CD single cover art

"Waterfalls" is a single by American R&B/Hip-Hop girl group TLC. It was written by Lisa Lopes with Marquez Etheridge and Organized Noize for TLC's second studio album CrazySexyCool, featuring production by the latter. The song was released as the album's third single on May 29, 1995 in the United States and was released in the United Kingdom in August 1995.

Often considered their signature song, "Waterfalls" reached the top five in many territories. The song spent seven weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, giving the group their second U.S. #1. The song was #2 of the year on the Billboard's 1995 year-end chart. "Waterfalls" recieved critical acclaim from contemporary music critics, earning two Grammy Award nominations at the 1996 Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

The song famously tackeled issues of illegal drug trade, promiscuity and HIV/AIDS. The accompanying music video for the song reflects its socially-concious lyrics. With a million-dollar budget, the video was an MTV staple for giving the single much success. The video won four MTV Video Music Awards in 1995.

Background and compositionEdit

"Waterfalls" is an R&B and hip-hop soul ballad written by group member Lisa Lopes with Marquez Etheridge and Organized Noize, who also produced the song. Rozonda Thomas and Tionne Watkins perform the song with Lopes, who also provided a rap for the song. The background vocals were provided by the member of TLC, as well as Debra Killings and Cee Lo Green. Speaking of Green's inclusion, Watkins said, "He was in the Goodie Mob, we grew up together, we go way back. He did and it was amazing! I love his voice."

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

Critical receptionEdit

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

Music videoEdit

The music video was filmed at Universal Studios Hollywood from June 8-9, 1995, was directed by F. Gary Gary and features Ella Joyce, Bokeem Woodbine, Shyheim, Paul J. Alessi and Gabrielle Bramford.

A screen cap from the music video

In the music video, 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 not to use a condom while the two have sex. 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 sacroma. He then seems a small photo frame on the dresser next to the mirror, showing all the people she's had sex with previously. Towards the end of the video, the young man involved with the gang appears, trying to reach out to his mother as she is walking up the stairs to her apartment, but disappears. The couple is also shown to be fading away, as they both have died from AIDS. Intercut with this footage are shots of TLC performing the song while standing on top of the ocean and performing in front of a real waterfall.

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

Live performancesEdit

The song was performed at several award shows, including the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards and 1996 Grammy Awards. They also performed it at MTV's 20th Anniversary on August 1, 2001, making it Left Eye's final performance with the group before her tragic death on April 25, 2002 in Honduras.

Remaining members T-Boz and Chilli performed the song with Alicia Keys at the 2008 BET Awards. Thomas and Watkins appeared on Good Morning on October 15, 2013 to perform the song during promotion for their greatest hits compliation 20 and the VH1 biopic CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story.


Jeff Benjamin of Fuse wrote that the track was far more "than just a pop hit: the track told the 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." Allmusic's Stephen Tomas worte that "Waterfalls", "with it's great insistent horns and guitar lines and instantly memorable chorus, [...] ranks one of the classic R&B songs of the '90s." 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."

Thomas and Watkins re-recorded "Waterfalls" with Japanese pop star Namie Amuro in 2013 for the song's twentieth anniversary. The song peaked at #12 on Japan's Hot 100 chart. That year, the song was referenced in the film We're the Millers as Will Poulter performs Lisa's rap. The song also appears in the film's end credits.

Track listingsEdit

  • US/International CD single
  1. "Waterfalls" (single version) - 4:18
  2. "Waterfalls" (ONP Remix) - 4:36
  3. "Waterfalls" (DARP 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" (DARP Remix) - 4:28
  5. "Waterfalls" (instrumental) - 4:39
  • 2001 US re-release CD single
  1. "Waterfalls" (single version) - 4:18
  2. "Waterfalls" (DARP Remix) - 4:28
  3. "Waterfalls" (instrumental) - 4:36
  4. "Waterfalls" (ONP Remix) - 4:35
  5. "Waterfalls" (ONP instrumental) - 4:35
  6. "Waterfalls" (album version) - 4:39
  • Waterfalls (20th Anniversary) Digital Single
  1. "Waterfalls" (20th Anniversary edition) featuring Namie Amuro - 4:35

Covers and parodiesEdit

  • The song was parodied by "Weird Al" Yankovic as "Phony Calls", a reference to prank calls, on the 1996 album Bad Hair Day.
  • The band Eve 6 covered the song and appears on their singles "Here's to the Night" and "Promise".
  • A parody of this song, titled "Lavaflows", appeared at the end of an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy.
  • Smooth jazz player Steve Cole made a cover of "Waterfalls" on his 2000 album Between Us.
  • The rap portion of the song is parodied in "Chow Down" by William Belli, Detox and Vicky Vox.
  • Hanson played a cover version of the song on their Anthem World Tour in 2013.
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