I haven’t figured out yet whether 2000 was the Year of the Dog or the Year of the Pussy. The Lick Song of the Year is Trina’s “I Need” (“I want a nigga who’ll lick the clit”—though she’s clearly someone who will accept a variety of licks: “I’m a first-class hoe, money in my stash-ho/Fast hoe, love it when you lick the asshole/And if you wanna pass go, I need 20 grand or better”). Honorable mention to Lil’ Kim and Sisqó for “88 Licks About 44 Dogs” or whatever they call it. In general this has been as good a lick year as any since Roxanne Shanté laid down the law of the lick in 1992: “It ain’t about a nigga beatin’ me/It’s all about a nigga treatin’ me and eatin’ me.”
Dogs are doing fine too, with a Disney Dalmatian movie ‘n’ all to promote, though the year’s biggest dog song, “Who Let the Dogs Out,” is but a feeble woof in comparison to Gillette’s “You’re a Dog,” which really let the dogs loose back in 1995. The best dog song of 2000, however, comes unexpectedly from the three elegant women of En Vogue. I at least hadn’t been expecting extreme doggery from them, though come to think of it the great thing about their elegance had always been its accessibility—En Vogue had the air of kids playing dress-up, putting on sophistication like they put on their dresses, for the hell of it (and for the slinky and glittery sexiness of it). To the manner adorn rather than the manner born, you might say. So I guess that adding puppyness to their sound is natural. I’d usually been disappointed by their singing, anyway: They’d never found a sound as good as their look. Something was usually weak, wrong, off, awful, especially when they tried to prove that they could do supposedly real singing—ballads, or a cappella showpieces. Made me want to hide my head under the seat cushion, basically. I think that they were trying to approximate a style rather than to just have fun and play with it.
Anyway, now they’ve finally got it right, which is to say that they’re not trying to do anything right but instead are just tearing their way through whatever: operas, moonlight sonatas, show tunes, Latin grooves. Their album Masterpiece Theater is pretty damn joyous all the way through, and with this joy they’ve found the vocal authority that’s always eluded them. (Now the audience seems to be eluding them. Go figure.) The dog song, “Those Dogs,” is a doo-wop a cappella version of “Habañera” from Carmen, with new lyrics of course, about what dogs men are; a couple of guys in the background do the human beatbox thing (or human dogbox thing) by panting along percussively. They’re not too in-your-face about it, which makes it all the more hilarious; the effect reminds me of that old Smokey Robinson and the Miracles routine on “Mickey’s Monkey,” where Smokey and crew would come out suavely, and, while Smokey sang earnestly in the foreground, the Miracles would gradually raise an arm, then scratch armpits, stomachs, and get progressively more simian until they were hopping on all fours, peeling imaginary bananas, and so forth, all in rhythm in the smooth Motown dance style.
Speaking of “Mickey’s Monkey,” how come there are so few monkeys in songs these days? If you can have dogs and hamsters, why not monkeys? The only recent monkey song I can think of is 1999’s “Tarzan & Jane” by Toy-Box. There should be more monkeys in songs. I mean, there should be more songs with monkeys in them, not just one song with a lot of monkeys. Well, maybe this year En Vogue will hit with a monkey song. (Album title: Monkey Divas.) That can be the trend for 2001.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 9, 2001