You won't get any argument from me if you think the AJC's coverage of Lisa Lopes' death was a little excessive (jeesh, you'da thought Britney Spears died or something).But what is the right number of articles to dedicate to a celebrity's death? Does she deserve more than, say, Alice in Chains' lead singer Layne Staley, who died of an apparent overdose the week before Lopes' car wreck?
The point is, regardless of how much coverage her death gets, "Left Eye" was a significant cultural and musical figure -- more than she's given credit for, and certainly more than some B-list grunge wash-up.
In determining a person's worth, counting record sales is about as pointless as counting articles, but in this case the numbers are compelling. Twenty-five million records sold by Lopes' group, TLC. Fact is, TLC was one of the most popular groups ever -- and one of the rare groups in any genre, particularly R&B vocal groups, to sustain popularity over the course of a decade. TLC created perfectly catchy contemporary pop nuggets that innovatively blended hip-hop with R&B -- songs we'll remember as markers of their era just as much as Supremes classics evoke the '60s and early Madonna tunes arouse nostalgia for the '80s. And like Madonna, underneath the candy-coated veneer, many TLC songs offer perfectly facile messages about issues and values, particularly those that speak to young women.
Of course, for the music, we can't fully credit TLC, whose members didn't play a major role in songwriting (though Lopes did write her own raps). Instead, credit goes to talented local writers and producers such as Dallas Austin, Ske'kspere, Marqueze Etheridge and Kandi Burruss.
And that's perhaps the biggest reason to value Lopes and TLC. Lest we forget, Atlanta's greatest contribution to the history of contemporary music -- as a major (perhaps the major) urban-music hub of the past decade -- would not have developed without TLC's 1992 breakthrough. TLC not only employed lots of local music-industry folks, the group showed Atlantans it was possible to become international stars while staying in town -- surrounded by world-class producers, studios, songwriters and such.
Add to Lopes' substantial accomplishments her flashy costumes, her big mouth, her personal travails and her brushes with matchsticks, and you have the makings of a real rock star in the classic tradition, a colorful personality playing out her triumphs and fuck-ups for the world to see. Unfortunately, because we're so unaccustomed to viewing a woman -- much less a black woman -- as a rock star/anti-hero, plenty of us are left wondering what the big deal was.
Welcome to Atlanta.
Roni Sarig is Creative Loafing's music editor.