July 7, 2022

In The Quantity Ones, I’m reviewing each single #1 single within the historical past of the Billboard Sizzling 100, beginning with the chart’s starting, in 1958, and dealing my method up into the current.

Jerry Springer was a daytime TV staple from 1991 to 2018, but it surely hit some type of cultural apex within the late ’90s. Throughout a interval when daytime discuss exhibits gave the impression to be in a trashiness arms race, Jerry at all times gained. The present lined a number of the grimiest home conditions that my teenage thoughts may comprehend. Chairs have been thrown. Crowds erupted at each new revelation in these randos’ absurd tales. The previous mayor of Cincinnati hemmed and hawed and mugged for the digicam whereas his visitors put their freakiness on full show. It was an actual spectacle.

In my highschool, Jerry was a continuing subject of dialog; I knew some children who taped it after they went to highschool. I occurred to be house sick the day that Gwar appeared on Jerry, which felt like a significant life occasion, like I’d gained some mystical lottery. The youngsters in my highschool weren’t the one ones paying consideration. In 1998, the Springer producers made an entire lot of cash promoting Too Sizzling For TV movies — extra-salacious moments from the present with the cuss phrases and occasional boobs left in. Springer starred as a frivolously fictionalized model of himself within the characteristic movie Ringmaster. (It flopped, but it surely nonetheless appeared in film theaters, which appears actually deranged in the present day.) And in an oblique type of method, Jerry Springer additionally helped encourage the teenage-superstar duet that held the #1 spot for your complete summer season of 1998.

Brandy and Monica’s monster smash “The Boy Is Mine” wasn’t immediately based mostly on Jerry Springer, however the present did play a key position within the music’s creation. In Fred Bronson’s Billboard Guide Of Quantity One Hits, the monitor’s co-writer Brandy explains it: “Ladies do battle over males. I used to be watching Jerry Springer sooner or later, and these ladies have been combating over one man, and I assumed it was silly. I assumed it might be an awesome music.” Give Brandy credit score. She understood the zeitgeist of her second. Within the video for “The Boy Is Mine,” Jerry Springer performs a minor plot position, as next-door neighbors Brandy and Monica unintentionally change one another’s TV channels with their remotes. This minor inconvenience foreshadows larger issues to come back.

Jerry Springer was not the one inspiration for “The Boy Is Mine,” the music the place two of the reigning younger R&B singers of the second argued over which ones was in a relationship with some dude. The music’s apparent antecedent was Michael Jackson’s Paul McCartney duet “The Woman Is Mine,” which got here out when each Brandy and Monica have been toddlers. (“The Woman Is Mine” was the primary single from Thriller, and it was additionally the worst music on the album. It peaked at #2, and it’s a 3.) Within the Bronson guide, “The Woman Is Mine” co-producer Dallas Austin says that Paris Davis, Brandy’s A&R man, instructed that the 2 of them document a “Woman Is Mine”-style music. To listen to Austin inform it, Davis needed it to be Brandy and Monica as a result of “they’d been going by means of this factor the place folks thought they didn’t like one another.”

Brandy and Monica have been by no means associates, however that didn’t imply that they have been enemies. The 2 singers have been about the identical age, they usually’d each come into the music enterprise on the similar time, as extraordinarily younger R&B phenoms. They have been children, however they didn’t make children’ music. Neither of them had ever reached #1 earlier than “The Boy Is Mine,” however each of them had gotten so far as #2. Within the Bronson guide, Monica addresses that complete factor: “From the time she was launched and I used to be launched, immediately folks in contrast us, and I by no means understood it. They by no means did it with me and Aaliyah, or Brandy and Aaliyah. It was at all times Brandy and Monica.”

Aaliyah, who will ultimately seem on this column, did debut across the similar time as each Brandy and Monica, and she or he was across the similar age. However her sound, picture, and elegance have been so totally different that I by no means even thought of the concept that they is perhaps in contrast. Brandy and Monica each had a breezy and approachable everygirl factor occurring, so the comparisons made somewhat extra sense, even when they got here off as totally different sorts of everygirl. However Brandy and Monica have been very totally different singers, they usually got here from very totally different circumstances.

