How to Critique the New Beyoncé Song
"Bow Down/I Been On" may in fact be two different songs, but it's definitely bizarre, allegedly arrogant, and not exactly getting universal praise from fans and critics. All of which means there are reason to gripe, and many ways in which to do so.
Beyoncé—Super Bowl goddess, one-time lip-syncer, reigning Queen of Pop—has released a new track in anticipation of her upcoming "Mrs. Carter" tour. "Bow Down/I Been On" may in fact be two different songs, but it's definitely bizarre, allegedly arrogant, and not exactly getting universal praise from fans and critics. It's getting love, to be sure, but in a different flavor than we're used to from Bey. All of which means there are reason to gripe, and many ways in which to do so. But first, take a listen:
Now here are four ways to complain about "Bow Down/I Been On," if you are so inclined.
There's Not Enough Beyoncé in This Song
Per Vulture's Zach Dionne, there are only 40 seconds of Beyoncé's actual voice in this thing. Which may not be enough Beyoncé. A version with her unpitched vocals is also circulating:
Chris Payne at Billboard calls the track an "odd sampling" since it "only uses Beyoncé's signature vocal technique through the first minute before it devolves into a menacing, pitched-down rap that sounds more like a Hit Boy mixtape track." Hit-Boy is best known for producing tracks like Beyoncé's husband's song with Kanye "Ni**as in Paris." It's thought that while Hit-Boy was responsible for "Bow Down," Timbaland, Polow da Don and Planet IV have their hands in "I Been On."
It's Just a Publicity Move
Melinda Newman at HitFix argues that the song "is all posturing and it’s hard to think it's anything more than a buzz song to get us talking about Beyonce because it’s been all of three minutes since we were, right? If It's a first single, it's not a strong one at all." Sam Lansky at Idolator writes: "We're fairly confident that "Bow Down" is more buzz track than official single, given the lack of formal build-up (and the fact that it doesn't really sound like single, does it?)." Yes, Beyoncé was probably just angry Justin Timberlake was so busy stealing all the attention.
It Offends Women
That's the controversy pot stirred up by British tabloids The Daily Mail and the Mirror, based on someone who tweeted that the song is "misogynistic." It's a complicated position to take specially since on of the most talked about lyrics so far is: "I took some time to live my life/But don't think I'm just his little wife/ Don't get it twisted, get it twisted." That seems like a direct shot at anyone who complains that Beyoncé is marketing herself as "Mrs. Carter" now. In Michael Cragg's positive review of the track at The Guardian he writes "the repeated line 'bow down bitches', which seems a mile away from all that independent women and single ladies business."
This one, really, is just a matter of taste. "Bow Down/I Been On" is not really like the Beyoncé we're used to hearing, and that can be a bad or good thing depending on where you're coming from. Cragg calls her "deliciously unhinged." The release is being called "aggressive" and influenced by trap. James Dinh at MTV writes of the track: "It's another far cry from Bey's usual glimmering pop&B formula, as the siren's vocals are transformed, Houston chopped-and-screwed style." Do you like it? That's for you to decide. It'll probably be a hit either way.