What Monica and Brandy’s ‘The Boy Is Mine’ reunion tells us about the fragility of female friendships

After having a strained relationship for decades, Monica says reuniting for the newest rendition of “The Boy is Mine” reignited a spark in her and Brandy’s friendship. 

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Monica says revisiting ‘The Boy Is Mine’ helped her relationship with Brandy. (Photos: Getty Images)

Last week, Ariana Grande sprinkled a bit of nostalgia back onto the Top 100 charts with the release of a modern-day rendition of the 1998 hit single “The Boy is Mine” featuring the duet’s original singers Monica and Brandy. While walking down memory lane, Monica revealed how working on Grande’s project healed her decades-long rift with Brandy. 

“The process of the new collaboration did a lot of closing the gaps,” Monica told Entertainment Tonight. “When you properly communicate, you can find not only the resolutions and solutions to problems — but sometimes you find that there weren’t ever problems, just consistent miscommunications.”

Despite their duet topping the Billboard charts for almost 13 weeks after its release, Monica and Brandy have had a notoriously strained relationship. Even before the release of their hit song, the R&B singers were consistently positioned against each other in the media, so much so that Brandy originally suggested the idea for the collaborative track to shut down rumors about the then-ingenues hating each other. While the two were reportedly friends and on the same page at the time of the single’s release, soon after, things went downhill when Monica reportedly punched Brandy backstage at the 1998 MTV Music Video Awards. 

Since then, the “So Gone” and “Right There” singers have occasionally thrown little jabs at each other on social media and have had limited interactions over the last two decades. In 2020, the ‘90s R&B icons shocked fans when they faced each other in a “Verzuz” battle, which Monica says took a lot of maturity. 

“It was not something that I would say was anyone’s fault,” Monica said prior to the battle at the time, per Entertainment Tonight. “We all added to it, and after a while, it became real … It’s over now. And it took very adult conversation. There’s no shame in saying that.”

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Now, four years later, the songstress credits Grande for further mending the rift between her and Brandy. 

“It made it a lot easier just to talk,” she added. “We recognized that the key was to keep other people out of our relationship, both business and personal, and let it be between she and I, and that has changed everything. It’s changed the trajectory of it in its totality … My son was in the hospital the other day and she was who I was speaking to while he was there — that is what Ariana has done that she may not even realize.” 

Regardless of the reason behind their strained relationship, Brandy and Monica’s complex friendship reflects a larger phenomenon among women. In her book “Fighting for Our Friendships: The Science and Art of Conflict and Connection in Women’s Relationships,” author Danielle Bayard Jackson explores the unique intricacies of female friendships. 

“The way girls and guys congregate and react to certain situations showed me our unique ways of bonding and conflict resolution,” Jackson told Psychology Today.Research suggests that women have higher expectations of support and intimacy in their close relationships than men do. Women integrate our friends into our lives as deeply as siblings, whereas men treat their friends more like cousins. With such high expectations, even minor conflicts can feel like major violations. I know I’m generalizing here, but we tend to know that men aren’t as intimately interwoven, that maybe they don’t see and hang out with each other as often [as women do].” 

In addition to noting the differences between male and female relationships, Jackson emphasized the importance of conflict in friendships. While most people have a negative view of friendship conflict, the author stresses that these moments are an opportunity for growth and strengthening bonds –– a concept Monica echoed when talking about her friendship with Brandy.

“This time, I thank God for growth and change and just becoming a mom and experiencing a lot of what I have and learning to properly communicate,” Monica said, reflecting on the evolution of her and Brandy’s relationship. “We have a lot of catching up to do in the sense of giving the audience what they really wanted from us even back then. We didn’t find a way to do it then, but we’re finding a way to do it now.”