Brandy Norwood was born in Mississippi, however she largely grew up in a show-business household in Carson Metropolis, California. (When Brandy was born, the #1 music in America was Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Suppose I’m Attractive?“) Brandy’s father was a gospel singer and choir chief who coached each Brandy and her youthful brother, the long run amateur-porn and reality-TV star Ray J. (Ray J’s highest-charting single, the 2007 Yung Berg collab “Attractive Can I,” peaked at #3. It’s a 3.) Brandy’s mom ultimately turned her supervisor. One in all her cousins is Snoop Dogg, an artist who will ultimately seem on this column.

Brandy studied singing and appearing as a younger child. She carried out on the talent-show circuit, and she or he sang some backup vocals for the kiddie-R&B boy band Immature. (Immature’s highest-charting single, 1994’s “By no means Lie,” peaked at #5. It’s a 4.) In 1993, when Brandy was 14, she signed with Atlantic. That very same 12 months, she additionally landed a job as one of many children on Thea, an ABC sitcom that lasted for one season. Brandy and Thea star Thea Vidale have been bashing one another within the media ever since.

Brandy’s self-titled 1994 debut got here out shortly after ABC cancelled Thea. The document is a slick, canny piece of breezy, funky R&B, and it makes good use of Brandy’s voice, which manages to be earthy and feathery on the similar time. The younger Brandy got here from the primary technology that by no means knew life earlier than rap music, and she or he had an innate understanding of how you can float over loping programmed beats. The album was an enormous success. Brandy’s debut single “I Wanna Be Down” reached #6. (It’s a 7.) The slinky follow-up “Child” did even higher, peaking at #4. (It’s an 8.) Brandy finally launched three top-10 singles and went quadruple platinum. In 1996, Brandy landed her largest hit but when “Sittin’ Up In My Room,” a music that Babyface wrote and produced for the Ready To Exhale soundtrack, acquired as excessive as #2. (It’s an 8.)

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The identical 12 months that she launched “Sittin’ Up In My Room,” Brandy turned a correct TV star. Her position on Thea didn’t final, however when she performed the title position on Moesha, a sitcom on the fledgling UPN community, one thing clicked. Brandy was each charming and plausible as an everyday child dealing with regular-kid issues, and the present turned UPN’s largest hit, finally lasting for six seasons. Across the similar time that Moesha debuted, Kobe Bryant, getting ready to go straight from highschool to the NBA draft, famously took Brandy to his senior promenade as his date. Brandy additionally co-starred along with her hero Whitney Houston in a 1997 TV-movie model of Cinderella. The appearing, together with numerous soundtrack singles and attendant famous-person tasks, stored Brandy busy sufficient that she didn’t get round to creating a sophomore album till 1998.

Brandy was nervous about making a second LP, and she or he didn’t like many of the songs that her label introduced to her. Brandy needed to work with Missy Elliott and Timbaland, the Virginia producers who have been within the strategy of remaking R&B as psychedelic future-funk, however Missy and Tim have been already working with Brandy’s fellow R&B prodigy Aaliyah. As a substitute, Brandy recorded 1998’s By no means Say By no means with one in every of Missy and Tim’s contemporaries.

Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, a determine who will seem on this column many instances, is an Atlantic Metropolis native who grew up within the church and who labored as a type of understudy to Teddy Riley when he was an adolescent. Jerkins, solely a few years older than Brandy, had a slick, jittery type, a extra streamlined tackle what Timbaland did. Brandy cherished Jerkins’ work on Share My World, the 1997 sophomore album from Mary J. Blige, a singer who will seem on this column. Jerkins produced most of By no means Say By no means.

Initially, “The Boy Is Mine,” the primary single from By no means Say By no means, was going to be a solo music for Brandy. You may hear that within the monitor. “The Boy Is Mine” doesn’t precisely provide two differing views. It’s two totally different ladies singing the identical factor, kind of, to one another. Brandy was one in every of 5 credited writers on “The Boy Is Mine.” She labored with Rodney Jerkins, his brother Fred Jerkins III, and fellow professionals LaShawn Daniels and Japhe Tejeda. However when she heard her solo model of the music, Brandy thought one thing was lacking. She knew that “The Boy Is Mine” wanted Monica.

