I was just thinking of my beautiful, hysteric-in-love, workaholic Beyonce, wondering when she was going to wow me with another awesome video when I stumbled on “Run the World (Girls),” and by the time I sat down to write this I have the tune in my head (in the voice of my four-year-old daughter) and the dance sequences stamped permanently over everything I see (in my daughter’s one-hand-in-the-air-another-on-the-hip interpretation).
For someone who has been writing on dystopia since 2003, a barren landscape with burned cars, abandoned tires and bike carcasses is a dream come true. And even though we have seen this pseudo post-apocalyptic landscape in Rihanna’s “Hard” and (hints of it) in Britney’s “Till The World Ends,” Francis Lawrence is filming an epic of his own, with horses, bulls, lions and hyenas for company. Smoke is in the air, the sand hits the face, the cars go up on fire. The visuals are stunning but there is a question of balance here; too many images make the eye and the mind scatter whereas in “Diva” one or two arresting shots lingered like footprints on my brain. But maybe I just have a thing for black and white.
Beyonce has always been good at picking outfits that are odd enough to be forward without being unappealing; there are no unintentional laughs or Project Runway arts-and-crafts-slash-hardware-store-tortured concoctions; she knows what she looks good in and she knows how to rock it. I love the Alexander McQueen red dress with her newly blonde locks. The pointy satin bra against the bearskin shoulders, the insanely smooth golden belt and mini bearskin fringe on the Alexander Wang stilettos make the most remarkable visual in recent pop-video fashion. The white Givenchy tulle gown works well with a futuristic take on a retro updo. The Gareth Pugh Agold dress reflects the exploding car behind. The black coat collars up menacingly. The Emilio Pucci yellow dress with an embroidered front and sky-high slits up Beyonce’s thighs is jaw-dropping (other body parts will move upwards). The black unitard with strategically placed cut-outs is stunning and the sequined green number is a show stopper. Should I mention the gold headpiece? I think this is Beyonce at her best dressed.
Some critics have been disappointed by the video’s “simplistic” choreography; they are welcome to do the short sequence the singer performs with the two “male” dancers. Say what now? Out of breath? Those little stunts require great strength and full command of one’s body. They are wonderfully subdued, with perfect concentration on particular body parts, the rest remaining peacefully immobile. The moves are arresting, the native references fresh and the long shots invigorating – Beyonce doesn’t need to lean on frenetic cuts and heavy editing where there is no way of telling whether the person can dance (they can’t, Beyonce can). I love the big third-act dance sequence with the flags in the background (I just wish they weren’t so red; I am from Minsk) and I have to confess chills. It’s “Remember The Time” all over again, only after the world ended.
The F Word
Pop divas deal with profanity differently, and we have earlier seen Keri Hilson paraphrasing herself on the clean track (very lame) and Mariah Carey euphemizing gracefully (classy). In “Telephone” Beyonce wasn’t as shy as here; then she could blame everything on that Gaga person. My position is this: if you can’t say it, don’t say it at all. But that’s just me.
Beyonce plays her H.B.I.C. card again. Survivor. Independent Woman. Single Lady. I have nothing against that, but:
Money? Not a problem. But I still get paid less than men for all the wrong reasons (obviously I can find something hard to land on, and after that, the slot that spits out rustling reward notes, so why pay me more?).
Babies? I won’t argue that pushing a new human being down my birth canal is probably the most empowering thing I have done, and both Christina and Kelis have noted as much with their superpower chick albums, but the reality is not so haute couture: the only badges of honor I’ve got are my stretchmarks and the only war zone I strategize in is my messy home, plus there is a nine-to-five to sit through (and thank God for that). Then again, I can comfort myself thinking that fishing for a seat for my child in the metro is a noble battle. I am prepared to lose.