Normally, samplers like to show how cool they are by picking something from an obscure B-side by a long-forgotten act recorded in a backstreet studio on the wrong side of the tracks in the mid-1960s.
I’ll admit they unearth some great tunes, but it can feel like the musical version of talking to a wine snob.
So I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for 99 Souls who, you might think, almost went out of their way to choose something about as un-trendy as you’ll ever find in a remixer’s record box.
They had the brilliant idea for a mash-up of Brandy and Monica’s Grammy-winning “The Boy Is Mine” from the late 1990s with Destiny’s Child’s “Girl” from the early 2000s.
It’s one of the greatest pieces of musical re-engineering I think I’ve ever heard and comes complete with one of the most brilliant music videos I’ve ever seen into the bargain.
99 Souls took their track…which they re-titled “The Girl Is Mine” … to the UK Top 5 in 2015.
And they really showcased why remixes…good ones anyway…can bring out qualities in a song you might have missed first time round.
Not that they started with sub-standard materials. Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” spent 13 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1998 and was the best-selling single of the year.
And while Destiny’s Child disbanded a while ago, most people know that’s where the artist we now just call Beyoncé started off.
However, fifteen years or so ago when “Girl” was first released, we called her Beyoncé Knowles and she was one of three members of a band called Destiny’s Child, not a global megastar in her own right.
There is no better way to demonstrate just how fully Beyoncé has become part of our cultural fabric than to note that the computer programme I’m typing this article on automatically puts the acute accent on the “e” at the end of her name.
Global fame has certainly arrived when word processing programmes automatically correct the typography of your name…
And I guess it’s also a hat-tip to your cultural significance if something you’ve been involved with is sampled for a major hit record by another artist.
This time, however, 99 Souls didn’t just sample a bass line or a drum break from an obscure Stax B-side, like so many remixers do…they lifted Beyoncé’s lead vocals instead, which takes a bit more chutzpah…
Business savvy Beyoncé is careful to protect her image and intellectual property. Very few things are licensed or officially sanctioned.
So the fact that 99 Souls were given permission to release the mash-up of “Girl” and “The Boy Is Mine” at all…rather than being sued to the ends of the earth for their impudence…probably shows how much Queen B enjoyed the results of their endeavours.
But just to show that the art of finding obscure tracks of yesteryear hasn’t been completely overlooked, “Girl” by Destiny’s Child itself drew heavily on a sample.
In their case, it came from The Dramatics’ record “Ocean Of Thoughts And Dreams”. (Here if you’re not familiar with it, which to be honest, very few people are… https://youtu.be/z3gvir7PtT0)
The Dramatics didn’t even make the Billboard Hot 100 with their song when “Ocean Of Thoughts And Dreams” was released back in 1978, although they did manage to squeak into the Top 20 on the R&B charts.
And Destiny’s Child’s “Girl” was by no means a worldwide hit on the scale of so many of Destiny’s Child’s other tunes.
But it’s one of their more important musical outings for the message it gave to their young female fan base.
“Girl” dealt with the subject of domestic abuse, based on some experiences Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child was going through at the time.
Take a minute girl come sit down
And tell us what’s been happening
In your face I can see the pain
Don’t you try to convince us that you’re happy
The subject of domestic abuse always makes me angry. There’s no need to treat another human being like that, doubly so if you’re bigger and stronger than they are and use that to impose your will on someone else for your own selfish ends.
Yet it happens. And sadly women across the world aren’t always able to escape a difficult domestic situations for a whole host of reasons.
They feel trapped by their culture, by the words they said in front of a minister, by their own feelings…as a result of their abuser’s manipulation…that the situation is somehow their fault, by being too ashamed of being unable to deal with the situation themselves that they dare not mention it to family and friends…
They suffer in silence and pray that it will all be over soon.
I’ve had some bad times in my life, but thankfully I’ve never been that low. However, from my vantage point halfway down the abyss, I can see what life must be like at the bottom. And it’s not a life you’d wish on your worst enemy.
That’s where friends and family can help. “Take a minute, girl. Tell us what’s been happening” is all it takes to start a conversation. One day you might get an honest response, but if that takes a while, don’t force it. Just keep asking…
Girl, I can tell you’ve been crying
And you needing someone to talk to
Girl, I can tell he’s been lying
And pretending that he’s faithful and he loves you
Girl, you don’t have to be hiding
Don’t you be ashamed to say that he hurt you
I’m your girl, you’re my girl, we’re your girls
Don’t you know that we love you
That’s all you can do, really. Tell someone you love them. And keep telling them for as long as they need to hear it. Just knowing there’s one person in the world who cares about them can make all the difference.
