11 Points

Who Made a Better Case the Boy Was Theirs: Brandy or Monica?
written by Sam Greenspan

In 1998, two up-and-coming R&B singers released a track that, in a rare move, would be the lead single from both of their sophomore albums. Brandy and Monica's The Boy Is Mine went on to be a number one hit and won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.

But even with all that success, it never actually answered its own question: Who really had the claim to The Boy, Brandy or Monica?

There was always an air of mystery about whether the song had any underlying back story. Brandy and Monica, despite achieving such success together, only ever performed it live once (at the 1998 Video Music Awards). They wouldn't collaborate again until much, much later in their careers.

In the music video, The Boy (played by Mekhi Phifer) winds up alone after Brandy and Monica both decide he's not worth fighting over. But this ain't no music video, there's no Mekhi Phifer, this is real life. Removing the video (which I think we can safely consider non-canonical) from the equation and just focusing on the song, who deserved The Boy?

I broken down the lyrics and extracted the individual arguments made by both Brandy and Monica. Then I analyzed those arguments for their quality. (Spoiler alert: Low.) And, yes, in the end I made a ruling on who laid a stronger claim to The Boy.

Let's have a look...

Brandy's arguments:
  1. There is no way you could mistake him for your man, are you insane? Brandy's first argument is her most aggressive -- her only ad hominem attack of the entire song -- and not necessarily a good launching point for a mature and productive negotiation.

  2. He said without me he couldn't make it through the day. Essentially inadmissible because of the hearsay element.

  3. He is a part of my life. I don't love this argument. It's clear he's a part of both Brandy's life and Monica's life. As you'll see when we get to Monica's case, she was never questioning that reality.

  4. I know it's killing you inside. Brandy tries to get mean here, but lets a little empathy inadvertently sneak through. She's on the ropes.

  5. When will you get the picture? You're the past, I'm the future. Finally, a strong uppercut from Brandy. Belittling Monica for being delusional, acknowledging and validating Monica's relationship with The Boy while simultaneously dismissing it, cutting to the core. Solid line.

  6. Get away it's my time to shine. Perhaps a bit of a mixed metaphor (being in a relationship isn't really connected to "shining"); gotta rhyme "mine" at all costs, I suppose.

  7. I'm the one that brought him to the special place that's in my heart. Emotional, rather than fact-based, rhetoric but Brandy needed a line like this to elevate the discourse away from just zingers.

  8. He was my love right from the start. Hmm. What an odd place to end. After all, I already said her best argument was the one where she acknowledged Monica's past with The Boy. Now Brandy is claiming there is no past, and she was there from the start? Terrible closing argument.
So... yeah. No one's confusing Brandy for that sweaty, sturdy defense attorney on SVU who always manages to outwit ADA Barba. Monica should have this in the bag... right?

Monica's arguments:
  1. I know that you may be just a bit jealous of me. An insidiously good line. Suggesting there's something to be jealous of at all is a big implication.

  2. You're blind if you can't see that his love is all in me. Monica, as you'll see, is far more into the personal attacks than Brandy. "You're blind if you can't see" is her first one. Also take a note of that "his love is all in me" line -- it's going to be relevant again soon.

  3. Maybe you misunderstood, plus I can't see how he could wanna take his time and that's all good. Ouch for Monica. That's grounding into a double play. Brandy never mentioned that The Boy was taking his time to make a decision. She's entirely confident that the decision has already been made and Monica has been relegated to the past. Monica, on the other hand, seems to suggest they're both still in the running. If The Boy has been giving those indications to Monica but not Brandy, that's a near-fatal blow to Monica's case.

  4. All of my love was all it took. OK. So Monica already said that "his love is all in me" and now she's also saying she's given him "all of [her] love." If there were truly such a mutual exchange of total love, why is she still questioning things at all? Why is she in this debate? Her sheer willingness to argue it would indicate that, deep down, she knows The Boy didn't give her "all" of his love because there's still at least a little to go around. And if she responded to partial love by giving "all of [her] love," that's a poor move on her part.

  5. Must you do the things you do? Keep on acting like a fool? Back to the personal attacks. Calling Brandy a nasty woman and such.

  6. You need to know it's me not you. (And if you didn't know it girl it's true.) Just because you say something is true doesn't make it so.

  7. You can say what you wanna say. What we have you can't take. It's a bit late in the back-and-forth to try to dismiss Brandy's claims under "you can say what you want to say." Again, if you find the entire premise of the argument invalid, then why have the argument at all?

  8. From the truth you can't escape. I can tell the real from the fake. Another trip by Monica, once again acknowledging that something is happening between Brandy and The Boy. Even if it's fake, it exists. This is a tree falling in the forest and Monica is admitting it makes a sound.

  9. You can't destroy this love I've found, your silly games I won't allow. Monica certainly makes more arguments than Brandy, but I'm not sure any one of them is more poignant. This line comes near the end of the song and we've seen no evidence of any "silly games." I suppose that could sum up Monica's feelings on Brandy's entire pursuit of/claim to The Boy, but that's an odd way to put it. Perhaps elaborating on those silly games could help sway the listener.

  10. The boy is mine without a doubt -- you might as well throw in the towel. Not a single one of Monica's arguments back up her claim that The Boy belongs to her "without a doubt." This is essentially a "retreat and declare victory" moment.
Clearly, neither Brandy nor Monica did debate in high school. After going through their arguments, I lean slightly toward Brandy, only because she created a slightly more well-rounded case.

And also, there's the end of the song, where they trade these lines:

[Monica] Not yours.
[Brandy] But mine.
[Monica] Not yours.
[Brandy] But mine.
[Monica] Not yours.
[Brandy] But mine.

Brandy's making her claim about The Boy. Monica seems completely focused on Brandy, not at all concerned with The Boy, and she seemed happy to take the eight-year-old-on-the-playground side of this final argument.

Verdict: The Boy is Brandy's.

Hope that ends an 18-year-old debate. And please come back next time, when we determine who was paying Destiny Child's automo-bills.

This post was originally published on Friday, November 4, 2016 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Music.

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