For the past few months, the internet has been threatening us with a remake of a pretty sacred piece of sound: Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy is Mine.” Think what you will of the original, but consider what would happen if remade by the proposed duo, Jessie J and Ariana Grande. I’ll tell you what wouldn’t happen—today’s generation of young ladies would have no guidance in regard to fighting for their men in style.
I was 17 in 1998. I’d been through the romance wringer. This guy from another high school had the gall to try and play my best friend and me. He gave us both the same mixtape, which featured such gems as “Little Things” by Bush. He gave us both the same photo of himself riding a horse on a beach. I took this duplicity very seriously. When “The Boy is Mine” came out, it spoke directly to my soul. And then I saw the video.
Brandy’s just chilling in her chill pad, watching Jerry Springer in white satin pants. Brandy—she’s just like us.
Monica is chilling in her chill pad, wearing a sweet bicep cuff and taupe. Monica—also just like us.
After a bit, Brandy gets bored of her night in white satin and invites some friends over. Power tube top? Check. Power dark denims? Check. Girl is ready to dish.
Not to be outdone, Monica also rounds up her posse. She’s also rocking power dark denim, and her pals have got on what can only be referred to as “fighting trackies.”
Brandy’s all like, “But ladies, have you SEEN my choker thing?” I see your choker thing, Brandy. I see it, and I’m intimidated.
Oh shit, now Monica’s put on a bindi. Bindis often symbolize having perception beyond ordinary sight, a.k.a, whoever the boy is of which she and Brandy are singing, he’d better watch the fuck out. (Also bold accessories are key.)
Aha! Here we have the boy. Good ole Mekhi Phifer. Even before he became a teen dream in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and Carmen: A Hip Hopera, he was breaking hearts in this video in a sandy satin blouse. (1998 was a great year for the satin industry. It’s worth noting that strained satin enjoyed continued popularity thanks to Tina Knowles and her hand-stitched costuming for Destiny’s Child).
I identified with Monica’s me-time. I too owned a set of satin PJs (hey, we all saw the same TLC video), and I too spent a good amount of time holed up in my bedroom studying photo albums of times past. It was the 1998 equivalent of scrolling through old Facebook pics.
Let's also take a moment to salute the late 90s obesession for coordinating eye shadow with lip color. Does it matter that the shade known as chestnut looks lovely on the lids, but lame on the lips? No. It was all about the #details.
Things are getting serious. Club clothes are happening. Brandy chooses a figure-skimming shift, while Monica goes with a maxi skirt slit up to there. These outfits mean business. This isn’t trampsville. This is class. (Also please note how Rihanna and Shakira totally stole this frame for their two-butts-against-a-wall shot in their "Can't Remember to Forget You" video.)
These looks are the looks of strength as they face of a two-timing man. Their style was all about comfort and attitude, things that all young women could achieve. Nowadays “icons” like Jessie J and Grande seem more interested in flaunting acres of flesh and bodies only achieved by existing by squirrel portions of nuts. Brandy and Monica taught me and my 90s cohorts that you didn’t need to show belly-button and butt-cleavage to be fierce. It wasn’t about booty: it was about bitchface. These are important messages, people.
Also, two-timing dudes in semi-sheer shirts are really not worth fighting over.
There are many reasons to fear a remake of this classic. Not only would it highlight the lack of creativity in modern pop (come up with your own anthem, ladies!), it would likely continue leading females down a path favoring skin over sass. We need that about as much as I need Brandy’s choker thing, which is to say, not at all.
Karen Ruttner favors crushed velvet over satin, thankfully. She’s on Twitter.