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Archive for the ‘Beyonce’ Category

How Big Is Your World? Beyonce – “Run The World (Say Wut Remix)”


The real version of “Run The World (Girls)” jumped onto a trend already a tad out-dated (Afrojack’s still-awesome but well-worn shuffle by way of Diplo). Say Wut’s scrunched-up techno take fits into the general “WTF” feel of underground dance production right now, not six to twelve months ago. Screw vetting, Beyonce should just ask worker-bee regional innovators like Say Wut for some beats. Release this generous, obnoxious version! If the Baltimore club producer’s remix found its way onto the radio (outside of Baltimore that is, here it gets almost as much plays as the real version), it could really blow some minds. And while we’re at it, can Araabmuzik give her some of that Electronic Dream shit?

Anyways, pay special attention to just how well this new beat converses with Beyonce’s vocals from the original. This isn’t one of those remixes where your ears force it all to properly interact because hey man, Beyonce goes Bmore club! Cool! The beat here, all hard, crisps snares and squonking synths, calms down and then suddenly tightens up, switching up with the help of guttural “hey”s and the slightest tinge of good and proper though predictable dance-pop structure. The entire song is the awesome, rapid-fire part that drops after the build up. Now, when Beyonce goes “this beat is cray-zee,” you’re not gonna go, “really B? This beat?”

Have you listened to the new Beyonce? Maybe you even bought it. You should. That said, I’m tempted to brashly enter “redux” mode and suggest that this Say Wut version replace the original but no, 4 is much too subdued for something this buzzing and bold. The entire album is a slow burn up to “Run The World,” which doesn’t entirely work because the ender is an at-best okay song. Bonus track “Schoolin’ Life,” the kind of empowering anthem “Run The World” pretends to be, should end the album. Or if that’s cheating, 4 should begin on track two, “I Care,” and end with “1 + 1,” which would slowly rise out of the dance party wreckage of “Run The World” and leave you with some end-of-the-world, end-of-Watchmen love in the ruins feeling.

Written by Brandon

June 29th, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Pitchfork: Beyonce – “1 + 1″

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Wrote about Beyonce’s “1 + 1.” This song’s way different than third-rate “Pon De Floor” wannabe “Run The World” and the A.D.D. marching band party of “Til The End Of Time,” and hey, I like stuff like that as much as anybody, but this one just destroys in a really traditional, classic songwriting way, and that doesn’t happen too much anymore. There’s a lot of loaded stuff behind what is ostensibly a love ballad that totally fit in on American Idol where it premiered. The way I tried to sell this to a few people and though it only sort of makes sense, it does sound good: Imagine TV On The Radio’s concluding Dear Science two-fer “DLZ and “Lover’s Day,” crammed into one cathartic pop ballad.

Written by Brandon

May 31st, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Posted in Beyonce, Pitchfork

“Girls (Who Run The World)” vs. “Ass On The Floor”


Yes, this new Beyonce song is disappointing, but her strategy for the last two albums has been to first drop a “meh” single (because people will still listen and radio will still play it no matter what) and save the better stuff for when the album is out or 5 months after it dropped. B’Day’s first single was the “Crazy In Love” retread “Deja Vu,” and the second, the edgy Kelis rip-off “Ring The Alarm.” The third single was ” Irreplaceable.” Though it was officially released at the same time as “Single Ladies,” the first song we heard from I Am…Sasha Fierce was the boilerplate, double-standard ballad “If I Were A Boy.” The last time Beyonce came out swinging was on her solo debut with “Crazy In Love,” and that was because she had to.

