It’s Okay If Brandy and Monica Don't Like Each Other

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Stacy Lee Kong

Jan 06 2021

8 mins read

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When Verzuz announced its next IG battle would be between my 90s queens, Brandy and Monica, I literally blocked the time in my calendar and sent a meeting request to my friend Sarah, which probably tells you all you need to know about both my personality and how much of an impact their music had on me.

I mean, like many millennials, I have been singing “Sittin’ Up In My Room,” “Have You Ever?,” “I Wanna Be Down,” “The First Night,” “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days),” “Angel of Mine,” “For You I Will” and—duh—“The Boy Is Mine” for literally 20 years. Of course I was going to watch all three hours of their Verzuz battle.

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The Next Verzuz Battle | Brandy Verzuz Monica Live
@TheVerzuz
One million views ladies #4everBrandy & #MonicaDenise #Verzuz #versuz #Middleton #TeamBrandy #NEWMONICA #TeamMonica #MonicaVsBrandy #Monica Watch Live🔴►


verzuztv.online/brandy-vs-moni…

Sept. 1, 2020, 12:44 a.m.


But, confession: When I was actually watching them run through their biggest hits—and a few new songs—I was also waiting to see if they were really getting along. Because if you’ve been listening to Brandy and Monica for the past two decades, you also know that the singers have pretty famously been beefing for… um, that whole time, basically.

In writer Naima Cochrane’s Zora article on their feud, she made a good point: “the comparisons never really made sense, as the singers are very different in style, content, and personality. They were just close in age and debuted close together.” But… they were compared, and rumours of a feud swirled before the two had even met. “The Boy Is Mine” was meant to show that they got along just fine, but a few actual incidents—and many implied insults—turned a musical rivalry into a feud. Apparently, the stars couldn’t be in the same room when they were shooting the video for “The Boy is Mine,” and Monica punched Brandy in the face at the 1998 MTV VMAs. Then, despite both parties saying there wasn’t really a beef, or that it had been put to rest, they (well, mostly Brandy) continued making veiled comments about each other for years, both on social media and during their respective performances of their famous collaboration.

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I’d even argue that Monica’s recent comments about the origin of the feud help perpetuate it; ahead of the Verzuz battle, she told Entertainment Tonight, “the fans have no idea what really took place, what really caused the initial friction, and we vowed to keep that between us. Once I speak with her and see how much of what she wants to share can be shared, then we’ll share some things with you guys.” Which obviously made me want to know everything, immediately.

Cochrane assumed news of a Verzuz battle meant they really had resolved things, writing “they are joining in the spirit of celebration and sisterhood, much like Erykah Badu and Jill Scott’s love fest match in May, and have set aside any lingering resentments, real or imagined.”

But… I’m not sure that’s what happened.

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J O S H™
@_HSOJOSH
Brandy and Monica the whole time #Verzuz

Sept. 1, 2020, 3:13 a.m.


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¥ardi Yen💴🇯🇲
@YoungCurryPowda
This is Versuz rn🙄

Sept. 1, 2020, 1:18 a.m.


From Monica’s reaction when Brandy said they were a group (a very flat “we are not a group”) to Monica’s face every time Brandy pulled out her notebook to recite yet another poem (basically: 😔… which is also the the face I made) to Monica pretending she did not know the words to “The Boy Is Mine,” there were plenty of awkward moments and subtextual tension. And you know what? It was hilarious. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment of livestream at all, nor did it undermine their respective careers or any of the records the battle broke. (ICYMI, this battle garnered 1.2 million concurrent visitors, 6 million total visitors on IG and Apple Music and more than 1.9 million tweets globally, more than any other Verzuz battle—and even more than the VMAs, which aired the previous night.)

Which is why I was kind of surprised to see so many people insisting that the beef had been quashed. From Buzzfeed’s Michael Blackmon to Brandy’s brother Ray J, to Verzuz itself, the dominant narrative seemed to be that the beef was over, with the subtext that if we cared about feminism and/or R&B and/or the culture, we’d stop trying to say it wasn’t.

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Eb J.
@EbSweet2sour
What we didnt get to see. This makes me feel even better. Monica Brandy @verzuzonline

Sept. 1, 2020, 3:40 a.m.


I think that’s kind of bullshit.

It’s not unfeminist to notice that two women don’t seem to be friends. It’s not even unfeminist to dislike another woman, which is what this narrative is really about, I think. Friendship is important, for sure, and it can definitely be feminist. But I feel like “female friendship” has become a pop culture trope, likely as a reaction to the old-fashioned idea that women are constantly in competition for male attention. That’s admirable, but the way we talk about female friendship now doesn’t necessarily reflect how we interact IRL, or the complexity of women as human beings.

As Anne T. Donahue argued in Marie Claire in 2017, we can blame Taylor Swift for that one. “At some point, the misplaced belief that being feminist means ‘supporting’ all women took hold of pop culture,” she wrote. “We can arguably chalk it up to celebrity influence, and trace its circa 2016-17 origins to [Swift]. After launching a career with songs that framed certain women (ahem, Katy Perry) as villains, Swift began publicly subscribing to a #squad-centric rhetoric and used her own female friendships as proof of her feminist ideals. It was a genius move, and made her brand of digestible non-political feminism easily sellable: To be a feminist meant to embrace all women, and to feud with one distracted from The Cause—even if Swift’s own feud with Katy Perry continued smoldering.”

But when any conflict is perceived as a feud, it makes for a limiting, superficial and unsatisfying friendship. It’s also a total double standard: We don’t condemn men who beef with one another, in fact, we sometimes even encourage them. And, there’s just something infantilizing about this idea. These are two grown women we’re talking about—they’re allowed to feel what they’re feeling!

I know there are good reasons why people want this particular beef to be quashed. As author Bassey Ikpi pointed out on Twitter, this has been going on since Brandy and Monica were teenagers, so it makes sense that people would want it to be over, whether it’s for their own fandom or for the singers’ respective well-being (it has got to be exhausting to maintain even superficial animosity for more than half your life). And considering how often young women are deliberately pitted against one another by record labels (see: Keri Hilson and Beyoncé), I can understand how it can feel gross to play into that dynamic, even if this duo did some of the beefing themselves.

But I still think a lot of the insistence that the feud is over is actually discomfort with women not “supporting” other women, and I’m so uninterested in that whole paradigm. I’m much more interested in letting women be whole and flawed human beings who just sometimes find one another really fucking annoying. At least that’s real.

And Did You Hear About…

How many tributes to Chadwick Boseman were super ableist—including this incredibly bad tweet.

This WILD Medium post by Jessica Krug, a white university professor (of African American history!!!) who pretended to be a Black woman for her entire career.

Actor Patrick Wilson’s thwarted plan.

This Catapult piece on how the Babysitter’s Club books helped the writer, an immigrant from Venezuela, learn what it meant to be American. (I had very similar feelings about Anne of Green Gables.)

Vulture’s excellent profile of Mariah Carey.

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