Monica Denise Arnold grew up within the Atlanta neighborhood of Faculty Park, and her household was not a show-business household. (When Monica was born, the #1 single in America was Queen’s “One other One Bites The Mud.”) Polow Da Don, a producer whose work will ultimately seem on this column, is one in every of her cousins, however Monica’s dad and mom each labored on the airport — her father as a mechanic, her mom as a customer support rep. Monica grew up singing in church buildings along with her mom, and she or he gained expertise exhibits round Atlanta as a child. When she was 10, Monica turned the youngest singer in a touring gospel choir. When she was 12, Dallas Austin, producer of hits like TLC’s “Creep,” heard Monica singing a Whitney Houston music a expertise present and signed her to his Arista imprint Rowdy.

Monica was 14 years outdated when she launched her 1995 debut album Miss Thang. Like Brandy, Monica was completely comfy singing over rap beats. Not like Brandy, Monica had severe ranges of gospel grit in her voice even at a younger age. She sounded more durable than Brandy, extra seasoned. She didn’t sound something like somewhat child. The sound of Miss Thang is wealthy and guaranteed, and it’s wild {that a} 14-year-old singer was in a position to sound that very similar to what Mary J. Blige was doing on the time. Monica blew up even faster than Brandy did. Her debut single “Don’t Take It Private (Simply One Of Dem Days)” reached #2. (It’s an 8.) Two extra singles from Miss Thang went top-10, and the album went triple platinum.

Very like Brandy, Monica adopted her debut album with an enormous soundtrack hit. For her contribution to the 1997 movement image Area Jam, Monica went full adult-contempo, singing the Diane Warren-written ballad “For You I Will,” which reached #4. (It’s a 5.) In comparison with what Monica was doing on Miss Thang, “For You I Will” was severely missing in swagger, but it surely confirmed that Monica may do greater than what she’d achieved on her debut. She wasn’t a TV star like Brandy, however Monica had a shiny future. When Brandy put within the name for Monica to look on “The Boy Is Mine,” the timing was nice. Monica, like Brandy, was gearing as much as launch her second LP.

“The Boy Is Mine” wasn’t written a few real-life state of affairs, but it surely did riff on the general public notion that Brandy and Monica have been rivals. Within the Bronson guide, Monica says that this was intentional: “We took the music and introduced humor to a scenario that folks had tried to make so severe. We thought it might be actually humorous to indicate us feuding within the video after which come collectively on the finish as a result of we needed folks to let go of the concept of us not liking one another — however after all, they haven’t.” We certain haven’t. Many years later, the concept of Brandy and Monica not liking one another stays an enormous subject of dialog in each singers’ careers.

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Brandy and Monica tried recording “The Boy Is Mine” collectively, in the identical room, but it surely didn’t work. Their voices clashed, and a number of the individuals who labored on the music have mentioned that they didn’t like being in the identical room collectively. So that they tried one thing else. Brandy recorded her half in California with Rodney Jerkins, and Dallas Austin recorded Monica’s components in Atlanta, tweaking the association within the course of and incomes himself a co-producer credit score. (The opposite two credited producers are Rodney Jerkins and Brandy.) The music went by means of a number of mixes till everybody was happy that no person upstaged anybody else. Within the Bronson guide, Austin says, “I needed to make Monica Monica on it. I didn’t need it to show into one thing the place Monica’s full character wasn’t on it. It needed to have their attitudes on it and never simply be them singing a music.” It took a number of mixes earlier than they got here up with a model of “The Boy Is Mine” earlier than all events agreed that neither singer upstaged the opposite.

To its nice credit score, “The Boy Is Mine” does showcase the attitudes of each singers. The producers may’ve needed to put the music collectively piecemeal, however there’s an actual chemistry at work on it. The distinction between the 2 voices is delicate, but it surely’s there. Brandy is softer, and Monica is tougher. The argument on the monitor is just about an “shouldn’t be”/”is simply too” factor, and it by no means reaches a decision, however that most likely makes it extra enjoyable. It’s structured virtually like a rap battle, with each Brandy and Monica getting possibilities to flex on one another. Brandy: “There’s no method that you can mistake him to your man, are you insane?” Monica: “You see, I do know that you could be be just a bit bit jealous of me.” On the refrain, the 2 of them sing the identical factor at one another. The road “I’m sorry that you just appear to be confused” is a very nice piece of faux-nice shit-talk.

