Why Beyonce Makes Me Feel Fierce
I was pretty happy about “Single Ladies” back when I first heard it. Beyonce had once again come out with a catchy tune that showed off her singing skills and it quickly got stuck in my head. I was so taken by the song’s punchline – “If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it” – that I hardly cared whether the song was lacking in other respects.
What “Single Ladies" the song turned out to be lacking was “Single Ladies” the music video: They complete each other. Once they were paired, I could never again listen to the song without immediately visualizing Beyonce’s dance – she kicks and spanks and gyrates in her leotard, and the ball joints in her hips rotate with glistening clarity. The backup dancers add a symmetry that makes the whole performance hypnotizing. Its energy is infectious.
The video has more than 80 million views on YouTube and has spawned hundreds of tributes and spoofs, including a Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Justin Timberlake in a “Single Ladies” leotard. Even President Obama was filmed doing one of the dance moves when he met Beyonce back in January, having been called out by the First Lady for liking the song. The video has also been voted the best video of the past decade in a Muzu.tv poll (followed by Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice”).
For me, the biggest thing about “Single Ladies” is that it screams girl power. The lyrics are clear enough – we broke up, so I’m going to go do my thing “up in the club.” You shoulda put a ring on it when you had the chance. Instead of trying to work a narrative into the video, choreographers Frank Gatson Jr. and JaQuel Knight go with a deceptively simple set (a blank white stage, with only the occasional shadows of the three dancers making up the background) and a sexy dance that may not be technically complicated (I wouldn’t know) but certainly requires a terrific amount of energy. Beyonce is fierce, and she makes other women feel fierce. The video is edited, of course, but Beyonce performed the whole dance live at the VMAs and sang at the same time.
“Single Ladies” is not just for single ladies, of course – it simply celebrates a woman’s ability to be independent in the face of those non-commiting males. This, at least, was the intention of songwriter The-Dream (Terius Nash), according to a People feature on the phenomenon. I also like to think the song is a tribute to Beyonce’s husband, Jay-Z. At the very end of the dance, Beyonce strikes a pose and flashes her own wedding ring, a $5 million Lorraine Schwartz. It’s a distractingly expensive rock, but Beyonce probably means to commend Jay-Z’s character rather than his wealth. Commit and put a ring on it – closing out the decade, a stern message from fierce women everywhere.
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