Creep (TLC song)

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"Creep"
Creep1994.PNG
Single by TLC
from the album CrazySexyCool
Released October 31, 1994 (1994-10-31)
Format
Recorded Late 1993 – September 1994;
DARP Studios
(Atlanta, Georgia)
Genre
Length 4:29
Label
Writer(s) Dallas Austin
Producer(s) Dallas Austin
TLC singles chronology
"Sleigh Ride"
(1993)
"Creep"
(1994)
"Red Light Special"
(1995)

"Creep" is a song recorded by American group TLC for their second studio album CrazySexyCool (1994). It was written and produced by the trio's long-time collaborator Dallas Austin, the one who tried to write the track from his "female perspective", basing on group member Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins's real story of infidelity. The danceable R&B track's context portrayed the singers as women that cheating back at their lovers to get the attention. This context was, however, considered to be quite controversial as the trio's rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes strongly opposed it when she even threatened to wear black tape over her mouth on the accompanying music video.

Despite that, LaFace and Arista Records still released the song as the album's lead single on October 31, 1994 to its critical and commercial success. Many music critics hailed the song as a "masterpiece" with praises went to Austin's production and TLC's new musical direction. On the record charts, "Creep" became the group's first number one in the United States where led the Billboard Hot 100 for four consecutive weeks and was certificated Platinum status in sales. Followed the song's European reissue in early 1996, it climbed to United Kingdom and New Zealand's top-tens and gained many top-forty peaks in other regional countries. Since the release, the song has received many recognition from various publications' best-of lists and awards, including giving the trio their first Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals at the 38th ceremony.

For the music video, the trio scrapped the first two as disappointing results before they contacted director Matthew Rolston to create the visual's third version after seeing his works for Salt-N-Pepa. The video's final version was later deemed as one of the most iconic pop videos of all time, mainly for its famous silk pajamas costume and for the choreography. With many changes in both musical style and image, the song marked a major reinvention in TLC's career. They had performed the song during several live concerts and television events, with the track being used in films and TV series, covered and sampled by such musicians as American rock band The Afghan Whigs and singer Zendaya.

Development and lyrical content[edit]

"Creep" was based on a true experience of member Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins with a former boyfriend.

After releasing the successful debut album Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip (1992), TLC began working on the their second release called CrazySexyCool in late 1993 and continued through till September 1994.[1] One of the album's tracks, "Creep", was based on member Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins' own experience. She recalled it for Billboard: "You're with a guy and he's not showing you attention, so another guy comes along and you're like, 'Hey, if you were where you were supposed to be, he couldn't be showing me attention right now!' I was in the middle of this drama, because the other guy was [my boyfriend's] friend, and my boyfriend was just not getting it together."[2] Watkins then shared this to the group's long-time writer-producer Dallas Austin, who she had known and with whom she had shared many stories since the two were teenagers.[3] "We thought that was a good relationship to talk about because a lot of people don't admit that's how they feel – that their man's playing on them and they want to be with him so they seek attention elsewhere, but they really want to be with their guy," she added.[4]

Austin in turn penned "Creep" and thought she would be its perfect lead.[2] He wrote the song while cruising in a Chevrolet Blazer and wanted it to be written from a female perspective.[5][4] This experience was said to create "a new mold" of songwriting for him, as he was "talking about stuff guys didn't know girls did."[6] The "female point-of-view" on the track was something the trio appreciated because as a group they have always portrayed themselves as feminists, the song goes along with that mentality.[7][8] But still, on the 2013 VH1 biopic CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, the track also appeared to have been also inspired by Austin's infidelity to then-girlfriend, member Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas.[7] Latoya Peterson of Spin observed that feminism was being loudly maligned in music at the time of the song's release, as a result, more female artists like TLC, Salt-N-Pepa and Tori Amos began to "overtly defend themselves."[9] When asked if they were getting inspired from Radiohead's 1992 track with the same name, the group denied this.[10] Andy Greene from Rolling Stone had pointed out that the group took the term "creep" in a different direction compared to Radiohead's or Stone Temple Pilots' 1993 single's, in which the trio's song is about getting revenge on a cheating guy by having an affair.[11] The idea, however, was considered to be quite "controversial."[8] According to Thomas, the theme didn't come as much of a shock for them, she stated: "I think when we first came out, it was very bold of us to have a song called 'Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg' with [the lyrics] 'Two inches or a yard, rock hard or if it's sagging'. People totally understood what type of group we were. To sing a song like 'Creep' wouldn't be surprising from us."[8]

