"Chasing Waterfalls" is TLC's way of expressing how people chase intangible dreams with no thought of the consequences. The first verse is talking about an inner city mother-and-son relationship. He is chasing "waterfalls" (money and respect by dealing drugs), but his mother knows this cannot end well. The second verse deals with a man's relationship with a woman. His "waterfall" is casual sex - he has a "natural obsession for temptation." This could mean he is cheating on someone or the woman he is seeing is cheating on someone. Either way, he contracts HIV and dies ("three letters took him to his final resting place"). TLC were big on AIDS awareness - Left Eye would often wear condoms attached to her clothes and in her glasses to promote safe sex.
Cee-Lo Green sang backup on this. He's well-known as a songwriter and producer, and as a member of Goodie Mob and Gnarls Barkley. Cee-Lo recalled to The Guardian newspaper March 22, 2008: "I was working at the same studio and of course I know the girls too, because we were on the same label, so they just asked me. I didn't realize at the time what a big song it was going to be."
The Atlanta production team Organized Noize, who produced the track, wrote this song with Marqueze Etheridge, and TLC's Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes came up with the rap. Lopes was dealing with some personal problems at the time, which are expressed in her rap. She had a very turbulent relationship with the football player Andre Rison, and on June 9, 1994 she burned his new shoes in his bathtub, which set fire to his entire $2 million mansion. She pled guilty to arson, but did reconcile with Rison.
Jeana - Sterling Heights, MI
TLC was signed to LaFace Records, which as part of Arista was headed by the renowned hit-picker Clive Davis. But according to T-Boz, he didn't like this song. It took a push from their mentor at the label, L.A. Reid, to get promotion for the song and a budget for the video.
T-Boz recalled to Q magazine how they pushed Davis to release the single. "We wrote a big poster with a marker – 'Please believe in us' - and delivered it to his office." She paused for dramatic effect. "Biggest song to date."
The video won the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year in 1995, beating out "Buddy Holly
" by Weezer and "Basket Case
" by Green Day. The "Waterfalls" clip had lots of fancy computer-generated effects, including plenty of water, which was notoriously difficult to render. It was directed by F. Gary Gray, whose first feature film, Friday
, was released the following year. He went on to direct Straight Outta Compton
and The Fate of the Furious
. The video also took the VMAs for Viewer's Choice, Best Group Video and Best R&B Video.
The special effects in the video were created by the visual design company Homer & Associates, which used motion capture technology to generate the images. The company used the same technique in their previous work on the Peter Gabriel video for "Steam
" and in the movie The Lawnmower Man
The rap lyrics Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes performed on this song were engraved in her casket. Lopes died in a car accident in Honduras in 2002.
The three-piece British girl group Stooshe released a cover of this song for their third single from their self-titled debut album in 2012. "We are huge fans and have met T-Boz, who told us she loved our version," Courtney Rumbold of the trio told The Sun. "It's meeting heroes like that that spurs us on, and we have the most loyal of fans."
Their version peaked at #21 on the UK singles chart. Stooshe managed to secure cameos from TLC's T-Boz and Chilli for their accompanying music video.
T-Boz and Chilli re-recorded the song with Japanese popstar Namie Amuro to mark their 20th anniversary. The new version of the track was dedicated to their fans in Japan and finds Namie rapping Left Eye's verse almost at a whisper.
This makes the "songs discussed in movies" list thanks to its use in the 2010 film The Other Guys, where Michael Keaton's character keeps unknowingly quoting TLC songs, starting with this one.
Meshell Ndegeocello covered this song in 2018, releasing a video for it
shot in Iceland and directed by Damani Baker.
This was used in the movies Captain Marvel (2019), We're the Millers (2013) and Couples Retreat (2009).
If you're wondering what it sounds like when a guy sings this song, check out the cover by Death Cab For Cutie, who released it in 2020 on The Georgia EP, a benefit for Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight Action organization. All the covers on the EP are songs by artists from Georgia, Abrams' state.
Chilli told Billboard
TLC had the vision for the video, then F. Gary Gray brought it to life. She said she imagined the trio in water images performing like in the James Cameron movie The Abyss
. Tionne came up with the storylines and Lisa pictured the three girls "traveling through space passing planets before we got to earth." Gary Gary then changed Lisa's idea to TLC coming straight from the sky.
T-Boz admitted that filming the scenes of TLC performing the song while standing on top of an ocean were very scary. They were standing on a platform that wasn't stable and she feared she was going to fall in. "That's why my feet are planted wide and still," she said. "You never see my feet move ever. You couldn't move to the front or back, you could only go side to side."