We’re coming up on 16 years since the Summer of Sisqo, that magical season during which his ode to underwear, “The Thong Song,” dominated the radio and got its stank all over MTV. Now, I know you think this is just a stupid-ass song about lingerie, but it’s so much more than that. “The Thong Song” is a story about a man on the verge of greatness, a man who doesn’t understand the power at his fingertips…a man unable to resist the Scylla and Charybdis of temptation.
And as Sisqo releases his newest album, Last Dragon, we decided to look back and annotate his great contribution to popular culture: “The Thong Song.”
0:09: Sisqo is a single father. I’d say he was a good dad — he is housing his daughter in a massive Miami apartment and, given that the whiteness of everything isn’t blemished by, say, crayons and Sharpies and juice stains, he’s raising her right.
0:10: And then he says to his boy on the phone, “I’m just waiting for this girl to bring my daughter back. I think they went to the mall or something.” So he just let a woman whose name he doesn’t know abscond with his offspring to go to an undetermined place? What kind of father does this?
0:25: And Sisqo has managed to raise a child that doesn’t know what underwear are? “What’s this?” she asks. What else could it be? An elephant? A violin? Spaghetti? Damnit, Sisqo, you have a responsibility to prepare this child for the real world and if she can’t spot a basic garment, you’ve failed on a fundamental level.
0:36: Busses! When Sisqo goes to the beach, apparently, he brings everyone from everywhere. Here, the song starts in earnest, with some Elvis-style speechifying.
0:45: I don’t understand this glove. Like, at all.
1:03: “She’s got dumps like a truck”? There could be a graduate thesis on this phrase. “When the pursuit of a pun leads you do an untimely end.” Does he mean that this mysterious woman has got a massive derriere? Does it mean that her bowel movements can shift tectonic plates? I DON’T THINK THAT MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS, SISQO.
1:16: The chorus. Really, the most important part of any song, right? You like a song if you like the chorus. “Let me see that thong, baby. That thong-th-thong-thong-thong. I like it when the beat goes, I like it when the booty goes. That thong-th-thong-thong-thong.” It’s not Shakespeare, but it could be. Speaking of which, here’s where Sisqo and his boys roll out like Romeo, Mercutio and Tybalt out of Romeo + Juliet, looking for trouble. “Do you bite your thumb at me, sir?!”
1:50: More dumps like a truck. Remember when Nicki Minaj got flak for her “Anaconda” video? Yeah, shit like this was on TV, broadcasting to impressionable kids, ALL DAY LONG.
2:15: Camera tracking mustard on a hot dog, pointing right at the dancing girls. That is some subtle shit there, director Joseph Kahn.
2:21: Cameo time! There’s Ja Rule, looking not unlike someone who might work at a Home Depot today. Later we’ll see LL Cool J, just looking for another excuse to lick his lips. And is that Method Man?
2:57 Holy shit, Sisqo is an Earthbender. It all makes sense, now. He’s actually a refugee from another place, another time, who comes to us with supernatural powers that turned his hair prematurely gray. He has a destiny, but he has to find it. Sisqo will either save the planet, or destroy it.
3:14: No exaggeration, this key change is the best in all of popular music. From the C# minor to the D minor; it hits like a sledgehammer. A fucking orchestra shows up and the swell as Sisqo starts running like Neo atop the revelers is like a typhoon of strings and modulations until everything turns neon. When Sisqo belts out that final note, it’s like the Trumpets of the Gods are announcing the coming of Hip-Hop Ragnarok. It is the sound one hopes they hear upon entering Valhalla — the sound of coming home to glory.
3:39: Sparklers for everyone!
The rest of the video is black-light bacchanal. And denouement. We’re left to think that all of what preceded us was Sisqo’s method of explaining to his daughter exactly what a thong is.
And that makes this the most rhythmic, fucked-up prepubescent birds-and-the-bees conversation ever.
Marc Bernardin is the Deputy Editor of Playboy.com. Nature is dying his own hair Sisqo-silver.