Despite that, member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was the opposite, she threatened to wear black tape over her mouth on its music video because she disagreed the song's message and the choice for it to be CrazySexyCool's lead single, partially due to the group's history of advocating for safe sex since their debut.[12][13] "I was totally, 100% against 'Creep'. I wasn't down with cheating on your man, you know, for me, it's be faithful. Trust me, I fought against that single coming out. You know, I was like 'If a girl is gonna [sic] catch her man cheating,' this was my thing, 'instead of telling her to cheat back, why don't we tell her [to] just leave,'" she shared.[14] In the end, Lopes eventually capitulated, stating: "If some people can creep, and in their minds, they can feel better by going out doing the same thing... Fine. I'm just not one of those people."[12][15] She, instead, added her new rap verse on some remixed versions of the song, which tells about the consequences of cheating.[16][17] Thomas, although, thought the song and the choreography routine from the video were "cool" enough to distract people from its lyrical content and "just sing along."[8] "Even the song 'Creep'—not that we creep, but if we did, [It was a song] for a woman that would do such a thing. I say just leave his ass, but if you're not ready to just jet at the moment, then you know, I guess we told you how to [creep]. We were really happy and we still are really happy to be the voice for so many women in so many different situations in their lives," she told Myspace in 2014.[18]

TLC recorded "Creep" at Austin's own DARP Studios in hometown Atlanta, Georgia.[16] It is one of CrazySexyCool's tracks for which Lopes was absent due to her having checked herself into rehab for alcohol abuse which had played a part in her being charged with arson to boyfriend American football player Andre Rison's mansion in June 1994. The rehab facility only released the group's rapper for a couple of recording sessions, forcing her to have less of an input on the album.[13][19]

Musical style and composition[edit]

"Creep" is a rhythm and blues song that is also influenced by various genres including funk, jazz, soul and boom bap, all creating a new distinctive sound for the trio since most of their early works are new jack swing.[22][23][13][2] This significant musical re-invention was said to have formed during the midst nineties' R&B "renaissance" in music and partially because of Lopes' stint in rehab, which putted a stronger focus on the group's pop elements on the song and on CrazySexyCool.[24] Still, similar to their past works, "Creep" carries hip hop samples—particularly two 1989 singles which are Slick Rick's "Hey Young World" and Shinehead's "Who the Cap Fits", a heavy beat, "forthright sex talk" lyrics with a kind of "playful sensuality" and "street aggression."[16][25][13][26] But this time, they delivered it with an empowered attitude and Prince-style eroticism.[27] Its production was built on a "deep" and "infectious" groove, around a wafting "late night"–style trumpet sample with quietly "jiggling" funk guitar and scratching sounds, all adding depth to the subversively "poppy" vocal chorus and accentuating the song's "slinky" hooks.[28][20][21][26] Writer Michael Arceneaux from Complex called the track a "darker, mellower, and far jazzier" sound than any of its predecessors, which was "perfect" for Watkins' alto voice.[29]

Musically, "Creep" is set in the time signature of common time with a moderate tempo of 96 beats per minute. It was composed in the traditional verse–chorus form in the key of C minor with Watkins and Thomas' vocals ranging from the chords of C4 to F5.[30] "Yes, it's me again / And, I'm back," Watkins introduces herself while opening the track in a "husky" voice.[13] She then repeats the lines "oh-I, oh-I, oh-I", which was compared by Spin's Terry Sutton to Watkins finding "a spiritual instruction in vowel sounds," before going to the first verse of the song.[31][30] In the first verse, the singer counts her relationship's "twenty-second of loneliness" and expresses how she still loves her boyfriend even acknowledging that he has been cheating on her.[30] Moving on to the song's bridge, she suddenly uses a lower register to "nonchalantly" reveal: "I'll never leave him down, though I might mess around / It's only cause I need some affection."[30][8] "So I creep / Yeah / And I'll just keep it on the down low," she low-key sings the hook as if she is "confessing to a chosen few."[13][10] Opening up the second verse, Watkins again counting her "twenty-third of loneliness" and still talks about her love for the partner despite signs of a broken romance.[30] After performing the chorus again, her fellow member Thomas joins in to "sweetly" reveal the reason why's she cheating around is because she needs some attention from her lover.[30][13] Watkins finally ends the track with the lines "I creep around because I need attention / I don't mess around with my affection" while fading out with the heavy beat and the horn sample.[30][13][26] Billboard's Larry Flick said the two's vocals in the track were "tightly woven" and "rife with raspy grit," which gave a nice contrast to the song's horn sample and funk guitars.[26]

Release and remixes[edit]

