Over the years, I’ve had a pretty complex relationship with Beyoncé Knowles. Not in that I know her personally and she never returned my Reality Bites DVD (she would never do that) but because I feel like there’s a certain stigma against appreciating or even loving pop music in an unironic sense in 2k11. It’s fine to circlejerk around inconsequential Pitchfork buzzbands all day long, but dare speaketh the name of a Top 40 hit to discuss anything other than how “horrible it is but how [you] kind of like it anyway” and the earth splits open beneath your feet. Of course, indie music has its place too, but what I mean to say is that, as a white, female 20-something living in a major urban area and working on the internet, there are a lot of factors at work in the sliding puzzle of my relationship with Beyoncé. Somehow, this video encapsulates them perfectly.
Let me start by being totally honest with you guys: I’m probably biased here. I decided I liked ’1+1′ back in May when Jay-Z blogged Bey warming up backstage at American Idol because holy crap, did you see that video? It’s so good, you guys. I watched it — no joke — like 30 times in a row and got goosebumps every time.
As enamored as I am with that cellphone video, though, I already knew I loved Beyoncé’s IRL voice. Her version of ‘At Last’ at the Inaugural Ball made me tear up with real human joy and as I’m re-watching it on YouTube now in order to channel its energy, I’m gettin’ all misty. Thus is the effect of colossal, unmitigated talent, though. It overwhelms you and reminds you why you’re lucky to be a collection of cells living and breathing on a planet with other living, breathing collections of cells.
That said, the album versions of most of her songs never really did anything for me. I know, I know, shut up. It’s not that I don’t think Bey’s capable of putting out a good album, it’s just that there’s always seemed to be a disconnect between Live Performance Beyoncé and Album Beyoncé that everyone’s fine not talking about. Like crazy Aunt Marjorie put sour cream on your piece of pie instead of whipped cream and shh, just shh Christine. Smile and be nice about it.
But come on everyone, here’s one of the most talented vocalists of our generation and the radio versions of her songs are all things that I can easily sing along with in the car. You’ve heard what her voice can do. My voice cannot do those things. Your voice cannot do those things. That’s why she makes a very good living singing and performing and we are here on the internet writing and reading about it. There’s more to this lady than Major Lazer samples and kewl production value.
I was wary of the album version of ’1+1′ when 4 dropped earlier this summer because I was scared that it would take this song that I had seen PERFORMED and FELT and INHABITED in that cellphone video and reduce it to something less than that. And upon first listen I was disappointed. Because it wasn’t all of those things. It wasn’t her standing at a mirror in a dressing room without a microphone and absolutely slaying the track. It wasn’t just one take of one woman talking to one man about sex and foreverlove. I don’t even know how to articulate it really — there was a momentum in the live version, a sense that this is a case she’s building to make this one person feel really special, that gets buried under all of the echoes and instrumentals, and it crushed me a little bit. Here is this song, THIS SONG, that made me download an entire album of songs and it wasn’t even my favorite of the bunch. It wasn’t even in my top three.
I’d all but given up on ’1+1′ until this morning when I saw the video popping up all over my Tumblr dash. “Alright,” I said to myself. “Let’s give this a shot.”
And I’m so glad I did, you guys. Honestly and truly. Because Bey was able to breathe some of what I loved about the cellphone video version back into the song visually. Through sheer talent and giftz. And I appreciate and respect that.
Homegirl is a performer through and through and I know that nowadays, footage of a willowy chick covered in baby oil and glitter swaying and pouting is a dime a dozen but this is different. There’s energy there, there’s acting there — there’s passion there — that makes for a really compelling portrait of a really talented human. And I don’t necessarily think it’s gonna be a big statement piece in her canon or even the most memorable video off of this album (we’ve all seen the ‘Best Thing I Never Had’ video, right? Christ.) but it’s a testament to what she’s capable of that a butthole like me can sit down and appreciate the tenets of this four minutes and thirty seconds of footage.
Plus it’s hot. Like, really hot. Like, straight, gay, bi, tree — I don’t care. If you’re an organism capable of sexual attraction, you can appreciate how beautiful a human Beyoncé is in this video.
And someday she’s gonna be a grandma, ya know? Someday she’s gonna be a fabulous woman in a sequined blouse with red lipstick and a drawn-on beauty mark leafing through a vintage copy of Architectural Digest on a gold, Marie Antoinette-looking couch, and her prodigiously-talented grandchild is going to stumble across this video on his futurecomputer and be like, “Grandma. Grandma. I had no idea.”
And she’ll just smile and be like, “Well, now you do.”