The summer of 2002 was a strange time. America was still in the disarray of reclaiming its identity, the iPod was less than a year old, and music was just ending a transition period into the course it would continue on through the rest of the decade. The biggest rapper in the world was Nelly, who was so popular, for a brief moment his duet with Kelly Rowland became such a success that her debut solo album was rushed to stores even before fellow Child of Destiny Beyoncé. A crazy footnote in retrospect, the song was “Dilemma,” and in addition to hitting #1 in ten countries and selling 7.6 million copies worldwide, its video contained one haunting moments that’s become burned within the brain of every millennial who witnessed it.
It happens at exactly the 3:16 mark. For Kelly Rowland so loved Nelly that she gave her one and only text via Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet.
Look at it.
Millions of people have not only seen this video, but been inspired to spend money over it AND YET there’s Kelly typing a text into something that can by no means send texts whatsoever.
This moment has haunted me for years. Almost subliminal in its brevity, I always assumed that the reason for its existence was because the technology didn’t quite exist yet to properly film or recreate the text screen on a pager, so Kelly had to simulate the message in a bit of artistic license in the name of the videos narrative. It’s a shot in the dark, but it’s one I held on to until yesterday morning when a Nelly interview on Australia’s The Project and he was point blank asked about it.
At 3:16 (THERE IT IS AGAIN), when asked about the bizarre choice of texting, Nelly musters up the best answer he can rationalize with “That was a thing at the time. That was the new technology at the time. It seems a little dated now.”
The last two-thirds of that statement check out. It was new technology at the time, most cell phones still had the black-and-green screen and any sort of color or horizontal hand-held digital item was new technology. It also does seem dated now with how much handheld devices have evolved. However, unless I’m vastly misremembering (and I ate a lot of Quizno’s that year while listening to Andrew WK, so I could have missed it) it wasn’t particularly the move to type messages to people in a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet, unless you were specifically making an obscure joke about a split-second moment in a Nelly video.
I’m sure Nelly doesn’t care and probably had nothing to do with the strange choice. This was the summer he was selling about ten million albums worldwide while performing on major network television shows and, in his spare time, beefing with KRS-ONE. I’m just about certain he hasn’t thought of it since then and more-than-ever doesn’t care.
But we all don’t have that luxury.
Until the director is tracked down and Kelly Rowland offers some explanation for her complacency in Excelgate ’02, it’s going to continue to be hot in herre in the fires of confusion.