Red Light Special
by TLC

Album: CrazySexyCool (1994)
Charted: 18 2

Songfacts®:

  • In this slow jam, the ladies of TLC draw up a blueprint for a night of lovemaking, giving the lucky guy specific instructions:

    I'll let you go further
    If you take the southern route
    Don't go too fast
    Don't go too slow
    You've got to let your body flow


    "You have all these love songs about what the girl's going to do to the guy," Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes said in a video to promote the album. "This is like, 'Look, this is what we want. Do it up.'"
  • If it's sexy R&B from the '90s, it's probably Babyface, who in addition to his own songs wrote love-makers for artists like Johnny Gill ("My, My, My"), Pebbles ("Love Makes Things Happen") and Boyz II Men ("I'll Make Love To You"). He wrote and produced "Red Light Special," imbuing it with his signature sensitivity that crossed gender lines - he steered clear of macho posturing. Babyface is also responsible for the 1992 hit "Baby-Baby-Baby" from TLC's first album.
  • Kmart used to run Blue Light Specials, but they were definitely not sexy (unless you love a bargain). A "Red Light Special" in this context is part of a night of intimacy; it can be a kind of mood lighting or method of prolonging the pleasure.
  • Sandwiched between the #1 hits "Creep" and "Waterfalls," "Red Light Special" was released as the second single from TLC's second album, CrazySexyCool. The group was signed to LaFace Records, an Atlanta-based collaboration between L.A. Reid and Babyface that could call on top talent. They had the top producers in the game work on the album - Dallas Austin, Jermaine Dupri, P. Diddy - and pushed it with lots of promotion.

    TLC was a local act that came on the scene with a fun, sexy look and sound that popped on radio and MTV. They got more refined for their second album, which did some character development, labelling each girl by a singular description:

    Left Eye: crazy
    Chilli: sexy
    T-Boz: cool

    The songs got loads of airplay and the girls got heaps of press coverage. CrazySexyCool went on to sell a staggering 12 million copies just in America; it stands as a defining album from the era, bringing R&B-pop to a new level.
  • The music video is set in a "red light" district, with the girls in a brothel where they're the clients and the workers are guys. It was directed by Matthew Rolston, a fashion photographer who also did the "Creep" video.
  • According to Babyface, the guitarist on this track was the session player Dwight Sills. They wanted Ernie Isley, but he wasn't available.

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