“Girls (Who Run The World)” at least finds Beyonce a little closer to the cutting-edge, playing off the steady ubiquity of Major Lazer’s “Pon De Floor” and the mega-success of Diplo and Afrojack’s production for Chris Brown “Look At Me Now.” In a sense, Beyonce’s attempting what M.I.A could, and should be doing, if she could actually hack it as pop star–and if the industry weren’t so afraid of female pop stars with opinions. So yes, a comforting, zeitgeist-grabbing first single, complete with motivational lyrics is exactly what Beyonce’s supposed to do and everyone needs to be okay with that. It is a bummer though, that the beat is so weak: A “Pon De Floor” rehash with a backing track that crams a whole bunch of synthy radio sounds together. “Girls (Who Run The World)” feels undercooked and cynical.

Diddy-Dirty Money’s Swizz Beatz-produced “Ass On The Floor,” does so much more with the “Pon De Floor” drums. Swizz and Diddy know that even though it’s all about those off-kilter catchy drums, the rest needs to be fleshed-out if it’s to be peddled to regular-ass people, who intuitively grasp the core elements of dance music much better than a producer/ DJ making music for a contingent of likeminded, solipsistic dance music nerds. So, Swizz puffs up “Pon De Floor” with more percussion, and then, smooths it out with fluttering synths and subtle vocoder, and scores the song’s break-up back and forth with electronic strings. Like “Girls (Who Run The World),” “Ass On The Floor” is a song of goofy platitudes, but it’s also tinged with this very-real sense of post-relationship anger in the Dirty Money “pop” verses (“you motherfucker”) and it all builds to Diddy’s verse, which is wounded, knowing, narcissism. Once Diddy’s verse fades out, Dirty Money return, as do those just gorgeous swooping Phillip Glass-goes-disco strings. It’s an epic moment that expresses the frustrations Diddy couldn’t fully figure out with words, and gives the song’s cast some hope for clarity and maybe even, reconciliation.

Swizz Beatz the art-collecting, A.D.D producer who sampled Daft Punk before Kanye, who sliced and diced Justice into a hit for Jay Z, seems to always be just a little ahead of his time. And Diddy? A few years ahead, obsessively working out a way to incorporate house and trance into navel-gazing broken-hearted dance pop for so damned long that he was lapped by Kanye,, and much of the industry, but was still, just a little too early for this post-dubstep, Diplo-on-the-radio trend.

Written by Brandon

April 23rd, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Posted in Beyonce, Diddy, Diplo, vs.

The House Next Door, Music Video Round-Up: Beyonce & Yo La Tengo

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Sorry about the lack of updates lately, you’ll just have to jump off-site to read my rambling. Trying to get back on-track this week though. For now, there’s another installment of my “Music Video Round-Up” column, this time talking about the wonderfully nutty video for Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams” and the whatever but kinda cool video for Yo La Tengo’s “Here to Fall” and the transformative qualities of CGI when used properly, in both.

“One part Victoria’s Secret commercial, another part dream logic anti-narrative, and a CGI-assisted freakout all around, Adria Petty’s video for Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams” one-ups the minimalism of the instantly iconic internet meme and, um, Kanye approved “Single Ladies.” Director Jaka Nava’s video for “Single Ladies” already dropped the sensory overload expectations of music videos for a basically blank set, in front of which Beyonce and her dancers could approximate the singularly-focused energy of a live dance performance. No narrative, no props (save for Beyonce’s robot hand), just dancing.

That odd performance piece couldn’t and shouldn’t be repeated and it’s why follow-up videos for “Diva” and “Ego” at least conceded to a setting, but now Beyonce and director Petty have found a way to make a video even more minimal, even more performance-based—via green-screen and computer-generated effects. Rarely ever is the use of CGI associated with minimalism—it’s more often connected to excess—but in “Sweet Dreams,” CGI’s employed to create a context-less void in which Beyonce and her dancers can blow our minds anew.

The effects in “Sweet Dreams” are used to erase background and setting only to then fill the void-like digital canvas with a hot mess of bodies, clothes, and dance moves. A swirl of sophisticated and “street” dance moves, fashionable nightwear, elegant dresses and, finally, a bizarre gold bodice—it’s an excess of body and action, not filmic techniques. The strange sterility of CGI, that weird dipped-in-Photoshop feeling, is employed to create a new kind of chaos, not really possible without computer effects.”

