26 octobre 2009

"One of the Best Video of All Time" (1)

Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)
Beyoncé - 2008 (Album I am... Sacha Fierce)

When I first saw the video I thought it was silly, over-the-top, even irritating. But the catchy tune won me over after repeated viewing, especially the voice melody in the chorus. We can't say much of the music, a very basic hammering beat. There are 2 notes on a guitar string sliding up and down, a 2 notes bass line on a synthesizer, 3 hits on a drum and continuous clapping samples, cycled endlessly with additional sound effects here and there. But that's it. The zero degree of instrumental music. I wonder what music style it corresponds to... it's probably closer to a slow Drum & Bass beat than R&B. Beyoncé admitted that the "Sasha Fierce" half of her double album is intentionally playful and rhythmic for an easy-going dance drive.
All the melodic variations come from the voice line only which is not terribly wide ranging either but seductive nonetheless. The bridge gives a bit more vocal range to the song with a more elaborate melody and intermittent back vocals.
It's totally mesmerising and after repeated viewing it becomes addictive (which is the main objective of popular music). Now I really like it and have been playing it in loop for a good while.

Also, listen to this delicious acoustic deconstruction by a talented home-based duo : Pomplamoose, freshly uploaded (YouTube, 17 Sept 2009)
The video could improve, but I love the false-candid, self-conscious, serious-but-ironic kind of attitude (a little Miranda July?). The rest of their channel is equally awesome.

The storyline, condensed in three paragraphs, is quite ironic. Beyoncé Knowles is the model of a very successful woman, a sex symbol, a star, and happens to be newly wed to another star, Jay-Z. Probably one of the most glamorous couple in the music industry at the moment. Yet she sings a feminist message to single ladies, incarnating the emancipation of today's women, regular women.
Basically "If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it" translates into "If you want me, you need to marry me". A bit of an emotional blackmail. As she sings this taunt to men in general, she rubs in all women's face the big rock she sports at her ring finger. She's married, she doesn't have to worry about male indecision, fear of commitment and lack of responsibility. The choreography and the ostentatious piece of jewellery she wears around her ring keep on emphasizing the success of her personal life.
Or maybe it is a message to her ex-boyfriend(s) who missed his (their) chance to propose her before Jay-Z noticed her... something like "You didn't put a ring on my finger, he did, so now shut up". Anyway I like this straightforward dare. Ladies are not afraid anymore to put up certain conditions and deadlines in the game of seduction. "I don't care if you're jealous now. You didn't buy me a ring so I'm not yours anymore. It's not your business who I dance with." She knows it hurts to see the woman you love(d) in somebody else's arms!
But it also takes courage for the girl to end a relationship and move on, because her beloved partner is not interested to commit more permanently for a wedding. Not every woman would take the risk to break their couple, however unsatisfying it is, to go single again. Beyoncé's sex appeal saves her from staying single too long I would assume. It connects naturally with women who suffered in a on-and-off relationship and are afraid to bail out definitely.
"I've got gloss on my lips, a man on my hips..."
Here is a synecdoche for you. The whole entity (a man) is replacing a part of the whole (his hands) that is implied in the sentence. I like this line "I've got a man on my hips" it is possessive, dominating and provocative. She reverses the action, from being enlaced by someone else, she becomes the captor. The man holds her in his arms, and she says I've got him, he's stuck on me, my hips are like magnets.

Then the irony continues. She keeps singing that she wants a ring (a materialistic metaphor for marriage), and she then say don't give me things, your love is all I want. In the end she wants the wedding ring, but not the romantic presents of an endless courtship.

Three clone dancers, same height, same muscular legs, dressed alike, same shoes, same hairdo, in perfect synchronized moves.
A black body outfit hides all womanly shapes (tits & ass) because of the absence of volume shadows. However, what it reveals with frill ornamented high-cut hips are long objectified legs : symbols of feminine seduction in an hypnotic dance. Legs and hips move a lot, and are frequently emphasized by complementing hand gesture (slap on ass, hands on hips, hands in the air).
Beyoncé stands out from the trio by her asymmetrical outfit, covering most of her left arm and revealing entirely the right arm with a naked shoulder. The other two back-dancers wear a symmetrical sleeveless body outfit.
Beyoncé also wears big earrings and an ostentatious piece of jewellery on her left hand. This extension of a ring that engulf the entire forearm, called the robo-glove, was designed by French designer Thierry Mugler. It's like an Avant-Garde concept of a ring, a ring that spreads around the fingers, hand and arm with titanium and crystal. Quite a massive "ring" that imprisons her entire hand. A megalomanic outgrowth of the traditional, discreet, simple, humble wedding ring. This oversized symbol shows off how much she invests, psychologically, into this marriage proof; and how much she rubs it in everybody's face. Sacha Fierce is an "ironic" alter-ego, of course, but the irony is also a PC way to put on an arrogant attitude that would seem outrageous if not exaggerated for humorous purpose...

The "Three Graces" is a famous motif in painting and sculpture inherited from the Greek antiquity (Charites, or Gratiae in Roman mythology) : Aglaea (beauty), Euphrosyne (mirth), and Thalia (good cheer).

The song starts with the 3 girls lined up frontally, so we can notice Beyoncé is shorter than her back-dancers. The synchronous choreography is more casual. But the formation quickly moves to a triangular form, with Beyoncé ahead of the others, closer to the camera lens. This and a low angle camera uses perspective deformation to make Beyoncé taller (on screen) than the ones in the back. It seems to also help a perfect synchronisation of all 3 dancers, as they can follow Beyoncé's every moves in a faster and more precise choreography.

(to be continued)

2 commentaires:

nitesh a dit…

I just saw the video after you mentioned on the blog, and find the use of lightning and camera also quite energetic and unique and lighting at least brings an interesting transition... Looking forward to read further..interesting writeup nonetheless

An interesting writeup here on 101 Greatest music videos of all time


Adrian Mendizabal a dit…

Quite unexpected! I love your analysis on Single Ladies music video!