When Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” ran the world

Listen to episode 3 of our new podcast, FADER Explains.

July 19, 2018
When Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” ran the world Atlantic Records

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In 1998, R&B dynamos Brandy and Monica teamed up and released "The Boy Is Mine," an iconic duet that completely took over the summer. It spent a staggering 13 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, sold almost 3 million copies, and netted them both a Grammy Award. In short, this was a monster record and for the third episode of our podcast FADER Explains, we went deep with the song, analyzing its importance, and finding out how it got made.

We spoke with legendary songwriter LaShawn Daniels, who was part of the team who worked on the song alongside hitmakers Darkchild, Dallas Austin, and Brandy herself. He revealed how the song shares a bloodline with a Michael Jackson classic and what it felt like to make one of the most known Songs of the Summer ever.

Subscribe, rate, and review FADER Explains on Apple Podcasts and listen below. Stay tuned for more throughout the summer.

You've worked on so many hits throughout your career with Darkchild, how does the construction of "The Boy is Mine" stand out in your mind?

LASHAWN DANIELS: What's incredible about this whole "Boy Is Mine" experience, I remember at those times, we were at Rodney's childhood home with his parents Rodney would work in the basement of that home. We had previously met Brandy for the first time in Los Angeles, California in a restaurant called Georgia. After that we went to another restaurant and we started talking and we were just so excited to meet each other and to possibly have the opportunity to work together, at that time it wasn't in stone yet. We had to deal with the labels and all of that type of stuff, they had to set everything up. I remember when it finally came down that we were going to work together, we just started brainstorming like crazy. At the time, she had an A&R, his name was Paris Davis, he had flown to New Jersey, to Rodney's childhood home, he flew in and we discovered we knew we had to make a record that could be considered an event.

At the time, the comparison between Brandy and Monica and them being similar in age and releasing music around the same time, people would always compare them. And of course it was a great thought to do a duet, but we didn't want to do a regular duet as if they were best buds or in high school or something. We should do something that makes them kind of competitive and of course, being huge Michael Jackson fans, we looked at the Paul McCartney duet ["The Girl Is Mine"]. I remember as a child what that artwork looked like, and what that song was like — they were rivals on one song. We wanted to match that perfectly. We said hey, instead of "The Girl Is Mine," let's do "The Girl Is Mine." That's how that concept actually started. From that point, we just started walking everything down.

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“We knew it was going to be a audio-cinematic moment for the audience”

Is there a moment from the studio during the making of the song that still resonates as a memory for you?

With the structure of "Girl," there were spaces in the song. The moment that sticks out to me was when we decided that we would have them going back and forth, that there wouldn't be a complete verse with just Brandy or with just Monica. When we actually broke down the lines per bar, we gave them two bars a piece and we were giving a call and response. That was a moment in the studio when we started constructing the lyrics first. "Think it's time we got this straight / Sit and talk face to face" when we knew the answer were coming back and forth that was a real moment. At the time we didn't have Monica's vocals, Brandy recorded the whole thing, but we knew it was going to be a audio-cinematic moment for the audience and we thought that was going to be extremely special.

You mentioned before how there was competition between Brandy and Monica in the media. Was there any fear that Monica wouldn’t do the song at the time?

At the time, we knew Clive Davis was extremely protective of Monica. We knew that she was one of his priority artists. We weren't sure he would go for it. Like I said, after we constructed the song, I think he saw the vision. The most fearful thing was, was Clive going to release Monica to do the song? Once we beat that we felt that it was going to be historic.

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When Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” ran the world