Watkins recalled that LaFace Records' co-founder Antonio "L.A." Reid "flipped out" when he first heard "Creep".[2] Eventually, despite Lopes' disagreement, the decision was made to name the track CrazySexyCool's first single on October 31, 1994.[14][32] Many producers had since contributed their own remixes to the song's release, including: Austin himself creating the "DARP Mix";[33] recording artist Jermaine Dupri—who was working closely with the group and had expressed his admiration for the song and Austin's talent—collaborating with producer Shannon Houchins to create "Jermaine's Jeep Mix" and its a cappella version;[34][5][33][35] finally, producer duo Untouchables, consist of DJ Eddie F and Kenny "Love" Tonge creating the "Untouchables Mix" and the "Super Smooth Mix".[33] Austin's and Untouchables' mixes featured a newly-written rap verse from Lopes.[16] Reporter Nate Jones from People said the rapper's composition on the remixes was another reminder of the trio's commitment to addressing social issues "seamlessly" in their music, with a noteworthy lyric line from her verse warning: "Prenatal HIV is often sleeping in a creeping cradle."[17]

In the United Kingdom and some European countries, the song was later re-issued or first-time debuted as "Creep '96" on January 13, 1996, composed of mixes by Dupri, Maxx, Tin Tin Out and a single-edited of "Waterfalls" (replaced by its "DARP Mix" on the vinyl version).[36][37][38] Separately in Britain, the track also made its appearance as one of the B-sides on "No Scrubs"'s CD2 three years after.[39] Internationally, it appeared on most TLC's compilations over the years, notably Now & Forever: The Hits (2003), Crazy Sexy Hits: The Very Best of TLC (2006) and 20 (2013).[40] For the 2013 Japanese compilation TLC 20: 20th Anniversary Hits, Watkins and Thomas re-recorded "Creep" with a few other past tracks to celebrate the group's twenty years being in the music industry.[41]

Critical response[edit]

"If you want a personal essay on why women cheat, just listen to 'Creep'. It's the single that's probably remained the most relevant over the years, and it's also a seamless breakdown of a cheating woman's thought process: 'Though I might mess around, it's only 'cause I need some affection. Yeah.'"

—Clover Hope wrote for Vibe in 2014.[42]

Time magazine, music critic Robert Christgau and AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine all chose the track as one of CrazySexyCool best.[43][23][28] "In many ways, TLC at least musically, were best when they were the most subtle," commented Complex's Michael Arceneaux. In addition, the writer also found the track's content to be "refreshing" for displaying women "muddy up right and wrong in a relationship."[44] Benjamin Chesna and Edwin Ortiz, two reporters from the same publication, gave credits to the song for making infidelity sound "empowering" while praising Austin's "silky smooth production", concluding their article with a claim: [Watkins] forced you into the arms of another lady, now you just have to keep it on the down low."[45]

Slant Magazine's editor Sal Cinquemani was reviewing the group's greatest hits album 20 when he observed that both of the girls' "finest" singles, "Creep" and "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg", had them "proudly flipping accepted modes of female sexual behavior and consent on their heads."[46] To boot the idea, Idolator's journalist Robbie Daw explained the song's "staying power" was perhaps owed to the fact that it was a "provocative" track dared to expose the "taboo, down-low" aspects of a relationship.[8] In the 2014 biopic CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, "Creep" was served as the backdrop to a dramatic scene where Lopes' character set her then-boyfriend Rison's bathtub filled with tennis shoes on fire and destroyed their joint mansion due to his infidelity. Vibe's Clover Hope watched the whole scene and realized how "perfectly sexy and unapologetic" the song was at the time of its first releasing.[42] In contrary, one of Pitchfork's contributors, Jess Harvell, felt its lyrics were "unconscionable," instead, he praised the song's groove that was "so seductive you barely register what you're singing along to." Harvell continued to say that Austin even managed to make scratching, "that emblem of noisy hip-hop ruckus", sound "smooth." "No mean feat.," he gave out an endnote.[21] With Charles Aaron's review for Spin, he fictionalized a short story:

"A young woman was walking through downtown Brooklyn the other day when a man approached her and asked mock-politely, 'Excuse me, do you know where I can get some pussy around here?' She stared, rolled her eyes, and kept walking, but he kept insisting, 'Well, do you?' Finally, she turned, and replied wryly, 'Yeah, at your mother's house.' That's TLC, whether [Lopes] is brat-a-tat-tatting with her brash raps or whether [Thomas] is kickin' it butter-slick on this infectious cheatin' [sic] song, written and so smoothly produced by Dallas Austin."[47]

