T-Boz suffers from low self-esteem due to past unhealthy relationships in the polished “Damaged.”
An acoustic guitar and strings uncharacteristically opens the single. Underneath a hushed bass, T-Boz comments that she is aware of her flaws. She’s skittish and uncommunicative towards her boyfriend. However, she’s guarded herself from having another guy put her down. She’s determined to make a change, though. (“I know I’m kinda strange, to you sometimes/Don’t always say, what’s on my mind/You know that I’ve been hurt, by some guy/But I don’t wanna mess up this time.”)
In the bridge, she finally gives in a little and tells him her feelings. She likes him and wants him in his life. But she’s afraid she’s going to push him too far away. She asks him for some time to pull herself together and it has absolutely nothing to do with him. (“And I really really really care/And I really really really want you/And I think I’m kinda scared/Cos I don’t want to lose you/If you really really really care/Then maybe you can hang through/I hope you understand/It’s nothing to you.”)
T-Boz says she’s high-maintenance in the chorus. If he’s going to want to be with her, he needs to have plenty of patience. However, since she is developing strong feelings for him the process is going to be even more difficult. (“My heart’s at a low/I’m so much to manage/
I think you should know that/I’ve been damaged/I’m falling in love/There’s one disadvantage/I think you should know that I’ve been damaged.”)
She’s not going to trust him right away. She probably will snoop through his e-mails or cell phone list to see if their any other girls’ numbers on there. She may put him through tests, like sending him a friend of hers to hit on him and see if he takes the bait. She’s scared she will be cheated on again. She tells him to be prepared. (“I might look through your stuff, for what I don’t wanna find/Or I might just set you up, to see if you’re all mine/I’m a little paranoid, from what I’ve been through/Don’t know what you got yourself into.”)
The bridge is sung again. The chorus is repeated four times to end the single.
The acoustic pop of “Damaged” is a change from past TLC singles. With the bubblegum pop out of style, they revert to the new popular genre: rock with a rich, poppy center. It’s also a step up from the garish “UnPretty.” The message is honest, if not a bit over-the-top (“I might just set you up..”) It’s efficient, tailoring to T-Boz’s toothpick-thin vocals which is the main problem. The single needs a stronger singer with passion in their voice. T-Boz grasps to reach those notes.