“Forget about it like the world forgot Sisqo,” Missy Elliott rapped on “Partytime” from her 2005 album, The Cookbook.
Do you remember how you felt the first time you heard Sisqo’s “The Thong Song”? Was it a pang of excitement? Or an ominous feeling that this song wouldn’t go away for the next year? For me, I was hit with a case of the giggles. Partly out of immaturity because I’d never heard someone say the word ‘thong’ as much as Sisqo did in a matter of four minutes and 12 seconds. But I was also embarrassed for him. More than it was a dance song about women’s underwear, it was a testament to the fact that Sisqo would literally do anything for a dollar. At at the ripe old age of 14, even I understood how bad that was.
The year was 1999. “The Thong Song” was one of those pop music phenomenons that could only happen before the year 2000. For many, it probably confirmed that Y2K actually would be the apocalypse. It was schlocky, kitschy, cliché-filled dribble. The personification of novelty. This is the stuff that one hit wonders are made of. If Sisqo hadn’t already become a star as the lead singer of Dru Hill, he surely wouldn’t have survived the radio earthquake that was “The Thong Song”.
"It was a testament to the fact that Sisqo would literally do anything for a dollar."
Sisqo largely wrote and produced the song himself (with some help from production duo Tim & Bob). That’s not hard to believe when you reflect on the profound nature of the lyrics:
“She had dumps like a truck, truck, truck. Thighs like what, what, what. All night long. Let me see that thoooooong.”
The Wikipedia page for The Thong Song notes that the song’s content is about gender roles. No, it’s not. It’s about underwear. As I’m sure you remember, we were into some deep shit back in high school. Before everyone in pop music decided to try and outcool one another. Before popular artists purposely made music that wasn’t radio-friendly, everyone was just trying to get paid. And get paid was exactly what Sisqo did.
“The Thong Song” peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and picked up 4 Grammy nominations. His debut solo album, Unleash The Dragon, went on to sell over 6 million copies. To give you an idea of its lasting impact, the song’s classic Hype Williams-directed video was uploaded to YouTube in 2009 (yes a decade after its release), and it has over 56 million views to date. He even managed to squeak out a number one single with the ballad “Incomplete” right after things calmed down with the thongs.
I have to hand it to Sisqo. He sang about those thongs with conviction. He sang about ladies’ underwear with the same passion that Jennifer Hudson belted out “And I’m Telling You…” in Dreamgirls. But like all fairytales, Sisqo’s would come to an end. By the time he released his second album, Return Of The Dragon, in 2001, no one was interested. There was no cheesy companion to “The Thong Song” in sight. The album was actually a slickly produced collection of solid R&B songs that deserved a better shot than it received. But such is life when you make a name for yourself singing about panties.
"He sang about ladies’ underwear with the same passion that Jennifer Hudson belted out “And I’m Telling You…” in Dreamgirls."
These days, Sisqo has gone the way of most novelty acts. He’s had stints on Celebrity Big Brother, Celebrity Wife Swap, and The Platinum House (with R&B great Keith Sweat). Dru Hill tried to recreate the magic in 2012 to no avail. And 2015 even saw the return of Sisqo the solo artist, but like one of his iTunes reviewers stated, it was an Auto-tuned mess.
Hopefully he held onto his “The Thong Song” coins. Pop music is different now, and I’m not sure we’ll ever see another music phenomenon like this sweep the country again. Revisit the good times below: