Stooshe chose to release a cover of "Waterfalls" after meeting TLC member T-Boz, who had previously congratulated them on their acoustic cover of the song.[68] The band have turned the track's rap, performed by Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, into a three-part harmony.[68] It was announced in April 2013 that the group's cover of "Waterfalls" would not be appearing on their debut album, with member Karis Anderson claiming they "are pretending [it] didn't happen".[69]

Critical receptionEdit

4Music's Trent Maynard stated that Stooshe's take on "Waterfalls" has "smooth, layered harmonies and a easy-breezy barbershop feel."[68] Digital Spy's Lewis Corner gave the song three out of five stars and commented "It must be said that soft flourishes of brass and light guitar strums blend with the girls' on-point vocals smoother than a Starbucks cappuccino. However, after proving themselves as one of 2012's most promising original pop acts, covering a much-loved '90s anthem still feels like a strange move."[70] Jon Hornbuckle from So So Gay gave the song four stars and stated "Covering a song as famous as TLC's global hit 'Waterfalls' could backfire on a girl group, but Stooshe shouldn't be worried. Their take on the classic 1995 hit is yet another opportunity for them to showcase their fantastic voices and is a sure-fire hit, with its radio friendly vibes and sing-along chorus."[71] He thought the song sounded "fresh" and Stooshe had managed to put their own stamp on the track.[71] Hornbuckle added "If only all cover tracks were like this – a re-interpretation, rather than a copy-and-paste cover."[71]

Music videoEdit

Stooshe released an official lyric video for the track on 3 October, before unveiling the official music video on T4 on 7 October.[67] The video, directed by Matt Stawski, features cameo appearances from fellow TLC members T-Boz and Chilli.[67][72] Hornbuckle commented "The video is perhaps the most colourful promo from a girl group for years, and we love the choreography the girls pull out on the chorus. Stooshe make being cool, classy and fun all at once look effortless."[71]

Track listingEdit

  • Waterfalls (Remixes) - EP[73]
  1. "Waterfalls" – 3:27
  2. "Waterfalls" (Moto Blanco Remix) – 7:07
  3. "Waterfalls" (DJ Q Remix) – 5:46
  4. "Waterfalls" (Show 'n' Prove Remix) – 3:16
  5. "Waterfalls" (Acoustic) – 3:41
  • CD single
  1. "Waterfalls" - 3:28
  2. "See Me Like This" - 3:29

Chart performanceEdit

Charts (2012) Peak
Hungary (Rádiós Top 40)[74] 17
Ireland (IRMA)[75] 44
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[76] 20
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[77] 21

Release historyEdit

Country Release date Format
United Kingdom[73] 11 November 2012 Digital download

Other cover versionsEdit


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  • The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits (fifth edition)

External linksEdit