Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Brandy & Monica, “The Boy Is Mine”
16 years ago today, a duet which continues to be the most significant chart success for both of the R&B divas who sang it ascended to the pinnacle of the Billboard Hot 100: “The Boy Is Mine,” by Brandy and Monica.
When one examines the credits for “The Boy Is Mine,” it’s hard not to paraphrase one of David Letterman’s recurring lines whenever he finished reading a piece of viewer mail featuring multiple signatures: it took four people to write this song. Still, it’s not like you can really complain about the results, given that the efforts of Brandy, LaShawn Daniels, Rodney Jerkins, and Fred Jerkins III ended up winning the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group (plus earning nominations for Record of the Year and Best R&B Song), took home a trio of Billboard Music Awards, and sold 2.6 million copies, making it the best selling song of 1998.
Funnily enough, though, the song wasn’t originally intended to be a duet…like, to the point where it was effectively completed before Brandy ever decided that it needed Monica on it.
In a 2012 interview with Complex.com, Brandy went into detail about the origins of the collaboration. “At that time we hadn’t really met and we hadn’t really known each other at all, but people were putting us against each other, they were making us into a rivalry, (and) this was the perfect song to continue that,” said Brandy. “It just made sense, because people already thought we didn’t like each other, so we had this song and it was the perfect song to keep that going. She got on the song, she did so good, and she just made the song what it needed to be.”
The only problem: the attempt to create the illusion of a rivalry between the two singers proved a little too successful.
“People still send me tweets today, (and) I’m sure Monica will tell you the same thing: ‘So whose boy was it?’” Brandy told Complex.com. “People really buy into that stuff. But we never were really fighting over a boy. We didn’t even know each other to not like each other.”
Since the initial success of “The Boy is Mine,” Brandy and Monica have managed to reunite on a couple of occasions to belt out the number –once in 2008 and again in 2012, with both instances taking place in conjunction with Atlanta radio station V-103’s Soul Session concert series – but if you missed out on those performances, there’s still the studio version to fall back on, which sounds just as great now as it did then.