Given how the monitor was constructed, it’s superb that the manufacturing on “The Boy Is Mine” is so seamless. The music is filled with all these sharp, hypnotic little results. The synth-harp that opens the music is each ethereal and exquisite, and the producers encompass it with flighty little string riffs, funky bass-blorps, and drum-machine ripples. I really like the bizarre stagger of the beat programming — the lengthy, ungainly pauses adopted by rat-tat-tat clusters. By the tip, “The Boy Is Mine” turns into a jittery riot of sounds and voices, and it’s lovely.

I at all times heard the manufacturing on “The Boy Is Mine” as an imitation of Missy Elliott and Timbaland, and I used to be at all times utterly advantageous with that. Missy and Tim have been utterly transforming the best way that rhythm may work in in style music, and the neatest producers have been those making an attempt to play catch-up. These developments have been what made rap and R&B radio so thrilling within the late ’90s and early ’00s. “The Boy Is Mine” is an early, unformed instance of that affect at work. Even in a comparatively slick and mainstream iteration, that sound could possibly be simply overwhelming.

On the music “The Boy Is Mine,” Brandy and Monica’s characters by no means discover a decision; they’re nonetheless arguing because it fades out. The video is a unique story. The video for “The Boy Is Mine” is virtually a part of the textual content of the music itself; it’s what instantly involves thoughts after I consider the music. Within the clip, Joseph Kahn, future director of the Quick And The Livid wannabe Torque, confirmed Brandy and Monica residing in fantastically art-directed adjoining residences, having an identical conversations with an identical teams of associates and inadvertently interfering with one another’s TV alerts.

Finally, each Brandy and Monica understand that they’re courting the identical man: Mekhi Phifer, who’d already starred in Clockers and Excessive College Excessive and Soul Meals. (Later in 1998, Brandy and Phifer would once more seem collectively onscreen, enjoying a pair in I Nonetheless Know What You Did Final Summer season. A music with a distinguished Mekhi Phifer name-drop will ultimately seem on this column.) Phifer’s character should assume he’s Zack Morris, attempting so far two totally different ladies though they reside proper subsequent to one another in a rattling condo constructing. Brandy and Monica determine what’s occurring by listening to telephone conversations by means of the wall, they usually briefly stand up in one another’s faces. However the video ends with Phifer knocking on Brandy’s door and discovering that Monica is correct there along with her. The final shot within the clip is Phifer wanting confused as they slam the door in his face. It’s good shit.

“The Boy Is Mine” caught fireplace in ways in which no person may’ve anticipated. I graduated from highschool a few weeks earlier than “The Boy Is Mine” hit #1, and it was nonetheless sitting on the prime of the charts whereas I settled into my dorm at Syracuse. Within the time that “The Boy Is Mine” was at #1, Brandy launched By no means Say By no means, and Monica got here out along with her sophomore album, which she referred to as The Boy Is Mine — a alternative that feels a bit like Monica saying that the music was hers. Monica has mentioned that Clive Davis picked the album title. In case you hearken to The Boy Is Mine on a streaming service in the present day, you’ll word that “The Boy Is Mine” is now not on the album. (No less than as soon as, Brandy has modified the music to “The Tune Is Mine” when singing it reside.) Brandy, in the meantime, sang “The Boy Is Mine” by herself on The Tonight Present, which reportedly pissed Monica off.

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That September, Brandy and Monica sang “The Boy Is Mine” collectively onstage for the primary time on the VMAs; the music had solely fallen from #1 a couple of days earlier. On the time, there have been persistent rumors that Brandy and Monica had gotten right into a battle in the course of the VMA rehearsals. The 2 put out a joint assertion denying these rumors, however years later, they admitted it: Monica had, the truth is, punched Brandy within the face backstage. Through the present itself, Brandy and Monica spent many of the efficiency at reverse ends of the stage. A music impressed by Jerry Springer had led to some Jerry Springer shit.

Brandy and Monica may not have appreciated one another, however “The Boy Is Mine” served to make them even larger stars. The large superstar-duet of 1998 was presupposed to be “When You Consider,” the ballad from the Biblical cartoon epic The Prince Of Egypt the place Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey lastly sang collectively. However “When You Consider” was about as thrilling as boogers drying. A part of the music’s enchantment was the notion that Whitney and Mariah didn’t get alongside; at that very same VMAs, the 2 of them introduced an award collectively whereas sporting the identical outfits and appearing pissed-off at one another. The hype didn’t work. “When You Consider” peaked at #15, whereas two ladies from a youthful technology, singers who have been each post-Whitney and post-Mariah, reigned for a complete summer season with smarter, sharper music that really performed on their perceived animosity.