After that, Aaron also went on to call the track as a whole a "commercial/artistic apex" for the producer.[48] Including it on her list of best tracks that make people dance, Bernadette McNulty from The Telegraph claimed: "The Dallas Austin groove on this is so deep, it might give you vertigo."[27] Ebony's writer Michael A. Gonzales agreed, he said the girls' song "put the sonic scientist that much closer to [Austin's] dreams of making tracks as enticing and sexy as the ones his hero Prince created for Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6."[49] Music critic Smokey Fontaine even named the track Austin's best work: "Here, the harmonies worked, the bass line was hard enough to compete in a hip-hop world, and for a moment, R&B didn't need a guest rapper."[50]

Accolades[edit]

In 1995, "Creep" was nominated for three categories at the first Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards, including Best R&B/Soul Single by a Group, Band or Duo, R&B/Soul Song of the Year and R&B/Soul Music Video of the Year, in which they won the first title.[51][52] Later, the song went on to receive two Grammy nominations at the 38th ceremony for Best R&B Song—for Austin's composition—and for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, eventually winning the latter.[53][54] "We were in shock! We just put out music so that people could find a connection with what were saying, so we didn't know exactly how people would feel about anything," Thomas says as she recalls TLC's winning moment. "So when you get that kind of recognition, it says so much. The Grammys is like the Oscars of music, so we were just beyond happy to get one."[8] Shortly after winning, they announced their bankruptcy in an interview backstage of the show.[55] The song's publisher, EMI, later received the 1996 ASCAP Pop Music Award for Publisher of the Year.[56]

Legacy[edit]

The song was recognized by many publications as a "masterpiece" and a "classic."[57][18] Almost a decade after its debut, Mimi Valdés of Vibe said that the song lifted their "'girl power' movement" to new heights, with its female empowerment theme later inspiring the works of many artists at the time like Aaliyah, Missy Elliott and Destiny's Child, and the term "creep" still "pops up" in rap music.[6] Jon Parales of The New York Times stood by the song's concept, he wrote: "The women sing about infidelity, revenge, status and power plays, not as victims but as contenders; when they're cheated on, they cheat, too."[58] Carol Cooper from The Guardian also described the track as the darker side of their "giddy hedonism."[59] Like many of their songs, "Creep" positioned women as the gazers and men as their objects. Mickey Hess said in his book Icons of Hip Hop: An Encyclopedia of the Movement, Music, and Culture, Volume 2: "TLC celebrates women and encourages them to love men and demand respect from their men and from themselves."[60]

The song was also listed on The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics' poll of 1995 at number eight, along with "Waterfalls" at number five on the same poll.[61] Bruce Pollock listed "Creep" on his book Rock Song Index: The 7500 Most Important Songs for the Rock and Roll Era (2005) for "establish[ing] the sound of chick hop."[62] It then also appeared on several best decade-end lists, with Spin chose it as the magazine's number three out of top 20 singles of the 1990s, music journalist Smokey Fontaine listed it at number eight for his top ten and the staffs of Pitchfork listed it at number 114 for their list of 200 best tracks.[21][48][50] Both two publications Complex and The Guardian chose the song as the second best R&B song of the 1990s, with the latter's writer Charlotte Richardson Andrews calling the song "90s R&B at its most thrilling."[44][22]

Commercial performance[edit]

Merely two weeks after its release, "Creep" debuted at number 71 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart of November 12, 1994.[63] The following week, the song jumped to number 25, then climbed to the top ten at number eight on December 3.[64][65] Just within the first month debuting, the single has received a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipment of 500,000 copies.[66] Combined with a hundred thousand more sold in the following month, it became the 23rd best-selling single of 1994, according to Billboard.[67] RIAA soon after awarded them their career's third platinum single, with the song later went on top of Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Rhythmic charts, also peaked at number three on the Radio Songs chart and number nine on the Mainstream Top 40.[68][69][70][71][72]

Twenty weeks staying in the top ten, more than any other TLC songs, "Creep" finally reached the number one title on January 28, 1995 and became TLC's first number one hit in the States.[73] According to the magazine, they have become the fifth three-initialed group in history to do so.[74] "Creep" stayed at its leading position for four consecutive weeks before getting defeated by Madonna's single "Take a Bow".[20] But still, the song ended up at number three on Hot 100's year-end chart with 800,000 copies more sold in 1995, making the song the 18th best-selling single that year.[75][76] Due to the song's commercial success, it won a Billboard Music Award for Top R&B Song and was nominated for the Top Hot 100 Song category in 1995.[77] Retrospectively, "Creep" was later listed at number 21 on Billboard Hot 100's decade-end list of the 1990s and became the fourth most successful song of all-time by a girl group on the chart.[78][79]

