In Defence Of The Thong Song

I am here to celebrate one of the more extraordinary moments in modern music of the last 10 years. A moment that marries head-wreckingly crass lyrics to music of astonishing grace and power. A moment that would redefine the way young men and women comported themselves on the dance floor. A moment that, for a fleeting instant, made platinum hair dye the thing.

You’ve got it. I’m talking about The Thong Song.

Monday night’s Glee (fantastic show. Are you watching it? Why aren’t you watching it? What are you, some kind of idiot? It’s got hotties of all kinds, musical numbers and Jane Goddamn Lynch. Go, hit a catch up service. This’ll wait.) featured an attempt to mash up My Fair Lady’s I could Have Danced All Night with the aforementioned Sisqo classic. The project was doomed to failure. Well, of course it was. The My Fair Lady song is trite, by the numbers Lerner/Loewe songcraft, designed to shunt the story of Eliza and Professor Higgins forward. The Thong Song is much, much more than that. Musically and lyrically, it’s on a completely different plane.

The dynamic way in which The Thong Song changes and mutates through it’s agreeably short running time means that you’re never more than a minute away from a new surprise, another revelation. The song starts simply, with a pretty string filigree. This is soon superseded (although never overwhelmed. This simple figure is the sinuous backbone of the track) by a lithe, bouncing backbeat, the
perfect accompaniment for Sisqo’s sing-rapping.

This in itself is a wonder, veering from clever wordplay and neat quotes from other songs (the “Living La Vida Loca” moment springs to mind strongly here) to sheer grunting neanderthal monosyllably. The prime example is the moment leading up to the chorus.

“She had dumps like a truck, truck, truck,
Thighs like whut, whut, whut,
Baby move your butt, butt, butt…”

Which would be bad enough, but he’s so pleased with that clanging chunk of proto-rhyme and rotten imagery that he repeats it. After telling us he’s going to repeat it.

“I think I’ll sing it again.”

Please don’t. Or if you do, at least, find something to compare your subject’s thighs to.

But even here, there’s a purpose. The delivery and repitition are entirely deliberate. Sisqo sounds breathless here, literally panting with lust. Of course he’s gonna sing it again. He wants to make sure we get it. By acting dumb, he’s playing clever.

The chorus is a different entity, taking our hero’s grunts and pants and transforming them in an instant into a thing of beauty. Two harmonies wind around and about each other like a pair of dancers. Sisqo is hollering at the top of the stack, giving the mix some fire.

The third verse is the point where I would argue that the video improves on the original mix of the song. Note here how during the dance on the beach Sisqo and his back-up dancers do a pronounced stomp that kicks up a little CGI shockwave. This shock is echoed with a heavy bass thud that hits on the offbeat and is perfectly in time every time. It’s a lovely addition, and one that means I find the standard mix of the Thong Song ever so slightly lacking.

(Caveat: the video is otherwise dreadful. You’re best bet is to run it in Youtube and tuck that tab away. Unless you like watching oiled-up girls in thongs, of course.)

After all this, the best is still to come. There has been a steady but stealthy build in the intensity of the track, but the gorgeous key change at (3:17) just kicks things up into orbit. Sisqo is in a state of glory here, transported to the point where he can barely string a coherent line together. It’s an orgiastic, euphonious peak to a song that interweaves the sacred and the profane in a way that only the best pop music, hell, the best music full stop, can do.

It’s poor and lazy of the Glee writers, who are normally spot on with their musical choices, to make the blunt assertion that the show tune is in any way superior to Sisqo’s masterpiece. Making it the favourite song of the brutish football coach Tanaka merely compounds the error, painting The Thong Song as a track that only jocks and lowbrows could love.

Well, sorry, I’m neither, and I think it’s the nuts. It’s a track that rewards repeated listens with new treats and flourishes. Also. it’s a hell of a lot more fun to dance to than anything from My Fair Lady.

Who’s with me? Let me see your booty go.

Coming up: Will Smith’s Boom! Shake The Room.

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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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