Eight years after Beyoncé launched her solo career with Crazy In Love, a pop classic that defined the noughties, it seems she has reached the bottom of the cookie jar. Run The World (Girls) is her worst single to date. Here are some things that disappoint me about Run The World (Girls):
1. The song
It’s just about listenable thanks to the popular Major Lazer sample but (unlike her husband Jay-Z) Beyoncé struggles to make a sample her own. It sounds like a cheap DJ software amateur mash-up that you’d hear in a Gran Canaria gay bar. Kelis has been wowing crowds by dancing and improvising to Pon De Floor by Major Lazer for years and she really pulls it off, Kelis has the urban welly for stuff like this but with Beyoncé it looks a little clumsy and dated even.
2. The message
This whole pseudo-feminist thing is so wank, and it’s offensive. Women don’t rule the world. Men don’t rule the world. Successful, driven, powerful, wealthy egomaniacs run the world, and I suppose the kids of those people. To say that women rule the world (and the fact that Beyoncé feels the need to say that) simply highlights the fact that they don’t. Laughably the song is written and produced by five men, the single’s cover shoot is directed by a man, the video itself is written and directed by a man. Beyoncé herself may be inspired by Diana Ross but she is ruled by men and she always has been.
Whilst songs like Independent Women, A Woman Like Me (from the Pink Panther), If I Were A Boy and Suga Mama all managed to be great pop songs whilst also having something interesting to say about gender, Run The World (Girls) is just totally dumb. Why is she paraphrasing and subsequently erasing her own brilliant pop legacy with this mindless shit? It’s not even good quality mindless shit.
3. The voice
Beyoncé is an incredible singer with a good vocal range, but even when she’s not singing her voice can be very distinctive and effective. Not on Run The World (Girls), it’s chavvy, it’s whiny, it’s Lisa Mafia meets Mumsnet, it’s nauseating. How long do we think she spent in the studio? Twenty-five minutes? I doubt it.
4. The direction she is taking here
Beyoncé is back-pedalling. In a move that she probably sees as “rediscovering the routes of African American pop music” or something she is actually just over simplifying black history to the point of damaging it. It’s like she’s taken a Diana Ross Greatest Hits album, scratched it up with her Sasha Fierce glove, scrawled the words GIRL POWER on it with a permanent marker, put it in an industrial blender and surprise, surprise – it doesn’t play in the car anymore.
For some reason unbeknownst to man Beyoncé is scared of Lady Gaga and more generally speaking - the current direction of pop music. She was quite happy letting Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland exist in her own shadow for years (and rightly so, she was the bread-winner in DC and it was her Daddy in charge not theirs) but she doesn’t like playing catch-up with Gaga. She joined in with Telephone, tried the whole lesbo thing, tried inventing a fierce alter-ego, and she went all out there with her wacky 1950s inspired video to Why Don’t You Love Me? And she did OK, but it didn’t quite cut the mustard. She just doesn’t have the creative intellect to be a new Grace Jones. When Rihanna takes creative risks she embraces them, she becomes them. When Beyoncé tries something new it’s only ever ‘Oh, she’s trying something new’. Perhaps that’s why she’s recentralising her troops and becoming a stripped down version of herself. In short – midlife crisis.
The sad part is, she doesn’t need to do any of this. What Beyoncé is incredibly good at is looking tantalisingly sexy, stamping her feet, shaking those thighs and belting out a proper good whopper of a chart topper. But for some reason she feels pressured not to do this with Run The World (Girls). Instead of taking her pop career forwards she has retreated back into the J.Lo, Shakira mindset of “keep it simple, keep it catchy, borrow something that already works and sell sell sell”.
Just because Beyoncé can fart into a Dictaphone and release it as a single doesn't mean she has to. She should be developing her sound and discovering new territories not stomping over this tired and old freakum territory.
6. The Hype, The HYPE!
Run The World (Girls) already has a Wikipedia page with over 8,000 words written on it. That’s more information on Wikipedia about Beyoncé’s earth-shattering new feminist single than there is about the suffragettes.
7. Can’t dance to it
Unlike Single Ladies which was postmodern and minimal in very rhythmic and club-friendly fashion, Run The World (Girls) is awkwardly sparse and completely flat in places. It’s the sort of thing Britney would record for a Sketchers advert, talking of which, why hasn’t Beyoncé embraced the Britney / Ke$ha dub-prep movement, seems like she’s missed a trick there?
8. Instantly forgettable
Beyoncé’s best songs, and indeed Destiny’s Childs best songs, live and breath inside you, they’re cleverly put together and contagious. As soon as someone says “Kelly – can you handle this?”, or “ch-ch: Question”, or “All ma single ladies” – the song starts to form in your head and reproduce itself. With Run The World (Girls) it’s just Major Lazer that springs to mind.
And here are Beyonce's two best songs, that tragically she never released: