Wednesday, 29 May 2013

I Don't Like It, So I'd Like to Put A Sock in It: Why "Single Ladies" Might Be The Worst Song Ever Made

      I know this is a dated criticism, but this song refuses to go away, so neither can the irritation it causes. I still have to hear it every day at work, and hear people humming it (thanks, Superbowl) and hear the occasional scorned woman (could be a man, but I haven't heard it yet) quote it. I don't think it is unreasonable to analyze the memes that are propagated so consistently in our lives. So this is dedicated not just to the song's writers and singer, but to everyone who keeps it alive in their heads and hearts.

      I'd like to preface this criticism with the following statement: I do not hate pop music. I thought I did, for a long time, but 2012 was actually a decent year for pop, if you're into originality, and 2013 has had some good ones so far: as of this writing, the extremely talented and deserving (independent) duo of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are sitting comfortably at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, JT has re-emerged as a new, albeit less phenomenal (and less paedophelial) MJ and I like most of what he does, even AWOLNATION finally got some large-scale international regard...for a song that is years old, but whatever, it's a serious song. This is not to mention fun. (hit or miss), Adele (say something...I dare you!) and Mumford and Sons. The point is: there is a lot of good pop music. This song is not in that class.

      And just so I wasn't talking out my ass, I spent enough time watching Beyoncé videos to make me want to take an acid shower and scrub myself with steel wool. I did that to get an honest picture of her public persona, and after hearing just one song, I can understand how that attitude might pick up someone who is going through a tough time. But as it goes on and on with the same theme, all I see from her whole girl-power thing is a bunch of stereotypes that, at a deeper level, actually reinforce all the gender-related, usually relationship-focused, negatives that she attempts to refute. That, and terrible acting.

      (Really, really terrible acting. I mean, Foxy Cleopatra in Goldmember was bad, but at least it was a little funny in a blaxploitation kind of way. Watching her scold another hack masquerading as high art ["...a very, very bad girl, Gaga!"] was cringeworthy.)

      From the first seconds, this audio tragedy is sure to annoy.

      "All the single ladies, all the single ladies,
       All the single ladies, all the single ladies,
       All the single ladies, all the single ladies,
       All the single ladies"

      WHAT?! What about them?! You call all the single ladies out, then immediately start spitefully addressing what seems to be an ex-boyfriend. What have single ladies done to deserve this address? Do you have advice? Did you consider they might enjoy just being single/harbour no ill will to their ex/ don't need to be looked at by another? Maybe they don't want to be pointed out like that. Did you consider that maybe their partners died? No you didn't, Beyoncé, or rather, whoever writes her music, because you were just trying to make another song that fit the "sassy"/"I don't need a man" persona, like most of her music.

      But according to a write-up in People Magazine, this song was made to address "the fear or unwillingness of men to commit." There is not one searching or serious lyric in the entire thing, just a lot of woman-scorned nonsense. Look:

"I got gloss on my lips, a man on my hips
Got me tighter in my Dereon jeans
Acting up, drink in my cup
I can care less what you think"

(Zero to do with the supposed subject matter. Petty.)

"I need no permission, did I mention
Don't pay him any attention
'Cause you had your turn, and now you gonna learn
What it feels like to miss me"

      The whole object of this song, really, is to create jealousy, or, in a wider context, to create people (read: women) who feel bigger by making other people feel small. Good job Beyoncé, you've contributed to moral and intellectual degradation.

Here's a man that makes me, then takes me
And delivers me to a destiny, to infinity and beyond
Pull me into your arms, say I'm the one you own
If you don't, you'll be alone, and like a ghost, I'll be gone"

Did...did you just quote Buzz Lightyear? I am not a religious man, but one of the things I do hold sacred, sacred enough to launch jihad over, is Toy Story. Maybe if you didn't take someone else to make you and deliver you to destiny, and had a little bit of confidence or substance in your own right, you wouldn't need to be so hateful.

This is the bulk of what is said in the song besides the laughably stupid chorus

      Fully half of Beyoncé's shtick is dancing, including in this song, but Single Ladies, arguably her biggest hit to date, doesn't have a dance anyone can duplicate (go check YouTube, I'll wait), so you can't lose yourself in the silliness like The Macarena, or YMCA, or Gangnam Style or whatever. Seriously, what the hell is this?:
"Cuz if ya smelt it, then it's likely that ya dealt it..."

      The above image reminds me of something I was told about how women in advertising are always portrayed in unnatural, submissive, or suggestive poses, as compared to more typical, comfortable, or power-evoking displays of men. It doesn't get any more unnatural than that picture, unless B & co. are doing their elephant impressions, in which case, D+.

      Sasha Fierce takes us further into her treasure trove of self esteem with this passage, repeated several times throughout the song:

Oh, oh, oh,
Oh, oh, ohhh,
W'oh, oh, ohhh,
Oh, oh, ohhh,
Oh, oh, ohhh

      These are filler noises, the like of which Coheed and Cambria would envy. Those "lyrics" take up a good chunk of the song... How does this address the unwillingness of men to commit (other than giving them a really good reason not to if you hear a woman singing this song)? This would make Bon Jovi blush.

      The repetition isn't just lyrical; the music these silly words are set to is shamefully inane. The percussion does the exact same loud, obnoxious thing for the entire song, save about 8 seconds where it stops. And then, does it roll out on the hi-hat? Does it jump back in with a cool fill on the toms? Nope, it just goes right back into that weird clap. Hmm. "The clap" might be a good name for this song, actually, as it did go viral (whatever that means) and is infectious. All the ladies with gonorrhea, all the ladies with gonorrhea....

Close, but not quite.
Two guys, one who calls himself "The-Dream," and the other Christopher "Tricky" Stewart are responsible for this insult to our ears, and I think it's safe to say that unless you're Quincy Jones or Freddy Mercury you can not get away with doing the exact same thing on percussion for three minutes straight. It's 2013, brah, kill the drum machine.Weird noises do not qualify as a melody, either. I'd like to talk more about how the music contributes to the overall crumminess, but I don't even know what the sounds are, and let's be honest, you didn't hear it anyway.

      So why is Single Ladies worse than other repetitive garbage? Surely bad pop comes out all the time, how is this different? Because, as I said of Lady Gaga earlier, it masquerades as high art. It really tries to get you to believe it is inspirational, and musically original, and that the video is something worth noticing, as if shooting in black and white makes art legitimate. And no, they did NOT do it in one take. Watch it again.

      Its apologists will tell you that it is empowering for women, but that is nowhere in the lyrics. And it's true that interpretation can be entirely subjective, but I'd wager no one who has graduated high school can honestly reflect on this song and call it mature. Case in point: "If you like it then you should have put a ring on it / Don't be mad when you see that he want it." The first bit might be true, but what does that say for a woman's self confidence? What does a ring have to do with anything? If the man liked it, he should have taken ownership, then what? And then Beyoncé simply attempts to evoke jealousy. I'm sure this plays well in the desperate housewives camp, but in modern feminist eyes I can only imagine Beyoncé looks like an idiot and a puppet, a cash cow at best.

      But the whole thing deflates if you consider the very real possibility that the guy probably didn't like it enough to put a ring on it, which is exactly WHY he didn't put a GD ring on it! We never hear from this man. Maybe she was a total asshole the entire time.

      And moreover, shouldn't the "he" from "don't be mad when you see that he want it" be taking notes of what he's in store for? This woman gets her self confidence from dogging people who made her sad, and drinking in tight expensive jeans that gain the attention of more men. Sounds like a real winner to me.

Beyoncé apologized for Kanye, but not for the drugs that inspired him.

      This song needs to die.

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