In the United Kingdom, "Creep" peaked at number 22 on the UK Singles Chart and at number four on the R&B Chart.[80][81] It also positioned the number four spot in New Zealand, becoming TLC's highest-peaked single in the country at the time.[82] The single went on to receive a gold certification from Recorded Music NZ (RMNZ) with 7,500 copies sold and peaked at number 35 on their year-end chart.[83][84] In other territories, "Creep" moved into the top-twenty of Netherlands and Australia, while reaching top-forty in France, Switzerland and Germany.[85][86][87][88][89] Originally slipped one spot out of RPM's Canada Top Singles' top-forty, still, the song appeared on its year-end dance chart at number 35.[90][91] Moreover, it also charted in Belgium, Sweden and the European Hot 100 Singles.[92][93][94]

In 1996, "Creep" continued to receive moderate European success after re-issuing on January that year.[36] "Creep '96" climbed up to number six on the UK Singles Chart, where it stayed on for seven weeks, and reached the third place on the country's R&B chart, with both positions being their highest on both charts.[95][96] The re-release also brought the song from its original 1995 Scotland peak at number 44 to number 17, while making it reach the Sweden chart at number 56.[97][93]

Music video[edit]

Background and development[edit]

The girls immediately recruited director Matthew Rolston after seeing his work for Salt-N-Pepa and "fell in love" with his filming style.

In June 1994, TLC shot the first video for "Creep" in their hometown Atlanta, Georgia, however, the result dissatisfied them.[98] So the following month, they flew to Los Angeles, California and filmed a second version with Lionel C. Martin, the director whom they had previously worked with on most of their early videos.[98][99][100] "It didn't feel like we had evolved," Thomas expressed.[3] Reid and the trio decided to scrap both videos as they thought the two didn't show any of their growth as women, while the images being too "grimy," suffered from bad lighting problems, including the first one didn't even have enough footage to finish a verse of the song.[101][8][102] Martin long after released his version on Vimeo in early 2013.[103] The "blue-tinged" clip shows the girls sneaking away from their unsuspecting boyfriends to cheat with others, while other scenes showing them performing in front of trucks and cars.[99][104] Nevertheless, Fact magazine noticed the song's infidelity theme was loosely followed on the clip's narrative, while Priya Elan from NME explained the clip overall might have been "too urban" for MTV.[104][105] "Not only is this 'Creep' more genre specific, it also feels more dated," he added.[105]

Expecting to show a new and more mature side of the group, while they were in Los Angeles discussing about the project, a Matthew Rolston-directed music video for Salt-N-Pepa came on.[3][8] "We were looking at it and said, 'Whoever did this video has to do the 'Creep' video. We fell in love with the way it was shot," Thomas said.[8] Often times, she remembered the video that they were seeing was "Whatta Man", however, during their interview with MTV in 1995, the show cited "None of Your Business", a video which was also done by Rolston and had more visual similarities to the final "Creep" video.[8][101][102] Lopes also recalled the moment: "We were very, very adamant about redoing the 'Creep' video because we were coming back out [to the music scene]. And we were like, 'Look at that video Salt-N-Pepa got. Man, we're going to kick nobody's butts putting these videos out. [That] is budi, [ours] is whack, we've got to do it over.'"[102] Their management team then suggested going back to the editing room to find better shots and have the video redone, but group declined and said: "There is no better shot."[102] Initially, TLC reached out to Rolston and set up the third version's shooting in LA.[8]

Similar to other artists that the director have worked with, Rolston usually brought his team of professionals along to the shooting, including make-up artist, wardrobe-hair stylist, dancers and choreographer. However, Rolston and his team turned out to cause a few creative conflicts with the group during the production.[106] One of them came from the original routine conducted by Watkins, the person who was in fact choreographed most of the group's early videos.[106][107] She remembered Rolston's camp's choreographer Frank Gatson Jr. "locked" the girls out from providing ideas as they were practicing the new dance moves.[108][106] The trio eventually dropped his choreograph because they thought his version wasn't their "style of dancing." But still, two of his moves were adapted in the final clip.[106] "To me, I didn't even think about, 'Well, can I really choreograph?' I was just like, 'Let me do my thing.' I just like to dance and I know when I like what I see. I like different kinds of stuff," Watkins shared.[107] The "bend-down-and-jump-up" dance that appears in the video was made up by Watkins to "Foe Life", a song of Mack 10, the rapper whom she later married from 2000 to 2004.[109][110]

