Fresh off the heels of “Hot in Herre,” Nelly blessed the public with yet another hit: “Dilemma.” The R&B song was released in June 2002 and features Kelly Rowland as a woman smitten with Nelly despite being in a relationship with someone else. The song is a staple in Y2K music culture, and today is actually a special anniversary—20 years ago, the song reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first of ten weeks.
“But Kevin,” I hear you say, “What does this have to do with tech?” This is a valid question, since Gizmodo is a tech-focused website after all. Well, may I please direct your attention to the music video for Dilemma?
It’s a typical will-they-wont-they plot, until Kelly Rowland does the unimaginable. In a bid to generate an open and healthy line of communication with Nelly, Rowland opts to send a simple text. “WHERE YOU AT? HOLLA WHEN YOU GET THIS” Rowland types into her cell phone’s spreadsheet app. Rowland is then visibly distraught that Nelly is ghosting her, despite the fact that he 1) could not actually receive her spreadsheet text message and 2) is standing right outside her window.
Rowland is using a Nokia 9210 Communicator, which was an early smartphone that could flip open lengthwise to reveal a full keyboard and a color screen. Other, similar cell phones released around that time include the LG enV and the T-Mobile Sidekick. It’s not supremely clear if Rowland is using Microsoft Excel, or the Communicator’s built-in spreadsheet app, but Nelly explained in a 2016 interview with Australia’s The Project that texting via spreadsheet “was the thing at the time.” I simply do not believe him, and a brief poll of those in our newsroom with cell phones in 2002 lends credibility that this doesn’t appear to have been “the thing at the time.”
The music video for the song is a testament to the kitschy production choices made in early 2000's music videos, but this particular moment will live in our hearts forever as a reminder of open and honest communication—maybe on Google Sheets this time?