TLC's T-Boz creating new girl group that 'can sell albums without selling sex'
TLC member Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins is creating her own girl group. The “Waterfalls” singer has launched TBozProjectNext in an effort to form the next superstar girl group consisting of ladies ages 18-24.
T-Boz is allowing fans a chance to submit a video, 3 minutes or less, showcasing their talent while singing or rapping.
In an interview with theGrio’s Chris Witherspoon, T-Boz opened up about her new girl group project and defended comments she recently made blasting female R&B acts for showing too much skin in an effort to sell more records.
“It’s clear that you can sell albums without selling sex,” T-Boz said. “I don’t have a problem with people who want to do that. I just said if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. It’s a choice. [TLC] is living proof that you can sell.”
“Wendy Williams made a comment recently regarding TLC’s ability to sell record with our clothes on. I think she said ‘that was the 90’s.’ Well to help her and to correct her statement… It’s not just the 90’s, because I’m still selling out tours. I’m selling out shows and tours with the same songs.”
Last year, TLC’s VH1 biopic CrazySexyCool made network history, becoming the most-watched original movie on VH1 and the highest rated original cable movie of the year.
T-Boz also weighed in on the highly anticipated Lifetime Whitney Houston biopic, which Cissy Houston slammed last week, saying, “No one connected with this movie knew Whitney or anything about her relationship with Bobby.”
T-Boz who was close friends with Whitney, says she understands how the unauthorized biopic could make Whitney’s family and friends feel “offended and violated.”
TheGrio: Tell me about your vision for this girl group?
T-Boz: It’s called Project Next. I thought that would be a great name because there’s always a person or a hot group… and then here come the next. I think it’s time for somebody to come out with another girl group. I think the industry is missing real superstars.
Beyoncé has staying power, and there are certain ones that stand out and are truly superstars. Being a celebrity these days and being popular isn’t the same thing as being like Michael Jackson, Madonna or Janet Jackson. What I’m looking for is true raw talent.
Is it fair to call this girl group the next TLC?
I would never call anybody the next TLC, because I don’t think I could do TLC again if I tried to do myself all over again. That was just something unique and special in itself. I think I can take elements that made TLC successful and use those elements in this group.
I think what’s lacking right now is artist development. A lot of the shows that we have out right now will take people, showcase their talent, but they never really take the time to teach them raw artist development… all the elements that it really takes to become a true entertainer. So many of these shows take these kids, tell them “you won,” and then throw them to the wolves.
Will Chili be involved at all in creating this new girl group?
I doubt it. If she wants to come and join or if she wants to add input that’s totally fine with me. But this is actually my team. My brother and I have an endeavor called iCraftMusicGroup and this is our group.
You have been outspoken about how women in R&B music are portrayed as overly sexual. What will you do to keep your group current, yet maintain that “ladylike” essence without being too overly sexual?
It’s clear that you can sell albums without selling sex. I don’t have a problem with people who want to do that. I just said if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. It’s a choice. We’re living proof that you can sell.
Wendy Williams made a comment recently regarding TLC’s ability to sell record with our clothes on. I think she said ‘that was the 90’s.’ Well to help her and to correct her statement, it’s not just the 90’s because I’m still selling out tours. I’m selling out shows and tours with the same songs. Last year we broke records on Vh1 for the best biopic ever on Vh1, and on cable for that year.
It doesn’t have anything to do with getting with the times or following anybody else. People were following people back in my day. People were taking off their clothes back when we were out. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s just a choice. It’s not hard to be sexy and still tasteful at the same time. Look at Mary J. Blige and Alicia Keys and Adele. You can still sell albums and keep your clothes on.
Why do think there hasn’t there been a chart-topping major girl group since Destiny’s Child?
Every time I turn around I hear somebody saying that they are the next Destiny’s Child or the next TLC. Instead of trying to be exactly what was already done, why don’t you take elements of what they did to be successful?
I think timeless music is missing. You have a lot of great music out, but they are more so songs for today and what’s in the now, instead of songs that can be played 20 years down the line. I think the quality of music, the lyrical content, is not as strong as it used to be.
We got to go behind the scenes of the TLC story with your VH1 biopic. What elements if any of Perri ‘Pebbles’ Reid’s management style will you bring over to this new girl group that you are creating?
It’s funny because Pebbles got really upset about the movie. It’s not like I’m sitting here 20 years later still angry. I’m over it, I’m just telling the story about what happened. So that to me was silly within itself. So she’s suing Vh1 and Viacom and all of us now because she didn’t like how she was depicted in the story. I think it’s funny suing someone over how you made me feel. I don’t think we played dirty at all. We didn’t go into her past and everything that she did to us. We just really told people the story of our career.
I can’t take away what she did for me. She gave me that old school artist development. She put me in a rehearsal room for a week straight, only allowing me food and water, until I could articulate who I really wanted to be as an artist. I learned what kind of vibe I was going to have. What kind of dance moves I was going to do. How I was going to look when I did routines. How I was going to be cool. The signature things that I thought would really make up my essence in TLC.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming Lifetime Whitney Houston biopic?
It’s a little different with the TLC movie compared to this Whitney Houston biopic. We had two surviving members to tell our story. When the person isn’t here that makes it a little more touchy because you have to get other people involved, or other people who were closest.
Whitney is not here.
Whitney was one of the first celebrities that I got cool with. She told me a lot of different things to expect in Hollywood. She was such a real person… so cool and down to earth. She always called me her little sister and her little twin. We have the same shape to our noses and the same scar on our throats.
She’s greatly missed, and I hate to hear that her family doesn’t approve of this film. That kind of makes you feel violated. People do want to hear the story because they love her. But if the family doesn’t want it, what do you really do? It is offensive.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Follow theGrio.com’s Entertainment Editor Chris Witherspoon on Twitter @WitherspoonC.