Another dispute occurred between TLC and Rolston was over the choice of clothing.[106] The director was interested in "tight and sexy" lingerie looks for them while they only liked baggy, tomboy clothes. Combining the two, he finally gave out the idea of the girls wearing the silk pajamas with each custom-made cost more than US$1,000.[111][101] Thomas also talked about their exhaustion on the set: "People don't realize that for video shoots you have to wake up at like 5 in the morning for your call time. So when we did that part at the very end of the video where we're talking to the camera and looking all silly, we were so tired. But sometimes that ends up being your best shots."[8] Eventually, she praised Rolston's final product for the group as "excellent" while Lopes said that after two failed ones, the director finally gave them a "real video."[98][102]

Release and synopsis[edit]

A women wearing a barely-buttoned and wind-blowing bright blue silk pajamas, showing a white boxer inside her pants, with her right hand up and her left hand on her hip, she is backed by a dark pink background.
Watkins performing in the video while wearing her famous barely-buttoned and wind-blowing silk pajamas.

The clip debuted on MTV the week ending of October 30, 1994.[112] It opens with each girl individually singing and dancing in front of a brightly-colored background while wearing barely-buttoned and wind-blowing silk pajamas, specifically: Watkins in blue with a pink background, Lopes in red with a blue background, Thomas in pink with a red background with other scenes where both of her colors being color corrected and posted to grey due to artistic directorial reasons.[8][49][113] In one scene, the left lower part of Watkins' breasts is exposed, it also received public attention and the group's acknowledgment.[3][114] Added in between these takes are a few close-up shots of a blue twirling trumpet.[115] The trio and their accompanied female dancers are later seen in black-and-white shots, practicing the choreography while making fun of Lopes for trying to breakdance while walking on her hands.[8] Thomas said it was the funniest part during the making of the video, even calling it as a "classic TLC moment."[8] The main "Creep" dance that the trio perform in the video was summed up by VH1's writer Seher Sikandar as the "modified butterfly with the swing-scoop arm" while Bernadette McNulty from The Telegraph instructed: "Feet apart, bounce your knees as low as they will go while winding your hips."[116][27] In another scene of the clip, Watkins is seen at a closed bar singing to an old-fashioned microphone while being backed by a trumpeter, also her love interest, played by Omar Lopez.[117] However, throughout she keeps giving him a incredulous look, suggesting that he might be cheating on her. Ending the video is a short scene where the trio dancing with their heads and jokingly arguing at their viewers, which was Thomas' most favorite scene.[114] An alternative cut for the clip had also been made while its original version later appeared on three of their video albums CrazyVideoCool (1995), Now & Forever: The Video Hits (2003) and Artist Collection (2004), with the first also included excerpts of previously-scrapped videos and additional commentary from TLC.[118][98][119][120]

Reception and impact[edit]

"I came of age in my still work in the period of the mid-80s, the period of gender-bending, the beginning of the breakdown of the traditional gender roles which we're now living in, a period which is pretty important today [...] I have always been attracted to a powerful female figure, I'm sure there's a part of me in that. All portraits, in my opinion, are as much as a portrait of the person who made the image, as the person who's being depicted in the image. I'm in touch with my feminine self."

—Rolston shared on MTV's podcast Videohead in 2016.[121]

The video was considered by many publications as "iconic" and "classic" with David Asante from MOBO Awards' blog calling it "one of the most celebrated pop videos of all time."[104][99][18][122] Daniel Ralston, host of MTV's Videohead podcast said Rolston flipped the "paradigm" on "Creep", "Whatta Man" and many of his works, where the women were in control and showing men in a way they were often get depicted in male artists' music videos.[121] While Idolator's Robbie Daw found the ladies comfortable with their own sexuality in the clip and asking "What girl in the mid-'90s did not want to emulate that?," Anthony DeCurtis of Vibe claimed that the visuals for "Creep" and "Red Light Special" set the standard for video eroticism at the time.[8][123]

