The surviving members of TLC plan to continue as a duo -- not a trio -- despite appearances suggested by their new reality TV show, R U the Girl With T-Boz and Chilli, premiering Wednesday, July 27th, on UPN.
"We're not replacing Left Eye," Chilli says of her famous bandmate, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who died in a car accident in Honduras in 2002. "I'm sure it looks that way, but I think once people watch the show, they will see that it's not about a replacement."
This distinguishes R U the Girl from the new CBS reality show Rock Star: INXS, in which the surviving members of that group seek to replace their late singer, Michael Hutchence.
"It's way different," T-Boz says.
What eight finalists compete for on TLC's show is the right to sing during one concert and on "I Bet," one of three or four new songs slated for a January TLC greatest-hits album. (The track is already recorded and awaiting the extra vocal.)
T-Boz says the credit will read, "TLC featuring somebody else," describing it as "no different than a guest rapper."
The show's original eight finalists have already been winnowed down to two. The winner will be announced on a live finale in September. Even though T-Boz and Chilli are the only ones choosing, they claim they don't know who will win. "We haven't decided yet," T-Boz says.
The girls plan to support the greatest-hits CD with a tour. Whether they'll take the winner along is unclear, but they definitely plan to write and record their next studio album without her.
"We might have some guest appearances," T-Boz says. "But TLC is always gonna be T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli. We didn't work this hard for somebody just to fly up in here after fourteen years." (TLC, the best-selling female group in music history, have sold more than 27 million albums worldwide.)
This should please TLC fans queasy about the notion that Lopes is replaceable -- by the winner of a reality TV competition, no less. But after nine weeks of broadcast drama, isn't one concert and one song a bit of a gip for the winner?
"No way!" T-Boz says. "It's a good experience. I would kill to be on stage with Michael Jackson . . . Tell Michael to call my ass!"