"Case of the Ex" is a song by American recording artist Mýa Harrison. It was written and composed by Christopher "Tricky" Stewart and his songwriting partners Traci Hale and Thabiso "Tab" Nkhereanyne for Harrison’s second studio album Fear of Flying (2000). Originally a rap song, the lyrics of the upbeat R&B track were inspired by a relationship Hale was going through at the time. It was released as the second single from the album following "The Best of Me".
The song received generally mixed reviews from contemporary music critics and was Harrison’s breakthrough hit, both stateside and internationally. "Case of the Ex" became a top five hit the US BillboardHot 100 for the week of December 2, 2000; peaking and spending three consecutive weeks at number two. Internationally, the single became a Top 20 hit globally; topping the chart in Australia for the week of March 18, 2001 for two consecutive weeks and peaking at number three in the United Kingdom.
"Case of the Ex" was composed by Christopher Stewart, Traci Hale, and Thabiso "Tab" Nkhereanyne in fall 2000. Initially, Harrison was working at the Redzone Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, when she heard an early instrumental of the song through the walls in the room next door. She stepped out of her current session and was subsequently introduced to Stewart, who worked next to her. Originally a rap song, Stewart heavily rearranged the track to make it fit Harrison's persona.
Speaking of its creation, Stewart said: "We got together to write a song specifically for Mýa. We kicked around some subjects which Mýa could potentially sing. We wanted to create a lyric theme that would keep her young, yet would show that she was growing up." It was Hale who came up with the lyric idea, which was inspired by a relationship she was going through at the time and revolved around "a strong woman who won’t tolerate her man returning to his ex-girlfriend." While Tab and Hale contributed most of the lyrics, Stewart wrote the music and played all of the tracks, with Hale singing on the original demo."
The initial demo also featured the percussive, keyboard hook which would become the song's musical trademark. "I followed an old philosophy, which is to try to catch the listener's attention," explained Stewart. "I wanted to make a statement with that hook, creating a special sound that people would react to and remember. It was like a loud, horn blast, which was derived from a sampled sound, and then enhanced with my K-25 keyboard." Soon after completing the demo, Stewart played the song for Harrison, and she "immediately loved it." The following day, she recorded her vocals at Stewart's studio for the master version.
"Case of the Ex" garnered mixed to positive reviews. Billboard magazine compared the song to Destiny's Child's "Jumpin', Jumpin'", and added: "With its quick-programmed drum track [...] Mýa's 'Case of the Ex' is on the right track. Production-wise, the song used some computer tricks to play with Mýa's vocals. [It] is set to be a hot track on radio and in the clubs all summer long." Jacqueline Springer of NME gave the song a mixed review, writing: "No-good boyfriend anthem number four thousand eighty time, y'all [...] The stuttering arrangement of the original is cool and suits Mýa's brooding mood, but after a while it simply sits in the wind — there's no real build into a bassline leaving the track to run along a continuous pop/r&b vibe [...] Anyway, we all know what to do when ex-girlfriends re-emerge don't we? Round up your girls and give the wench a beat-down."
In the United States, "Case of the Ex" debuted at number seventy-two on Billboard Hot 100 issue dated week of August 19, 2000. The following week, it leaped from 72–57 issue dated week of August 26, 2000. It continued to climb the Hot 100, ascending from 42–31 in its fifth week issue dated week of September 23, 2000. The song reached its peak at number two issue dated week of December 2, 2000. From the weeks of December 2–16, 2000; it spent three consecutive weeks at number two. "Case of the Ex" spent 29 consecutive weeks on that chart. The song became Harrison's second non-consecutive Top Ten hit (solo) after 1998's "It's All About Me". It remains Harrison's biggest and highest charting single on the chart to date. "Case of the Ex" became a Top Ten hit on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart the issue dated week of December 9, 2000 peaking at number ten and spent 28 consecutive weeks on that chart.
Globally, "Case of the Ex" became a Top 20 hit. It debuted at number five on the Australian singles chart during the week of February 18, 2001. It topped the chart and spent two consecutive weeks at number one during the weeks of March 18–25, 2001. In total, the song spent eighteen consecutive on the chart. It was certified platinum by Australian Record Industry Association for shipments of 70,000 units sold. In the Netherlands, the song debuted at number sixty-two during the week of October 7, 2000. It reached its peak of number eight during the week of November 4, 2000 and spent 18 consecutive weeks on the Dutch top 100 Singles chart. "Case of the Ex" peaked at number seventeen in New Zealand during the week of January 28, 2001. It debuted and peaked at number three in the UK during the week of February 10, 2001 and spent eleven consecutive weeks on the chart.
The video opens in a Mad Max-esque desert setting, where a posse of well-muscled girls stands before a group of somewhat nonplussed boys. At first they look like they're going to perform for the boys, like the Spice Girls in "Say You'll Be There" or maybe taunt them a bit, like Janet Jackson and her crew in "You Want This". But there's another story here, having to do with the juxtapositions of the post-apocalyptic environment, the athletic survivor-girls wielding their martial-arts sticks, and the song's lyrics. These last concern Mýa's query to her man, wondering why another girl is calling his phone "after midnight". This caller, says narrator Mýa, is "Saying come over / Cause she's all alone / I could tell it was your ex / By your tone." At first it might appear that boyfriend's busted, straight up. But it's more complicated than that, especially as you see Mýa and her girls engaged in their own energetic calisthenics, then (apparently) commanding their male admirers to hit the ground and perform push-ups, constructing a kind of reciprocal relationship that, for instance, Christina Aguilera's video for "What A Girls Wants" cannot do, in its celebration of the most excellent boyfriend whose job is to be endlessly appreciative of his girlfriend's super-gloriousness (see also, Christina's video for Genie in a Bottle," in which she also dances seductively with a group of girls for a group of boys). Director Diane Martel has done her share of conventionally alluring Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera videos, but here the terms are shifted. Mýa and her girls—in moves recalling Janet's—don't pretend to be charming or enticing. Instead, they present themselves as young women with demands and desires, proudly hard-bodied and self-possessed. Mýa can rock the midriff tops like any other pop star, but as always, she remains slightly offbeat, neither apologetic nor solicitous. Sexy and self-assured without being coy, she knows who she is and what she wants, and she says it out right: "What'cha gonna do / When you can't say no / And your feelings start to show? / Boy I really need to know / And how you gonna act?" In Mýa's world, it's not the girl who turns emotional and unsure of herself when a question of integrity arises, but the more fragile, less stable boy. She warns, "There's no need to / Reminisce about the past, / Obviously, 'cause that shit did not last." The video's imagery underlines her admonition, as the camera shoots up at her looking unafraid and austere, backed by her crew as the dust flies from their work-out: "She don't know me / She's about to know me / I'm in your life / That's how it's gon' be." And if you want to mess around, you're free to choose, but it will cost: "If you want her back / You can take her back. / Cause game recognize game. / I could do the same thing." And she does. At video's end, Mýa and her dancers exit, leaving their audience dusty and on their own.