Written by Brandon

October 19th, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Thank Kanye.

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For the thousandth time now, Kanye turns being a douche in a trangressive act. Unlike other controversy-baiting outbursts at award shows, Kanye went there. He’s the only person that comes out of this looking bad. Not that he should be the only person. When Twitter’s all er, a-twitter with people invoking a lack of “class” and “cruelty” and pop-cult leeches like Perez Hilton–whose made a career of being cruel–randomly decide to put their foot down on this one, the places to point fingers are endless. Fuck it all assholism over self-congratulatory sympathy any day.

Taylor Swift’s a grown-ass woman. If she can have a music career, she can take a swaggering, drunk on henny, Kanye West from swiping the microphone from her. It didn’t help that pre-Kanye interruption, she was continuing her “I’m just a country singer” schtick that’s not only see-through, but offensive to her pragmatic-pop which is significantly more sophisticated and honest than her “aw shucks” sympathy-grabbing persona.

It was great to see Kanye pop-up, looking like a complete asshole–and knowing it. Something he did by showing up dressed like Colin Farrell–Amber Rose, like one of Moebius’ Dune designs–holding a bottle of alcohol and passing it to friends. The Swift speech hijack was just the culmination of it. The hijack though–it was like that part on Ghostface’s “Wild Flower” where some random-ass female rapper is dropping predictably female rapper swagger raps (“A mind shockin’/Body rockin’”) and Ghostface stomps through–”Yo bitch, I fucked your friend/Yeah you stink ho-”–and never gives the song back.

This blog characterized West as “a manchild who believes that the Video Music Awards reflect something beyond politics” but that’s completely wrong. West’s entire mic-grab, drunken-speech thing was in direct response to politics. The ones that dominate popular taste now, a kind of mediocre, push everything into the middle, so that sweet Taylor Swift gets an award too–because Beyonce couldn’t sweep, even though she should. There needs to be time for boring, regular people because giving a few more minutes to interesting, beautiful people just wouldn’t be fair. The in and out, rapid-fire empowerment anthem that is “Single Ladies” versus the sad-sack “regular girl” self-justification of “You Belong With Me”.

The song’s realities became plain reality when Beyonce, truly magnanimous (and confident, and concerned), offers some stage-time to Swift, who wanders into the exact same speech, the same schtick from an hour before, when the scary drunk black man swiped the mic. It was the character of her song, who trumps t-shirts over short skirts as if wearing one automatically makes you better, taking control of the pep rally and being as clueless and dopey as she’s purported the “pretty people” to be. All these weird round-about truths, bursting out the sides of a particularly pedestrian awards show, exposed. Thank Kanye.

further reading/viewing:
-Tweet from , September 14, 12:30 am
-”Ego: Beyonce’s Deconstructive Dick Joke” by ME
-”Music Video Round-Up” by ME from House Next Door
-”Kanye West: Back to Reality” by Maura of Idolator
-”Idolator Live-Blogs The 2009 Video Music Awards: Pop Goes The Post-Pop World” by Maura of Idolator
-Kanye performs “Good Life” on the VMAs, 2007
-”Run This Town”, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” & “Good Life” from Jay-Z’s Madison Square Garden Concert, September 11th, 2009

Written by Brandon

September 14th, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Beyonce, Kanye West

"Ego": Beyonce’s Deconstructive Dick Joke


“If I Were a Boy”, a slow burning double-standard jam. “Single Ladies”, a fucking infectious empowerment song that’s also really about getting married and that square stuff. “Diva”, an “A Milli” rip-off. “Halo”, a big ballad about the right kind of comfort in a relationship that happens to trump Animal Collective’s “My Girls” in sentiment (word to Maltese Rubble on that point). And “Ego”, a celebration of her (and through that your) dude’s swagger that’s also a dick joke that’s also an artful balance of upholding pop expectations and going pretty crazy with them.

