Is it just me, or do Beyoncé’s songs immediately sound better when paired with a music video?
When her album 4 came out in June, I think my response could best be summarized as “Meh.” Her voice was as fierce as always but she lacked her usual vigor. On much of the album, it felt like Beyoncé was just running through the motions (or “[refusing] to scratch anything more than the surface,” which is what I wrote in my original review). But Beyoncé has a strange hold on me. Whenever she releases a music video, I’ve suddenly find myself enthralled.
“Countdown” came out almost two weeks ago and I’ve already lost count of the number of times I’ve watched it. It’s a delightful mash-up of 1960s mod fashion and Funny Face references. (Well, except for that one scene when she suddenly goes all Flashdance on us). And now we have a video for “Love on Top” that, while a bit more straightforward—the concept seems to be “Beyoncé fronts a boy band”—still features some incredible dancing. And boobs. There’s a lot of bouncing in this video.
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I like Beyoncé’s music, but I absolutely love her videos. Whether it’s the minimalism of “Single Ladies,” the hinted violence of “Ring the Alarm” or the post-apocalyptic dystopia of “Run the World (Girls),” she always has a fresh sense of style and her choreography surpasses that of any other current pop star’s. That might be because she rips other people off (according to the New York Times, Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker claims Beyonce stole her dance moves for “Countdown,” and of course there was the earlier controversy over her live performance of “Run the World (Girls)” at the Billboard Music Awards).
But art is often self-referential and so much of pop culture is remixed, mashed-up, covered, copied and redone (I mean, have you seen the website Everything is a Remix?) that as long as Beyoncé’s team properly cites its influences, I don’t see why anyone should find this surprising. “Love on Top” is great and all, but the set and some of the scenes are clearly taken from New Edition’s 1988 video for “If It Isn’t Love.” And it’s not like Beyoncé and her back-up singers are the first people to dance around in matching tuxedos. See below: