Most iconic '90s girl group: TLC or Spice Girls? | The Tylt

Real-time Voting
Most iconic '90s girl group: TLC or Spice Girls?

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was crazy; Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas was sexy; Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins was cool. Together, they were one of the most signficiant musical acts of all time. The group took on personas, representing different individual elements that only made them stronger as a collective. TLC is the model for Spice Girls. Without TLC, Spice Girls may not have existed.

Let's break it down.

Left Eye sported her stage name by wearing a condom patch over the left eye of her glasses during the "Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip" era, followed by a black line over her eye during the "CrazySexyCool" era, and an eye ring during the "FanMail" era. Rozonda's smooth and sultry R&B vocals, and sex appeal earned her the stage name Chilli after she joined the group as a replacement for Crystal Jones. And Tionne's funky and raspy lead vocals, laid-back personality and "boss-like" mentality garnered her the stage name T-Boz, the group's "cool" persona. 

Left Eye was perhaps the most creative force behind the group—naming albums and intermixing hip-hop into the group's R&B sound. Left Eye also ran into trouble after accidentally burning down her boyfriend's mansion. That incident and her big, wacky personality was the foundation for her "crazy" persona. We lost Left Eye on April 25, 2002 in a car accident, but her legacy lives on. And TLC never officially replaced Left Eye. There will only be three members of the legendary group. 


In 1992, TLC released their highly-successful debut album "Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip," which tackled friendship, love and safe sex. The group's aesthetic was different from other girl groups of both the past and present. TLC was less glamorous and wore baggy clothing associated with early '90s hip-hop culture. TLC's message was also very clear and unapologetic. They promoted safe sex and female empowerment from the jump.

Their debut album set the foundation for their magnum opus, "CrazySexyCool," named after their personas. TLC dramatically changed with their sophomore release—taking on a much more mature image and sound. The group took a deeper dive into relationship ills with "Creep" and "Kick Your Game." They were super candid on sexy smooth hits "Red Light Special" and "Diggin' On You." The group became a hit machine and while "Creep" became their first #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit, the socially-conscious "Waterfalls" was TLC's most successful chart-topper. 

"CrazySexyCool" is widely considered one of the best albums of all time. It's the only album by a girl group to go Diamond in the U.S., selling more than 10 million units. "CrazySexyCool" was the world's best-selling album by a girl group for a short period of time, but is still regarded as one of the most successful R&B albums ever. TLC's reign continued with "FanMail" in 1999, featuring pop hits like "Unpretty" and "No Scrubs."

Yep, TLC paved the way for Spice Girls, Destiny's Child, Blaque, and many other girl groups of the '90s and '00s. 


Spice Girls took personas to another level. "Wannabe" was blowing up when the ladies sat down to discuss their success with Top of the Pops' editor Peter Loraine, and he christened them with nicknames. 

Mel B told HuffPost Live:

"It was actually a lazy journalist that couldn't be bothered to remember all our names, so he just gave us nicknames, and we were like, 'Oh, well, that kinda works. I don't mind my name. Do you like your name? Baby? Posh?' We were like, 'Let's just go with it."
  • Victoria Beckham became Posh Spice because of her bob haircut, stylish short dresses, high heels and refined attitude. 
  • Melanie Brown (Mel B) became Scary Spice because of big curly hair, in-your-face personality and love for leopard print. 
  • Emma Bunton became Baby Spice because of her adorable looks and she was the youngest member of the group. 
  • Melanie Chisholm (Mel C) became Sporty Spice because of her love for athletic gear.
  • Geri Halliwell became Ginger Spice because of her fiery personality, red hair and sultry looks.

With personas in hand, the Spice Girls became a worldwide phenomenon. In America, they were called the biggest British invasion since the Beatles. 


"Spice" topped TLC's "CrazySexyCool" just two years later and became the world's best-selling album by a girl group. The Spice Girls built their debut album and group's persona upon the philosophy of girl power. Their debut single "Wannabe" said it best: "If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends." The group's "Girl Power" motiffueled the biggest worldwide phenomenon since Beattlemania in the '60s.

The Spice Girls made pop music fun again with their debut hit, "Say You'll Be There." The bubblegum pop hit launched a new wave of teen pop idols led by the Spice Girls in 1996. The success of the Spice Girls was a precursor to the likes of Hanson, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. 

The Spice Girls became the non-stop commercial engine that could. "Girl Power" wasn't just a slogan, it was used to market tons of Spice Girls-themed products.

At the height of this pandemonium, Spice Girls released "Spiceworld," their sophomore album and title of their semi-biographical film. "Stop" and "Spiceworld" danced their way into our hearts as signature Spice Girls smashes. Though Ginger Spice left the group in the spring 1998, the group continued on. Their third and final studio album, "Forever," was finally released in 2000but wasn't the same without former member Geri Halliwell

Ginger (Geri Halliwell), Baby (Emma Bunton) and Scary (Mel B) recently reunited as GEM. They had plans to replace Posh and Sporty with two honorary members using a reality TV show competition, but the former members both shut that down. 

Melanie C told the Irish Times:

"I'm not saying that I would never perform with the girls again because you really don't know what the future holds – but at this point, I think it really only could be five."

Fans were surprised and let down by the collapse of a legit Spice Girls reunion, but many still regard them as the most significant girl group ever. The combined success of their first two albums and massive commercialization garnered them the title of best-selling girl group of all time. And that's hard for any other group to beat. 


"Waterfalls" is TLC's most successful single to date. The socially-conscious hit inspired so many young people to avoid chasing waterfalls—meaning don't chase "dreams" that are nothing but trouble. The song tackles drug dealing, unsafe sex, and HIV/AIDS. 

Significant lyrics:

His health is fading and he doesn't know why
Three letters took him to his final resting place
Y'all, don't hear me
Don't go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to
I know that you're gonna have it your way or nothing at all
But I think you're moving too fast

The Grammy-award nominated song is also revered for Left Eye's rap solo:

I seen a rainbow yesterday, but too many storms have come and gone
Leaving a trace of not one God-given ray
Is it because my life is ten shades of gray
I pray, all ten fade away
Seldom praise Him for the sunny days

Watch the music video to the legendary hip-hop soul ballad below. 


#TeamTLC because no other girl group is as crazy, sexy and cool. 


Spice Girls coined girl power as their slogan with their debut hit "Wannabe," promoting female friendships and empowerment over icky boys! The group and "Wannabe" became a worldwide phenomenon. The hit remains the group's most signature to this day. 

Notable lyrics

If you want my future forget my past
If you wanna get with me better make it fast
Now don't go wasting my precious time
Get your act together we could be just fine
If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends
(gotta get with my friends)
Make it last forever friendship never ends
If you wanna be my lover, you have got to give
Taking is too easy, but that's the way it is

Watch the video to the iconic hit below. 


#TeamSpiceGirls because they represent the epitome of '90s girl power.


TLC has inspired so many girl groups over the years. 


Influential? Yes, but TLC is also distinctive as a girl group. There are no others like 'em. 


Spice Girls fans put it this way—you can't top their numbers!


BSB is the best-selling boy band, and they won our boy band face-off for a reason. It might be the same case for the best-selling girl group of all time. 


Listen to TLC's essential hits below. 


Listen to Spice Girls' greatest smashes below.

Most iconic '90s girl group: TLC or Spice Girls?
A festive crown for the winner