The four-time GRAMMY nominee talks to the Recording Academy about the genesis of his 1999 smash hit and what it has in common with “Old Town Road”.
Mark “Sisqó” Andrews was making sizable waves in his R&B group Dru Hill and on Will Smith‘s “Wild Wild West” in the late ’90s when he stumbled into one of the most quotable, unforgettable hits of the millennium while crafting his solo debut, Unleash The Dragon, which just celebrated its 20th birthday. While the ballad “Incomplete” went number-one on the Hot 100, the tune you undoubtedly remember from it was “Thong Song,” a worldwide smash that shamelessly nicked from Ricky Martin, “The Flight Of The Bumblee,” some horny Baltimore friends, and almost, just almost, the Beatles. Not bad for a song that infamously likened a woman’s derriere to a dump truck.
But if you’re among the many who still have that lone verse permanently grafted in your memory (not least because Sisqó repeats it three times), it’s a classic from the skittering beat and silky strings to the stuttered delivery of the woman’s eveningwear it celebrates: that thong-th-thong-thong-thong. The song’s defiant catchiness and fourth-wall-breaking silliness have kept it afloat for two decades now, from its four GRAMMY nominations to its use in “Pitch Perfect 2.” We spoke to Sisqó via phone about how “Thong Song” has changed his life over the last two decades.
You sang “Thong Song” at your wedding last year. How did your extended family react to that?
It’s 2019, 2020. Whatever “Thong Song” was back then, how risqué it was, it’s like Disney now in comparison. [Laughs.] When I recorded the song there were a lot of things you couldn’t say or do in songs or in videos. Fast forward to today, it’s super tame. It’s my kids’ favorite song. When it came out there was some debate over whether soccer moms should let their kids hear it because I was on tour with ‘NSYNC. But if you actually listen to the song, I was really careful with the lyrics. It was like… what’s that new song from the country dude? [Starts singing “Old Town Road.”]
“Old Town Road”?
“Thong Song” was “Old Town Road” back then. With my kids, it goes right in the playlist with “Old Town Road.”
Who was the little girl at the beginning of the “Thong Song” video that finds the underwear?
That little girl was my daughter! She was four or five years old then, my daughter Shaione. She will be 24 on December 23.
Has she commented on her part in the video in the 20 years since she’s grown up?
Here’s the thing. My younger daughter, Kamiqo, is five. She saw my oldest daughter from a previous relationship on that video, and because they’re now the same age, when she watches the video now, she mimics her big sister to a T: “Daddy, daddy.” Her iPad was in front of her at dinner, so I thought she had the video on. But it was her saying it, just in perfect pitch with the video. [Laughs.]
You sampled the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” originally before going in a different classical direction with the strings. Did the lyrics or music come first?
Tim & Bob were the producers, they’d produced a couple of hits and they were super talented. They had sent me a CD with a bunch of tracks on it, and what became “Thong Song” was really just a 30-second snippet at the very end of a CD that had about 23 songs on it. It was a sample of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” I was like, “You guys have got some incredible tracks on this CD, but that snippet at the end, could you stretch that?” So they looped it for me and that’s what I “wrote” to. “Wrote” is in quotes because I freestyled every song, ever since Dru Hill’s “How Deep Is Your Love,” off the top of my head.
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Source: Beenie Words