“Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison was released on March 18, 1996, which is notable because that means the song is now 20 years old. In its two-decade existence, it has gone from a hit pop song to a kind of iconic and timeless breakup song. I mean, you could do a lot worse after a bad split than put on your headphones and listen to Mark Morrison sing about being back to run the show. Please read more about in this in my new self-help book, Why Don’t You Try Listening to ‘Return of the Mack’ for a While?
The whole song — and video — are great, obviously, but my favorite part is the chorus, where Mark Morrison shouts these short pump-up-y phrases between a series of “Return of the Macks.” So, what I’ve done is pull out all those phrases and rank them. We are doing important work here.
Away we go.
1. “Top of the world!”
You can tell Mark Morrison is cool because driving around in the rain and shouting “Top of the world!” to yourself after a breakup would be a desperate cry for help for most people.
2. “Once/Wants my pearl!”
Friends, we have some controversy. Google Play and multiple other lyrics sites insist this line — the one after “Oh little girl” — is “Wants my pearl,” but a few stragglers suggest it is “Once my pearl.” The latter makes much more sense and is a little hilarious because “my pearl” is such a weird thing for a guy to call his girlfriend in any year after, like, 1920, but I choose to believe it is the former because “Wants my pearl” raises two important possibilities:
- Mark Morrison possesses a very rare and valuable — possibly magic — pearl that he suspects his ex-girlfriend of coveting.
- Mark Morrison calls his penis “my pearl.”
No one find out what the lyric actually is. Let me have this.
3. “Oh my God!”
It is incredibly fun to shout “Oh my God” in your best Mark Morrison voice.
4. “Here I am!”
The best part about the “Here I am” in the chorus is that it comes after a “You know that I’ll be back.” Like, immediately after. Picture this:
MARK MORRISON: You know that I’ll be back.
MARK MORRISON’S EX: Mark, look. I know this is hard, but-
MARK MORRISON: Here I am.
MARK MORRISON’S EX: … What?
MARK MORRISON: I’m back.
MARK MORRISON’S EX: But you never left. You literally just told me you’d be bac-…
MARK MORRISON: Top of the world!
Greatest song ever.
5. “Once again!”
Again, this is all about the delivery. He’s kind of serving as his own hype man. It’s like the thing in Freeway’s verse of “What We Do” where Jay Z says “Keep going,” but with Mark Morrison saying it to himself. Gotta have a lot of self-confidence for that move. You could make a decent argument that this is our greatest proof that the mack has indeed returned.
6. “Oh little girl!”
My favorite part of the video for “Return of the Mack” is the thing starting at the 2:25 mark where the “little girl” in question walks into Mark Morrison’s luxurious brick-walled office to break up with him while sitting backwards on a chair and Mark Morrison has two semi-translucent ghost Mark Morrisons dancing behind him during his “You lied to me” reply. Go watch it now. Focus on the one on the right. He’s really feeling it.
7. “Watch my flow!”
This feels like a good place to put this video of Joe Biden that I made a few years ago.
8. “Up and down!”
9. “Round and round!”
These are the last two things he shouts in the song and it feels like he’s running on fumes. They don’t even really make sense in the context of the song. I’m imagining him at a huge whiteboard that has all these other phrases crossed out, and Mark Morrison is like, “Okay. Okay. Two more. Maybe some rhymes. Maybe… no. That doesn’t even make sense.” Then 20 minutes pass and he’s like, “Yeah, fine. Whatever.”
He is wearing a black turtleneck, black leather jacket, and sunglasses while standing at this whiteboard.
10. “Come on!”
12. “Here I go!” (2x)
13. “Hold on!”
MAKE UP YOUR MIND, MARK MORRISON. JESUS CHRIST.
14. “Don’t you know?!”
Oh, I do. Yes I do do do.
15. “It is!”
You’re damn right it is.