Just over 25 years ago, What About Your Friends was the third single from TLC’s debut album, Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip. The Tip album was released on 25 February 1992 where it eventually sold over six million copies worldwide. Friends was released as a single six months later on 28 August 1992.
There were two versions of the video (one is included below, another version is available here in lower quality.) The second version includes a reprisal of their characters in their debut single Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg.
The song itself was written by Dallas Austin, who in 1997 fathered a child with the C in TLC, Rozonda Ociliean “Chilli” Thomas, but Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes authored her signature rap portion.
Well, is it me, or can it be I’m a little too friendly
So to speak hypothetically
Say I supply creativity to what others must take as a form of self-hate
Only to make an enemy which results in unfortunate destiny.
They dog me out then be next to me,
Just cause I am what some choose to envy.
“Left Eye,” who died at the age of 30 in a car crash in Honduras, started composing songs on her toy keyboard as a child and at 19 attended an open casting call for a new girl group. Her name stemmed from a comment by a man who said her left eye was attractive, and she often wore a pair of glasses with the left frame covered in a condom. On my first re-watch of this video a few years ago, I wondered by she had a fried egg on her glasses when I remembered that the group were heavy promoters of safe sex. Indeed, their later smash hit Waterfalls, which was mostly written by “Left Eye,” was the first number one song to reference AIDS. She was responsible for much of the look and image of the group.
Lopes’ rhyming scheme has a few challenges — “must take” and “self-hate” aren’t often in the lexicon. As for envy being colored as a choice, Lopes got her start singing gospel at local churches.
The wider theme of the song is valid in retrospect — when you become a big star, what happens to your friends from the before time? Will they sell you out to the tabloids, will you yourself abandon them? Maintaining a friendship when one party has enormous wealth and fame is a challenge better known to celebrities than you or me. But, this was the third single on their debut. Now, recording on the album went from June 1991 to December 1991, and their lead single, Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg was released on 22 November 1992, three months before the album was released. It’s worth double checking to see that yes, Friends was recorded in the summer of 1991, before their first single was released, so we know that Friends was an accurate and predictive song for the future of their catalogue
As well as providing the theme song to the sketch show, TLC appeared on the short-lived 16 April 1994 premiere episode of All That on Nickelodeon. Their lip-synched performance to the ’92 tune is still online and features the trio in shredded-leg overalls.