These songs really stick around for a while, through their initial ubiquity and then, their staying power and finally, their twisty-turny conceptual edges. They defy up-to-the-minute blogging and quick analysis. They’re growers. Obvious and not so obvious, really stupid and the sort of thing to sit down with and unpack. That’s to say, “Ego” is way more interesting a month or so after its release than it was when it first bombarded the radio because a song that’s ostensibly a dick joke has been pounded into the ears of even the most casual listeners so much, they’ve probably “figured” it out.

Kanye explicitly acknowledged the obvious on the remix, but “Ego” is teasing you bluntness, a parody of pop music’s double-entendres–the “joke” here is that her man’s ego being “too wide” and not “fit[ting]” only works if you’re talking about his penis. And that’s pretty funny. The same way “to the left, to the left” wasn’t directions for a dance move but a demand to get the fuck out is funny. But it’s more than funny, it’s sort of daring and very real and unglamourous, not only celebrating the size of a dude’s dick but acknowledging the elasticity (or lack thereof) of her (or a) vagina. Weird stuff.

Towards the end of the song though, the lyrics switch-up and Beyonce begins describing her ego and how it is also, “too big”, “too wide” and “won’t fit”; she’s in effect, “wearing” the dick which is interesting and well, gender-CRAZY. This is the same understated, gender-flipping weirdness found when The-Dream (a big part of Beyonce’s recent successes) mimics the orgasm sounds of the girl he’s with or “misogynist” Cam’ron dedicates a “verse to the everyday working woman” and raps it in her voice, inhabiting her worries and fears.

Production-wise, “Ego” is cut from the early 90s slow jam cloth but part of that sound stems from Prince–especially the rigid funk of the horns, the dash of 70s soul–and “Ego” is very much in the tradition of Prince’s hyper-explicit not-even metaphors and gender-bending/complicating work-outs. This is all pretty standard stuff in a lot of ways, but it’s oddly and subtly transgressive for popular radio and worth applauding because Beyonce really doesn’t need to metaphorically graft a dick onto herself to compare herself to her man and his ego.

Sure, in one way, she’s upholding expectations (though in a real bizarre way), sorta “making” herself male or connecting power to male-ness, but she’s also complicating gender expectations, announcing she too has a big “ego” and connecting it to her feminine “legs” and “thighs”–maintaining an expert balance between neither gender, as well as praising her man’s “ego” that never makes her second to him and even, claiming that ego for herself in the subject-change hook for the final verse.

Not every joint can be “Single Ladies” and Beyonce knows this. There’s a sort of implicit rule it seems, that if you’re a big-time artist with some artistic pretensions and a bajillion fans at the same time, you just don’t make super-solid, awesomely one-note albums. You bounce and weave around prevailing trends, invent some new ones, and make sure to bop the foreheads of every person in every sub-market, and keep it moving all in the name of “range”, “diversity”, and pop-corporate synergy. That Beyonce found a place for something as curious as “Ego” in her every-song-is-a-hit arsenal is pretty extraordinary.

Written by Brandon

June 22nd, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Posted in Beyonce

The House Next Door: Music Video Round-Up (Beyonce, Sea & Cake, Glen Campbell)


“Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” doesn’t really have verses or even a chorus, it’s all-hook, moving from one high-energy Beyonce shout to another, never really letting up. The titular hook’s rushed through in the same double-time as that keyboard line on-speed and Jake Nava’s video similarly starts and doesn’t stop. It’s all performance on basically no set at all, Beyonce kinda lip-syncs, instead focusing on her and the other two dancers’ Bob Fosse “Mexican Breakfast” walk-it-outs with minimal lighting tricks with minimal cuts.”"

Written by Brandon

November 19th, 2008 at 5:28 pm