Lindsay Zoladz, a writer of Pitchfork, observed when most people think of TLC, their brains immediately go to the sounds and images of CrazySexyCool: "Waterfalls", "Red Light Special" and the silk pajamas in "Creep".[124] Ebony's Michael A. Gonzales reminisced about the time when the video first debuted on MTV, TLC returned as the "lipstick liberators," much to the surprise of a public used to their tomboy style. The journalist then also compared the "splashy" video to its previous versions as "less urban" and more "Madison Avenue commercial chic."[49] Like Gonzales, PopMatters' writer Quentin B. Huff also noticed the "striking" difference between the t-shirt and baggy pants look on their last video "What About Your Friends" and the new "silky nightgown come-ons" look on "Creep" and "Red Light Special".[125] In the book Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context, author Carol Vernallis analyzed that the girls' outfits in "Creep" helped suggesting their "sexual availability," but the low-angle camera placement, the texture and movement of billowing silk fabric suggest a "phallic sexuality."[126]

After the video's release, the three pajamas were said to create "a fashion stir."[111] Due to this popularity, the group intended to create a low-price fashion line called "Creepwear" but it was ultimately scrapped.[111] Dazed Digital's editor Tempe Nakiska later mentioned the trio's pajamas as "one of the greatest group coordinates of all time" while Canadian Fashion magazine chose the clip as one of the most fashionable.[127][128] Besides the style, the video's choreography was also listed by VH1's Seher Sikandar as one of the top twenty R&B dance routines of the 1990s.[116] The video, individually, appeared at number six on Consequence of Sound's fifty best 1994 videos list and at number 30 on Complex's top fifty R&B clips of the 1990s.[129][29]

The visual along with other famous pop videos were parodied on Blink 182's video "All the Small Things" in 2000.[130] Also inspired by it, for Keri Hilson's 2010 music video "Pretty Girl Rock", the singer with two other backup dancers dressed in silk pajamas imitating Watkins and the group from the original clip.[131] Later in 2014, shot-for-shot re-enactments of the "Creep", "Waterfalls" and "No Scrubs"' videos were conducted for their biopic CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story, with Keke Palmer playing as Thomas, Drew Sidora as Watkins and rapper Lil Mama as Lopes, three wearing the original wardrobes of TLC in each individual videos.[132][133] In 2016, their iconic silk pajamas were also said to have inspired Thomas and rapper-actor Nick Cannon's outfits in the rapper's music video for "If I Was Your Man", where Thomas had a cameo role as Cannon's love interest.[134]

Live performances[edit]

On January 7, 1995, TLC performed "Creep" first time on television for the Nickelodeon series All That, followed by a second televised performance, along with "Red Light Special", on the May 6 episode of Saturday Night Live.[135][136] The first live rendition was eventually chosen by Complex's as one of the best performances of the series while the latter appeared on the compilation SNL25 – Saturday Night Live, The Musical Performances Volume 2 (1999) and was described by Billboard's Michael Paoletta as "awful."[137][138][139] Later in July, the trio joined other artists on the 16th Annual Budweiser Superfest Tour, with "Creep" being added to their tracklist. On stage, they performed the song in front of the letters "CrazySexyCool" while wearing cropped t-shirts with oversize jeans that held up by thick belts, accompanied by approximate 3,000–6,000 audiences.[140][141][142] Chicago Tribune's reporter Rohan B. Preston highlighted it with "Red Light Special" for "lit[ting] torches for female desire" of show-goers.[143] Singing the "CrazySexyMedley", which included "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg", "Kick Your Game", "Creep" and "Waterfalls", at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards on September 7, Complex chose it as the awards' one of twenty best performances of all-time, with additional declaration from writer Edwin Ortiz saying: "Back in the '90s, no female R&B act could touch TLC."[144][145] Similarly, a "Hitmix" medley was also conducted for their September 28 appearance on Top of the Pops, it was made of three CrazySexyCool singles: "Creep", "Waterfalls" and "Diggin' on You".[146]

In October 1999, they performed the song in their famous silk pajamas during FanMail Tour's third act, which represented the songs of CrazySexyCool.[147][148][149] Its wrapped January 29, 2000 show in Atlanta, Georgia was taped for the pay-per-view special TLC: Sold Out, aired on March 18 while a few audios and visuals of the January 23 concert at MCI Center, Washington, D.C. were later included, respectively, on the CD and DVD of TLC 20: 20th Anniversary Hits (2013), a Japan-only released compilation.[150][151][152][150][41] After Lopes's decrease in 2002, Watkins and Thomas debuted themselves as a two-piece at Giant Stadium, New York City for radio station Z100's annual Zootopia concert on June 1, 2003. For what was "billed" as the group's final performance, they were wearing white, baggy jumpsuits, incorporated with four dancers behind while singing "Creep".[153][154] After that, the duo again added the song to their greatest hits performance on the finale of their reality show R U the Girl, which aired on September 21, 2005.[155]

