Breaking Down the Message of TLC’s “Waterfalls” Music Video
TLC’s “Waterfalls” music video, released in 1995, was a huge hit, garnering critical acclaim and winning several awards. It was highly praised for its powerful message of caution against drug abuse and the dangers of unprotected sex. The video’s poignant imagery brought home these important issues to a wider audience, especially the younger generation. Let’s take a closer look at the message of the “Waterfalls” music video.
One of the most prominent themes of the “Waterfalls” music video is drug abuse. The video opens with an African American boy sitting on a stoop, looking at the camera with a blank expression. The shot cuts to a group of young men who are clearly under the influence of drugs, as evidenced by their erratic behavior. The song’s lyrics reinforce this message, with lines like:
Don’t go chasing waterfalls / Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to / I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all / But I think you’re moving too fast
The line “Don’t go chasing waterfalls” is often interpreted as a metaphor for chasing after drug-induced highs. The “rivers and lakes” represent a more stable, safe way of life, while the “waterfalls” represent the dangerous path of drug use. This message is hammered home by the video’s imagery: we see a young woman taking drugs while a sinister-looking figure lurks in the shadows. The message is clear: drug use is dangerous and can lead to dire consequences.
Another important theme of the “Waterfalls” music video is sex education. The video includes several scenes of young couples engaged in sexual activity, but with a twist: the camera cuts away to show that they are not using protection. The song’s lyrics reinforce this message:
Listen to me, don’t go chasing waterfalls / But I think you’re moving too fast
The line “But I think you’re moving too fast” is often interpreted as a warning against rushing into sexual activity without taking the necessary precautions. The music video serves as a cautionary tale, showing the tragic consequences of unprotected sex: we see a young man dying of AIDS-related illnesses, and a young woman forced to raise a child alone.
In addition to its messages about drug abuse and unsafe sex, the “Waterfalls” music video touches on several other social issues as well. The video shows scenes of poverty and homelessness, which serve as a reminder of the struggles faced by many people in society. The song’s lyrics also touch on issues like racism and police brutality:
Some stick to the rules / I think you’re moving too fast
This line is often interpreted as a criticism of a society that is deeply flawed, where some people are able to succeed by following the rules, while others are held back and punished for things outside of their control.
TLC’s “Waterfalls” music video was a powerful and groundbreaking achievement, both artistically and socially. The video’s message of caution against drug abuse and unsafe sex, as well as its commentary on social issues, struck a chord with audiences and helped to raise awareness of these important topics. Today, more than 25 years after its release, the “Waterfalls” music video is still seen as a classic example of music videos as a vehicle for social commentary and change.