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TLC is lauded as one of the most influential girl groups in music history. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes is credited as the group’s visionary, creating their signature style and being the brains behind many of their visuals. Unfortunately, her ideas were not always welcomed by her group members or other members of the group’s team.
While recording their third album, Left Eye chose two songs that were rejected. The songs would eventually be recorded and released for 702 and Whitney Houston, and became major hits for them.
Fresh off the success of the group’s second album CrazySexyCool and the media frenzy their bankruptcy filing caused, they wanted their third album to be a hit. But production on FanMail would prove to be difficult and cause tension amongst Left Eye and her group members.
Some of the behind-the-scenes drama that took place during the recording process was explained in Calvin Michaels’ So What Happened series about the transition from the group’s third and fourth studio albums. It was public knowledge that Left Eye was not satisfied with the album, and due to her disappointment, she didn’t contribute much vocally to many of the records. She wanted a certain sound that was ignored, including two singles the group passed on that became hits for other artists.
“Left Eye almost walked away from the project due to creative differences. Because she already had aspirations to do a solo project in conjunction with TLC, she had a lot of ideas. Unfortunately, she and Dallas Austin [the album’s producer] were not on the same page creatively, and it got to the point where they couldn’t even be in the same room together,” Michaels explained in the video. “Left Eye ended up frustrated because she had several ideas for the album that were dismissed. Two of those ideas included the song “Where My Girls At” from 702 and “Heartbreak Hotel” from Whitney Houston featuring Faith Evans and Kelly Price.”
Despite producers and T-Boz and Chilli passing on “Where My Girls At,” the song landed in the hands of fellow trio, 702. Hailing from Las Vegas, the group had some success in the 90s but hadn’t had a megahit yet.
Produced by Missy Elliott, the song was released in 1999 and featured on 702’s second studio album, which was also self-titled. “Where My Girls At” had major chart success, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 3 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts, and No. 1 on the Rhythmic Top 40 chart. It remained within the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for over half a year.
The single was eventually certified Gold, selling over 500,000 copies. Billboard Magazine also ranked the song at No. 46 on their list of the “100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time.”
Once rejected for FanMail, instead of the gong going to another girl group, Houston would eventually record “Heartbreak Hotel” and make it a collaboration between her and her two friends. Like Houston, Price and Evans had strong gospel roots that were evident in how they delivered a song. The three joining forces was not something fans exepcted, but they welcomed.
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“Heartbreak Hotel” was released as the second single from Houston’s 1998 album My Love Is Your Love, her fourth studio album. It received two Grammy nominations, peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs Chart. The single would go on to be certified platinum, and was one of five singles Houston released from the album.