Fans of TLC are just beginning to understand the significance of “Waterfalls.”
See the full music video here:
Getting behind the waterfalls
Your naive and impressionable mind had little time – or care – to really think about the lyrics you were singing. Like many songs you used to parade around your bedroom too, screaming at the top of your lungs into your hairbrush microphone, and dancing like no one was looking.
One song that I frequently shouted out while in the shower or played on my iPod while imagining I was in a music video while driving was TLC’s “Waterfalls,” which is and always will be an amazing banger. But did I really understand what the lyrics were about? No, I had no idea whatsoever.
After learning the significance of the message the music supports, other listeners of the song have experienced a similar shock.
Think again if you believed that the “waterfall” TLC sang about was indeed a waterfall.
The metaphorical “waterfall” represents numerous, much more mature themes.
The opening line of the song’s lyrics describes a mother who is unable to connect with or help her kid, who “can’t manage to keep himself out of trouble.”
With the line, “So, he goes out and he makes his money the best way he knows how/ Another body laying cold in the gutter,” the song’s lyrics quickly take a turn.
And things just get gloomier.
The chorus effectively tells the story of a mother pleading with her son not to go too far in search of “waterfalls,” which, according to Songfacts, are “money and respect via peddling narcotics.”
The second stanza is about a man’s relationship with a woman, and the casual sex that he engages in is his “waterfall” because of his “natural desire with temptation.”
This could indicate that he is infidelity or that the lady he is seeing is infidelity. In either case, he gets HIV and passes away (the website claims that “three letters took him to his ultimate resting place”).
Other problematic lyrics we sang as kids included “For fallin’ prey to crime/ I say the system got you victim to your own mind/ For tootin’ caine in your own vein/ You shoot and aim for someone else’s brain/
Issues like drug addiction, crime, and mental health are all implied by the lyrics.
But the song’s overarching theme is to spread awareness of how the AIDS problem began, with the first cases being reported in 1981.
The messages in ‘Waterfalls’ hit home, and I think that’s why it’s our biggest hit to date, said TLC member Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas in an interview with The Guardian. “We wanted to make a song with a strong message – about unprotected sex, being promiscuous, and hanging out in the wrong crowd,” she said.
Since then, a wave of people has flocked to Twitter in shock at the song’s lyrics’ darker, more profound, and more potent themes.
“Just checked up on the meaning of Waterfalls by TLC. I did not expect that” one user commented.
Another person commented, “Really changes up the meaning of the song. My coworker’s fiancée thought TLC’s song was about a guy named Jason Waterfalls.”
A third said: “Me and my older brothers song is Waterfalls by tlc It has so much meaning to us. It makes me sad when I hear it. I miss him. Love you p hars.”
Well, you learn something new every day.