No Scrubs

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"No Scrubs"
The TLC members are posing in metallic skin in front of a blue and yellow background.
Single by TLC
from the album FanMail
B-side"Silly Ho"
ReleasedFebruary 2, 1999 (1999-02-02)
RecordedDecember 1998
StudioD.A.R.P., Atlanta, Georgia
GenreR&B
Length
  • 3:39 (Album version)
  • 3:59 (Main Mix featuring Left Eye)
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)She'kspere
TLC singles chronology
"Diggin' on You"
(1995)
"No Scrubs"
(1999)
"Unpretty"
(1999)
Music video
"No Scrubs" on YouTube

"No Scrubs" is a song recorded by American girl group TLC as the lead single from their third studio album FanMail on February 2, 1999 by LaFace Records and Arista Records. The song was written by producer Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, member Lisa Lopes, and former Xscape members, Kandi Burruss and Tameka "Tiny" Cottle. The song lyrics describe the role of a man in a relationship, which Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas took the sole lead vocals for the first time on a TLC song.

"No Scrubs" became TLC's third number-one single and eighth top 10 single on the US Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked for seven consecutive weeks. It was ranked number two on Billboard's year-end Hot 100 singles chart of 1999, behind Cher's "Believe" (1998). The song won Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal and Best R&B Song at 42nd Annual Grammy Awards. The Hype Williams-directed music video was released in 1999, which depicted the three members dancing inside of a space station. It was compared to other music videos such as "Scream" (1995) and "What's It Gonna Be?!" (1999). "No Scrubs" received divisive attention following its release; several radio stations aired answer songs as a response, while the word "scrub" became prominently used worldwide.

Background and development[edit]

"No Scrubs" was initially written by Kandi Burruss on an old envelope while sitting in her car, before free-styling the entire song while driving down a highway.[1] The song's lyrics stemmed from a previous relationship Tameka Cottle was involved in which she described as a "screw-up".[2] "No Scrubs" was initially meant for Burruss and Cottle to record together, however Dallas Austin decided to give the song to TLC as their first single for FanMail, with Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas singing the lead vocals. Austin further emphasized that the song was a breakthrough for Chilli, as he believed that "It was a great way to expose her; being a secondary vocalist was not just her purpose".[1] It was written by Burruss, Cottle, TLC member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and producer Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs.[3] A few lyrics from the original song were changed in order to firmly describe a "scrub", such as "fat" being replaced by "broke". In addition, the changes reflected on the persona of TLC, who were described as "confident, bold, independent women" by American radio program Morning Edition. Two versions of the song were released; one was described as straight R&B, while the other contained a rap verse from Left Eye.[4]

Composition[edit]

"No Scrubs" is an R&B song.[4] Natelegé Whaley of Vibe stated that the song is "a scathing critique on men at the bottom of the dating pool".[6] It contains "airy remnants of an electronic guitar", which begins with Chilli's angelic vocals. The word "scrub" originated from Atlanta, which was initially used as a slang term for a person who couldn't get their life together.[5] The composition of "No Scrubs" is based on 4
4
common time
, the tempo is 100 beats per minute and is played in the key of B major. According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by EMI Music Publishing, the vocal range of TLC spans from the low note F#3 to the high note of C#5.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

In 1999, "No Scrubs" was listed on The Village Voice's annual poll Pazz & Jop at number one.[8] The song also came in at number two in the NME Top Tracks of 1999 and number 45 in the NME 100 Best Songs of the 1990s.[9][10] Rolling Stone ranked the song at number 10 in their list of the 50 Best Songs of the Nineties.[11] Additionally, VH1 listed the song at number 22 in their list of the 40 Greatest R&B Songs of the 90s, ranking behind TLC's 1995 international single "Waterfalls" which placed at number 6.[12] Billboard ranked the song at number 42 on their list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.[13]

Chart performance[edit]

"No Scrubs" jumped to number one upon the single's release on the April 3, 1999 issue of Billboard.[14] The single stayed at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks from April 10, 1999, to May 7, 1999.[15] The single stayed in the top-ten of the Billboard Hot 100 for 17 consecutive weeks.[5] "No Scrubs" airplay was at the time, the first song to peak with over 140 million audience impressions, and was crowned the Top Airplay Song of 1999.[16][17][18] It holds the record for most weeks at number one on the Rhythmic Top 40 with 15 weeks, as well as being ranked at number two on Billboard's Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1999, only behind Cher's "Believe" (1998).[5]

In Australia, "No Scrubs" spent seven consecutive weeks at the summit of the ARIA Charts from May 2, 1999 to June 20, 1999.[19] In the United Kingdom, it peaked at number three on the UK Singles Chart, becoming TLC's highest-charting single.[20] The song was certified double platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for track-equivalent sales of 677,000 units.[21]

