Herstory 21: Why Brandy And Monica “The Boy Is Mine” Still Triggers Nostalgia
Aren’t we endlessly holding onto the 90’s eager as a dog with a piece of meat? I say we and mean anyone who owns a stack of memories that were made in the decade. I say we and mean anyone who feels the weight of their age when they say I remember this from back in the day or they don’t make music like this anymore. We’re slowly becoming our parents. Convinced our beloved 90’s holds the standard for everything uniquely great in music.
The Currency Of Nostalgia
Streaming platform Spotify recently conducted research to find out why their users have such a strong connection with nostalgia. They noticed people listening to their Turn Back In Time and #ThrowbackThursday playlists everyday and their personalized playlist Your Time Capsule hit it big with the users earning over 1.6 million followers and over half a billion streams. Almost 70% of people they surveyed said feelings of nostalgia can help to change or improve their mood.
It’s safe to say listening to music from our past is more than a desperate escape to go back in time. It’s a way to keep our mental health in check when the daily stresses of our lives demand so much out of us.
The 90’s Never Left
Every now and again, a song or an album reminiscent of the 90’s comes along to break the monotony of whatever is trending and I question the concept of time again. Surely the 90’s wasn’t thirty years ago? Unlike any other decade in the 20th century, the 90’s does not feel like a lifetime away. It’s here, constantly on the hunt for new skin to live under.
The Boy Is Mine Is Turning 21
As the song eagerly approaches it’s 21st birthday on May 19th here are a few fun facts:
After watching an episode of Jerry Springer featuring two womxn fighting over a man, Brandy ran with the concept and partnered up with Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, his brother Fred Jerkins III, Japhe Tejeda and Lashawn Daniels to write the song. Originally, Brandy planned for the song to be a solo record when they decided that the song would be much more enticing as a duet, drawing further inspiration from Michael Jackson and Paul Mccartney’s “The Girl Is Mine”.
According to tabloids, there was an existing feud brewing between Brandy and Monica. Brandy thought a collaboration with Monica was the perfect opportunity to dispel the rumors.
Despite their immense individual success within the first few years of their careers, Brandy and Monica never topped the Billboard charts. They came close but fell short at number two. (Brandy’s “Sittin Up In My Room” in 1995; Monica’s “Don’t Take It Personal” in 1996). The Boy Is Mine became their first #1 song.
After its release, the song sat at #23 on the Billboard 100 charts for two weeks then snatched the #1 spot from R&B group Next’s “Too Close” and held on to it for 13 consecutive weeks.
The only other song in history to jump from beneath the top 20 to number one is The Beatles with their 1964 single “Money Can’t Buy You Love”.
By the end of 1998, the song had sold 2.6 million copies making it the best selling song of the year in the U.S. and the fourth longest-running #1 hit of the 90’s.
How The Video Changed The Narrative
As a child you couldn’t tell me Brandy and Monica were teenagers. Director Joseph Kahn’s visual execution was grown and sophisticated (i.e. from the interior design in their apartments to the wardrobe selection). After revisiting the video a number of times recently, I now see how emotionally intricate it is. Here are my favorite moments:
In the beginning Brandy and Monica control each others TV’s. What Monica wants to watch ends up on Brandy’s TV and vice versa. They’ve already had an indirect fight before the chorus comes in. The energy then spills into the verse as they rant to their friends.
In the second chorus, leading man, Mekhi Phifer holds both Brandy and Monica from behind, wearing a sinister grin as if to say to the viewer I can never get caught but also I am more than my body count and that scares me.
In the bridge Brandy and Monica eavesdrop on each other’s phone call with Mekhi. Frustration leads them to pace around the apartment, picking up a handful of belongings to leave at the door. This could be a metaphor on the need to put the lies of their apparent feud to rest.
At the end Mekhi turns up to Brandy’s apartment. To his surprise, finds Monica standing next to her. They came together to cut a loose man loose. But for me those last couple of seconds serves as a small reminder they came together for the culture. For a purpose bigger than themselves.
The Absence Of Sisterhood
Off the top of my head, including Brandy and Monica I can name over ten female artists/groups who were definitive of the 90’s. I’ve never been under the impression that any of these womxn were ever threatened by each other. Whether they got along or not, they chose to be in the same room under their own light. My question is who reduced the size of the room? Why does it only hold space for one womxn now?
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For our Herstory Lessons blog series —we're retelling the stories of womxn in music that have been misheard, mislabeled, or erased completely from our history books.
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