Seven years later, the two performed the track at Japanese Springroove Music Festival on April 4, 2009 and at the October 17 set of Justin Timberlake's charity concert, "Justin Timberlake and Friends", at Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas.[156][157] The latter performance marked their first US live concert appearance in six years, however, Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the girls had been lip-syncing throughout the show.[158][157][159] On October 16, 2013, TLC sang the song during their hit-medley on talk show The View with a separate televised live rendition of the track for VH1's "Super Bowl Blitz" concert at the Beacon Theater on January 30, 2014, where they wore revealing black, lace attire.[160][161] Casually, "Creep" was added to many of their performances, notably the 2015 The Main Event tour with main act New Kids on the Block, and many other shows across America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the Philippines.[162][163]

Cover versions and usage in media[edit]

A picture of two men performing on stage, both wearing black shirts and playing electric guitars while being covered by red lights.
A picture of a brunette woman looking to her right, wearing a grey dress that is decorated with a pink-purple-grey flower on her right chest.
Rock band The Afghan Whigs (left) covered "Creep" in 1999 while singer Zendaya (right) sampled the track for "Something New", a single featuring Chris Brown, in 2016.

In 1999, American rock band The Afghan Whigs covered the song and included it on two of their extended plays Honky's Ladder and Bonnie & Clyde EP.[164][165] Journalist Jason Ankeny from AllMusic said the rendition proved that "even if [band member Greg Dulli] doesn't possess a heart, he at least has a brain — albeit in his pants."[164] According to Spin, "Creep" was also reported to be sung by the famous Las Vegas entertainer Wayne Newton during the time.[48] In 2014, singers Nick Carter and Jordan Knight covered the song as part of a 1990s hits medley on their North American tour.[166] On the 2015 season of Idols South Africa, the song was performed by three contestants Mmatema Moremi, Busisiwe Mthembu and Nonhle Mhlongo during the show's "Hell Week" round.[167] The X Factor UK's infamous contestant Honey G had also covered the track during the bootcamp episode aired in 2016.[168]

"Creep" has not only been covered, it has also been sampled and recreated by many hip-hop and R&B artists. Two of the notable ones were released on SoundCloud in 2013 and gained many attention from the public are Haitian-Canadian record producer Kaytranada's remix of the song called "Kaytranada's Creepier Edition" in January and GoldLink's own rap rendition in December.[169][170][171][172][173] Later in July 2015, American singer-songwriter Eric Bellinger re-wrote and recorded a new version of the track for his album Cuffing Season. He simply called his version "Creep" and invited Watkins to contribute vocals for a new verse. "When I heard the [the original version] flip I immediately knew I had to at least try to get T-Boz on it since that was her solo song with [TLC]! Luckily when she heard the record she loved it! Hopefully the fans will too!," Bellinger said in a statement sent to MTV News.[174] In the track, its new content finds Bellinger making promises to never cheat on his lover.[174] The original "Creep" also made its appearance on The Game's "Sex Skit" from his album The Documentary 2.5, released in October 2015.[175] In February 2016, singer Zendaya sampled the song for her single "Something New" with Chris Brown. "Well the song, when I first heard it, already had that TLC sample in it. And that's kind of what I think made me want to record it. That was literally the first thing I heard was 'Do do, do,' [TLC's sample], and I was like, 'Oh, yes. Yes, please.'," she shared. Watkins had also confirmed to have a cameo on its music video that hasn't yet been released.[176]

In other media usage, "Creep" was included on "CAT", an episode from season one of the Fox television series New York Undercover, aired on February 23, 1995.[177] Later in December that year, the song appeared on the theatrical film Waiting to Exhale, which the trio had also recorded a new song for its accompanied soundtrack album called "This Is How It Works".[178] In 2010, "Creep" and "Waterfalls" were played on the comedy film The Other Guys, with its running gag that Michael Keaton's character Captain Gene Mauch always subconsciously referencing TLC's lyrics without having any idea who the group is.[179] In literature, South African poet and novelist Mandla Langa mentioned the trio's music video on his book The Memory of Stones in 2000, referring to them as "the legend."[180] Moreover, the song can be heard in the soundtracks for video games The Hip Hop Dance Experience, Everybody Dance and Dance Central Spotlight.

Track listings and formats[edit]

Credits[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of the CD single, CrazySexyCool and CrazyVideoCool.[16][190][25]

Recording and management
Personnel

Charts[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Krulik 2002
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References[edit]

  • Pollock, Bruce (2005). Rock Song Index: The 7500 Most Important Songs for the Rock and Roll Era (2 ed.). Routledge. ISBN 0-415-97073-3. 

External links[edit]