Music video[edit]

Background[edit]

The Hype Williams-directed video was set in a futuristic space station, where the trio wore silver and blue metallic outfits.[6] It includes a dance sequence where the women dance in front of the "TLC" logo. The Main Mix is used in the video in place of the album version, which includes a rap verse by Left Eye. Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins described how the group went all out during production of the video, with her being specifically excited about "wearing the all-white outfit", while Chilli initially felt apprehensive about going on the swing, constantly practicing before the shoot until she did not want to get off afterwards. The scene at the end of the video showing the three fighting each other and being silly was a result of the tube moving and the group attempting to fight against the moving set, with Chilli and Left Eye hitting each other by accident. American drag queen RuPaul also appeared off-camera to see them.[1] The video is stylistically similar to Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson's music video "Scream" (1995), as well as the Busta Rhymes and Janet Jackson music video "What's It Gonna Be?!" (1999), which was also directed by Williams.[5]

Synopsis[edit]

The video features the women in three different colored space-suits: white, black, silver, and Left Eye in blue. When there are shots of the women together they have two different outfits: black and silver. T-Boz's hair is fuchsia in the video. It also features a scene of Chilli on a swing singing, alongside T-Boz dancing as well as Left Eye. As Left Eye's rap begins, she is positioned in a garage wearing white clothes while rapping, and practicing martial arts in a futuristic blue outfit in a separate scene. She is filmed by a drone, as she continues rapping; "Can't forget the focus on the picture in front of me/You as clear as DVD on digital TV screens." The final scene shows TLC fighting each other, while also dancing and having fun.

Reception[edit]

The futuristic music video received massive airplay on MTV and BET.[citation needed] It also won the group the MTV Video Music Award for Best Group Video at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards.[22] As of March 2020, the video has over 200 million views on YouTube.

Legacy[edit]

Reactions[edit]

Following the release of "No Scrubs" in 1999, the song received a divisive response about labeling a new term for males "with limited money, ambitions and romantic vocabulary, and who mostly still live at home with Mom", with several debates on radio stations and airplay of answer songs.[23] Such songs included "No Hoochies" in San Francisco, and "No Pigeons" by rap group Sporty Thievz in New York throughout April 1999.[24][25] Chilli acknowledged that the group were threatened by the song's success, stating "they can't take the heat!"[1] The word "scrub" rapidly spread globally, with the vocabulary being commonly used by women.[5] Writing for The Washington Post, Lonnae O'Neal Parker noted that "No Scrubs" served as social commentary in the vein of previous songs such as Madonna's 1985 song "Material Girl" and Gwen Guthrie's 1986 song "Ain't Nothin' Goin' On but the Rent", stating that it culminated from 20 years of misogyny in rap music.[23]

Covers and samples[edit]

American singer-songwriter Avi Wisnia covered the song on his 2010 album Something New.[26] Karmin covered "No Scrubs" in 2011 shortly before releasing "Crash Your Party", connecting the "throwback cover" of the song to the "old school sample" in "Crash Your Party".[27] Kelly Clarkson covered the song during her 2012 Summer Tour on August 23, 2012.[28] The cast of Glee covered the song in the "Sadie Hawkins" episode of the show's fourth season. It was performed by Kevin McHale, Chord Overstreet, Blake Jenner, Samuel Larsen and Darren Criss.[29] Scout Niblett covered the song on the album It's Up to Emma.[30] Kacey Musgraves covered the song during her 2014 tour "Same Tour, Different Trailer".[31] In January 2019, Weezer released a cover of the song, which was included on their twelfth studio album, Teal Album.[5]

In 2013, DJ and producer Le Youth sampled the song in his single "Dance with Me", which reached number 11 on the UK Singles Chart.[32] XXYYXX sampled the song in his "Good Enough" track on the album XXYYXX.[33] While not incidentally crediting the writers, the writers on "No Scrubs" were later credited on Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" as it interpolates "No Scrubs".[citation needed] "SOS" by Avicii featuring Aloe Blacc contains an interpolation of the song, as the songwriters were credited.[34]

Track listings[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the back cover of "No Scrubs"[3]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[93] Platinum 70,000^
Belgium (BEA)[94] Platinum 50,000*
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[95] Gold 45,000double-dagger
France (SNEP)[97] Gold 275,000[96]
Italy (FIMI)[98] Gold 25,000double-dagger
New Zealand (RMNZ)[99] Platinum 10,000*
Sweden (GLF)[100] Gold 15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[101] 2× Platinum 677,000[21]
United States (RIAA)[102] 5× Platinum 5,000,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

References[edit]

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