Sisqo's Thong Song - a study into human nature

Posted by Jamie Henson on April 19, 2015

Truly, one of the most poignant milestones for the turn of the millenium was the release of Mark Althavean Andrews’ (more widely known under his pen-name, Sisqo) magnum opus, Thong Song - which came out just before the final curtain fell, on December 31st, 1999. Its message is that of unbridled desire, and raw organic expression, compiled into the framework of a four-minute musical work.

Sisqo starts by engaging the listener in a conversational tone, prefixing his parable with a brief soliloquy that directly references the carnal aspirations that most men are said to experience at some point in their lives, under the euphemistic context of “the finer things in life”.

He then wastes no time in setting the scene by outlining the physical attributes of the particular woman who has attracted his attention, primarily mentioning her “scandalous” taste in clothing, tendency to frequent “hip hop spots”, and how her actions wantonly inspire jealousy in Sisqo’s male peers. Sisqo deftly ties in a reference to a 1999 work by Ricky Martin, “Livin Da Vida Loca” [1], which offers an alternative socio-cultural commentary on the promiscuous and volatile nature of female members of the nighttime community that the artist frequents.

As evidenced by his employment of hip hop instrumentation (with a twist of the baroque, as is his customary flair) and a utilitarian approach to song structure, Sisqo reveals himself to be quite the traditionalist. Thong Song has a central theme that Sisqo returns to frequently, and it is the emotional frame of reference that changes throughout as Sisqo increasingly comes to terms with his desires. Most of the lyrics (mainly for the purpose of expressing the desirability of his muse) have already been said by the first chorus, but it is after this point that the journey begins.

The first chorus is delivered with reserve: the calm before the storm. The focus is turned back on the narrator, who, for the first time, announces his aspirations. Since this is his first time saying the words out loud, Sisqo appears hesitant, unsure - he knows what he desires, but is not yet comfortable revealing his intentions publicly.

With this off his chest, Sisqo approaches the second verse with an enriched verve. The same words, but with more intensity, and by the second chorus, the audience can readily observe the personal development that Sisqo has already made. The second time, he is more expressive with his voice, recounting his aspirations with greater confidence and with a hint of aggression - a occasional side effect of real desire.

After the second release, the pace slows without cause, which leaves the listener at an impasse - is Sisqo going to take time to try to balance his outcries by pondering a neutralising counter-argument, or will he indulge himself further and more deeply explore his feelings? Indeed, it is the latter. Sisqo breaks the emotional armistice by bringing in both a key-change, and multiple repetitions of the chorus - whilst seemingly forgoing lyrical storytelling for a pure vocalisation of his core desire - to “see that thong”. Seemingly content with the extent of his message’s deliverance, Sisqo maintains this heightened intensity to the close, allowing the listener time to reflect on the emotional gravity previously expressed.

It is ambiguous as to what Sisqo’s motivation is in terms of his source of satisfaction. Considering the conflicting theories of J. S. Mill [2], and G. E. Moore [3], Sisqo may either expect to gain pleasure specifically from the attainment of “that thong”, or, he may already experience pleasure via his desire - and so attaining “that thong” would only serve to validate his satisfaction. Referencing Kant [4], pleasure may simply and sufficiently derive from Sisqo passively witnessing a figure he finds beautiful, meaning that Thong Song serves as nought but a powerful tribute. Conversely, following Hume [5], his desire may act as the catalyst that, permitting that he personally believes that “that thong” is attainable, drives him to take action in a way that is not disclosed.

As a counterpoint, one can conclude that Sisqo has no long term motivation and that whether or not he acquired “that thong” is immaterial - he is simply voicing his emotional range about a topic that is not grounded around any physical event, but is instead a theoretical construct of an event that he, and others of his peer group and target demographic, can relate to. Therefore, in this context, the psychological applications of Moore et al. can be directed onto the listener themselves, abstracting Sisqo into the role of a social commentator.

On an ending note, Thong Song has different meaning depending on the personal beliefs and aspirations of the listener. One can either objectively take Sisqo’s account for an individual expression of organic, raw desire, purely from the perspective of the narrator - or they can use Thong Song as a conduit for their own feelings, and extrapolate its message onto their own lives. Either way, this work was undeniably a potent endnote in the millenium it played a part in concluding.   **  References: 1) Morales, E. M. (1999). Ricky Martin. Columbia Records. 2) Mill, J. S. (1865). Principles of political economy: with some of their applications to social philosophy (Vol. 2). Longmans, Green. 3) Moore, G. E. (1903). Principia Ethica. 4) Kant, I. (1790). Critique of judgement. 5) Hume, D. (1738). A treatise of human nature.*