On December 31, 1999, during a brief hiatus from the Baltimore-based group Dru Hill, an R&B artist with bleached blonde hair released a song that would forever etch its imprint on the cultural zeitgeist of the early aughts and the fashion industry writ large. With its undeniably catchy strings and cheeky (pun intended) lyrics, Sisqó's "Thong Song" became a runaway hit, earning four Grammy nominations, reaching the top five on the Billboard charts, and receiving an inordinate amount of radio play across the country. And the legend apparently lives on: Last week, to the delight of '90s kids everywhere, the singer debuted an EDM remix of the iconic track with Norwegian DJ group JCY. Here, Sisqó waxes nostalgic about the breakthrough hit, launching a lingerie line, and the enduring appeal of the thong.
Is there a real-life inspiration behind the "Thong Song?"
It was a cold winter's night ... [Laughs]. No, I don't remember if it was wintertime or not, but I had a date with a young lady, and I must've done something right over the course of dinner because I got treated to a more intimate gathering later on. We started to get all hot and heavy, she got undressed, and, lo and behold, I see something that I had never seen before—this article of clothing. It was one of the most glorious things I've ever seen in my life. I was like, "What are you wearing?" And she said, "Oh, this old thing? It's a thong." I think that was when my hair turned blonde. It was like in The Ten Commandments, when Moses went to go see the burning bush and came back down and his head was silver. I don't really remember the rest of that night because I was under the spell of said material. I was shell-shocked.
Sounds like a transformative experience.
She already had the cake, but she put the icing on it with the thong. That cemented it. I immediately went home to start writing the song and called my boys up: "I saw something yesterday. Gather around, I'll tell you." Everybody leaned in, and I told them, "There's this new underwear girls are wearing, and it's called a thong." It was like The Fellowship of the Ring. Everybody was like, "We gotta go out and hunt for the one thong." They literally left in that moment. A few days later, my cousin, Kidd, burst through the door—I thought there was a fire or somebody got hit by a car—and he was like, "I was with this girl last night and guess what she gave me?" And I quote: "That thong-th-thong-thong-thong." We burst out laughing. Then we laughed all the way to the bank. For the record, I gave him a big percentage of the song royalties.
Does the young lady know that the song is about her?
I told her, but she didn't believe me. We were still dating at the time. We had gotten pretty serious, too. To this day, she still doesn't want to believe it.
According to MTV News, sales of thongs skyrocketed after the song was released.
It was like lightening in a bottle. I told my managers to talk to Victoria's Secret and what have you, but all of the clothing companies respectfully declined. You're welcome for the sales!
Would you ever want to launch your own lingerie line?
We shall see! I've realized that, when it comes to something like lingerie, it goes well with something else. The fashion and music industries are very lucrative and very niche and very clique-ish, so in order to really make it happen in a sexy way, we would have to figure out how to have some kind of companion scenario, like shoes. Ain't nothing sexier than a thong with some stilettos.
What would your ideal thong look like?
It's not so much about the thong itself—it's more so about the woman who's wearing it and the confidence that she has. Women all around the world express themselves in different ways. The one that stuck out to me the most was a long time ago, when Beyoncé and I hosted the MTV Movie Awards pre-show. Halle Berry had one peeking out of the back of her miniskirt. That's when I disappeared from music. I was done. I had seen all I needed to see! [Laughs]
The music video was an overt display of options, too.
Since it was the 2000s, there was a lot of censorship in videos and a very thin line of what could be shown and what could not be shown. For instance, when you see the ladies laying on the beach in their thongs, it's shot upside down. When they're playing volleyball on the beach, everybody's shot from the side, so you never really see a full-on thong. From then on, you started seeing women express themselves more and more, and the world is better for it.
Have you ever worn a thong?
When I was on Celebrity Big Brother over in Europe, I won "Hunk of the House" and had to brandish a mankini, which is basically a giant thong. You gotta have a lot of confidence to put something like that on.
Given the "Thong Song" remake, would you say thongs are back in style?
Absolutely! The '90s are popping right now.
VIDEO: Watch: "Thong Song" Feat. Sisqo
This interview has been edited and condensed.