Brandy and Monica will each seem on this column once more, so we’re not wrapping up both of their tales right here. The 2 of them continued to play up their feud, presumably for dramatic impact, within the years forward. In 2012, although, they acquired again collectively to sing one other duet. “It All Belongs To Me” riffed on previous beef, and it missed the Sizzling 100 completely. Fairly good music, although.

Brandy and Monica additionally reunited onstage for a 2020 Verzuz battle that drew an enormous streaming viewers. Kamala Harris Zoomed in for a cameo look, and the 2 singers, who hadn’t spoken in years, mentioned plenty of good issues about one another whereas most of the folks watching tried to decipher the awkwardness of their physique language. When the Verzuz battle inevitably ended with “The Boy Is Mine,” Brandy sang it herself; Monica opted out. That VMA efficiency is nonetheless the one time they’ve ever sung the music collectively for an viewers. I’m certain the entire Brandy/Monica saga will undergo extra twists and turns within the years forward. Regardless of how they really feel about one another, Brandy and Monica are tied collectively ceaselessly. A music like “The Boy Is Mine” can try this.

GRADE: 8/10

BONUS BEATS: Mobb Deep’s 1999 single “It’s Mine” featured Nas atonally singing the melody from “The Boy Is Mine.” Prodigy as soon as informed me that the “It’s Mine” video price one million {dollars} to shoot. Right here it’s:

(As lead artists, Mobb Deep’s highest-charting single is the 2002 112 collab “Hey Luv (Something),” which peaked at #58. Mobb Deep did, nonetheless, get to #6 as visitor rappers on 50 Cent’s “Outta Management” remix in 2005. That one is a 6. Nas’ highest-charting lead-artist single is 2003’s “I Can,” which peaked at #12. As a visitor, Nas acquired as excessive as #5 on Missy Elliott’s “Sizzling Boyz” in 1999. That’s a 9.)

BONUS BONUS BEATS: In 2000, UK dance producers the Stuntmasterz had an pirate-radio hit referred to as “The Ladyboy Is Mine,” which put Brandy and Monica’s sped-up vocals from “The Boy Is Mine” over the music from Modjo’s “Girl (Hear Me Tonight).” Finally, Warner Bros. gave “The Ladyboy Is Mine” a correct launch, however they couldn’t clear the Modjo pattern, so the Stuntmasterz used a Stylish pattern as a substitute. The music nonetheless went top-10 within the UK. Right here’s the video:

BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Right here’s US Ladies’ video for his or her bugged-out 2011 drone-pop cowl of “The Boy Is Mine”:

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Right here’s the UK dance producer Zomby sampling “The Boy Is Mine” on “Rendezvous” and “The Issues You Do,” two totally different tracks that appeared back-to-back on his 2013 album With Love:

BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BONUS BEATS: Right here’s video of HAIM and their opening act Lizzo protecting “The Boy Is Mine” collectively at a 2019 present at Purple Rocks:

(HAIM have by no means had a Sizzling 100 hit as lead artists, however they acquired to #34 after they guested on Taylor Swift’s 2020 music “No Physique, No Crime.” Lizzo will ultimately seem on this column.)

THE NUMBER TWOS: Usher’s silky, bleepy “My Manner” peaked at #2 behind “The Boy Is Mine.” It’s an 8.

THE ASTERISK: Whereas “The Boy Is Mine” sat at #1 on the Sizzling 100, the Goo Goo Dolls’ quasi-grunge soundtrack ballad “Iris” kicked off an astonishing 18-week run at #1 on Billboard‘s Radio Songs chart. “Iris” was by no means launched as a single, and Billboard guidelines being what they have been, “Iris” didn’t seem on the Sizzling 100 for many of that point. Billboard lastly modified that maddening rule on the finish of 1998, which suggests that is the final time that one in every of these columns can have an asterisk, at the least until we get into another rule-change weirdness afterward. When the change occurred, “Iris” was nonetheless large enough to achieve #9 on the Sizzling 100. If the change had occurred earlier, “Iris” most likely would’ve made it to #1. It’s a 4.

The Quantity Ones: Twenty Chart-Topping Hits That Reveal The Historical past Of Pop Music is out 11/15 through Hachette Books. You may pre-order it right here.