“Girl” was “just” a pop tune from a high-flying girl band…or so it appeared to be. But it sent a message for all of us.
For those in difficult situations, it said “you’re not the only person who’s been there”. Sometimes you think everything is your fault and you’re some sort of freak for finding yourself in an abusive situation.
It’s a terrible indictment of humanity, but you’re not walking that particular path alone. Sometimes just knowing there are others walking the same path that you are helps put things in perspective.
And “Girl” also gave a template for those of us in a much better place.
How do you ask those difficult questions of a friend or relative you suspect might be in an abusive relationship? What do you say? Where would you even start?
Well, the lyrics for “Girl” are probably as good a place as any. If you need a refresher about how the conversation went amongst the members of Destiny’s Child, you can find it here… https://youtu.be/ZIszesDaK9U
99 Souls took the, perhaps surprisingly deep, subject matter of “Girl” and mashed it up with an entirely different theme.
Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” was a song about two young female pop stars supposedly fighting over the same guy. I’m not sure of the whole story, but as best I can remember it, this one needs to be filed under “record industry promotional stunt” as a concept… (Here, if you’d like a trip down memory lane… https://youtu.be/jBmkCoiHC2c )
If you listen to “Girl” and “The Boy Is Mine” back to back, you’ll see straight away that one of the problems of crunching them together is that they’re entirely different songs, each with a completely different feel.
Somehow the creative juices must have been at their most potent when 99 Souls were sitting around a mixing desk somewhere putting “The Girl Is Mine” together.
Their creative alchemy took something that probably shouldn’t work in theory, but weaved their magic in such a way they made sheer perfection in practice.
It’s certainly one of my all-time favourite examples of how creativity makes a difference…and a particular sort of “back room” creativity at that.
Most producers and remixers work in obscurity. Even today, I’m pretty sure, unless you were related to them in some way, you’d have trouble picking the two British guys who comprise 99 Souls out of a line-up.
But they had an amazing idea created magic with it.
There was one little element they did have to tweak from the original recordings, though. Although 99 Souls used the original Destiny’s Child vocal track, they had to get Brandy to re-record the parts they used from “The Boy Is Mine” …Monica was asked to be involved as well but turned down the opportunity.
So “The Girl Is Mine” ended up being credited to 99 Souls featuring Destiny’s Child and Brandy…with Monica nowhere in sight.
The end result of 99 Souls’ work in the studio is a jaunty, bouncy track with an infectious, uplifting spirit to it. If you fancy a boogie, it’s well worth putting on nice and loud.
And it’s a million miles away from the somewhat serious subject matter of “Girl” or the laid-back-to-the-point-of-horizontal R&B vibe of “The Boy Is Mine”.
In fact, you’d never appreciate the heritage of either of those songs if all you’d heard was the 99 Souls mash-up.
Which is brilliant in its own way…taking two existing works, if we regard Brandy re-recording her vocal as a mere technicality, and crunching them together, making the resulting track into something new and entirely different from either of the two songs it was originally fashioned out of.
The video is also fabulous. I can’t talk too much about it without giving away the plot and the twist, but it’s a terrific way of showing how, no matter how different you think you are from everybody else, there is always at least one other person in the world who is going through what you’re going through. The trouble is finding them, of course.
And in a way, that takes us right back to the more challenging subject matter covered in the lyrics of “Girl”.
We might think we’re alone, but we’re not…whatever we’re going through, there’s always someone going through it too, or someone who has been through it before. All we need to do is find them. We can lean on them until we’re strong enough to stand up for ourselves.
The guy in the video for “The Girl Is Mine” didn’t think there was another person on the planet like him…but he couldn’t have been more wrong…
You’ll be amazed by this video and probably spend the rest of the day…as I did after I saw it for the first time…wondering “how on earth did they film that…?”
Here’s the jaunty, upbeat, danceable, funky “The Girl Is Mine” by 99 Souls featuring Destiny’s Child and Brandy (without Monica…)
If you’ve read this far, thank you for your time and attention. I know you could have spent your time doing something else, so I’m very grateful that you’ve spent it in the company of one of my favourite songs.
The video is below, but if you prefer to listen to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/2cNCaMkur4qF0lNwJWBf6b