A new Beyoncé song usually sets the internet afire, with Bey and the latest producer of the moment (The-Dream, Diplo, The Neptunes, Rodney Jerkins-for you old school R&B fans) applying their vocal and technical wizardry to garner support for the newest Knowles joint. And like clockwork (almost 2 years after “4”), Bey-Bey leaked a track, “Bow Down/I Been On” from the recording sessions for the newest album (“5”?), crafted by producer-of-the-moment Hit Boy.
But this song isn’t garnering Bey any positive favors. Unlike her pro-woman anthems (“Run the World (Girls),” “If I Were a Boy,” “Diva”), this stab at empowerment is filled with demands to “bow down, bitches” and to “smack that trick” girlfriend (“boo”) that was talking shit. This is her rap song, and Beyoncé plays along, repping her hometown of Houston, bragging about popping champagne bottles and a million other Rap 1o1 clichés.
This is an evolution (or devolution, if you will) of her Sasha Fierce persona in that she’s using the naughty words and appearing to be, well, fierce. (And the Sasha Fierce gimmick was dead on arrival–as contrived as Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines, as baffling as T.I./T.I.P.) And it comes across as pandering–like she’s trying to toughen her persona like Mariah Carey having Ol’ Dirty Bastard rap a few bars on “Fantasy.” But more than that, it flies in the face of her positive image by referring to her peers as female dogs, boasting with ill-placed bravado that she once let her songs do for her. (And at least one of those so-called “bitches,” Keyshia Cole, is not a fan of the song, either.)
If Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance was her Oscar bid or her summit of Mount Everest, the first track from her new album should have been a victory lap around the mountain base. Instead, this song is her Norbit, as embarrassing as seeing Eddie Murphy in unfunny fat suits and racist makeup. And after her mishandling of her “unflattering” Super Bowl pictures and her crazytown reference to her one-year-old daughter Blue Ivy as her “best friend,” a non-offensive song would have been an uptick on the good karma scale.
Maybe this leak was a way to test a new variation of the Beyoncé formula. Perhaps it was a goof in the studio that she wanted to share with fans. It’s possible that the track was not a fit for the upcoming LP and was put out as a way to fuel the ever-churning Bey-Bey hype machine. They say that any publicity is good publicity, and she’s getting it; most of her fans are all about the song, so… win?
I’m not Beyoncé’s biggest fan (her vocals rarely do anything for me), but it’s frustrating to see when cultural icons/role models shake up their careers in erroneous ways. Whatever is on her new album better be good to make up for this misstep–more “Girls” than “Single Ladies” in not setting women back a few years, and some good beats to go along with them. And if that doesn’t work, I guess she can fully embrace her dickbag rap persona.