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Jul 15

DESTINY’S CHILD – “Independent Women, Part 1”

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#883, 2nd December 2000

destinyswomen It’s hard not to let what Beyoncé Knowles was become swamped by what she is. A veteran, an icon, a woman enjoying a remarkable critical peak, an earner, second only to headphone mogul Dr Dre on current musical money lists – Beyoncé, as she is happy to tell us, works astonishingly hard, but one of the things she works at is controlling her narrative, shaping her career so that each step seems higher than the last, and her success appears pre-ordained. It was there in the name of her own group. “Child of destiny… independent me…”. But that’s only a story. Nothing is really inevitable, and Beyoncé enters Popular running, working, managing her options, using her group’s remarkable success as a springboard, while trying to win a PR battle over the palace coup that finished a multi-platinum line-up and cut a quartet to a reshuffled trio.

The stakes were very high. The Writings On The Wall sold millions and helped reinvent its genre. In sound and attitude, the singles from it were astonishing, particularly “Bills Bills Bills” and “Say My Name”, which would glide, jab, purr, stutter, break down into precise micro-maps of beatwork and then be reconstituted in time for their earworm choruses. The group themselves were a match for their production, just as happy to change modes mid-song. Or even mid chorus – take the way “Bills Bills Bills” jumps from the sweeping repetition of “bills….bills…bills…” to the sudden, sprightly kiss-off of “I don’t think you do / So you and me are through”. On “Say My Name” the angry stacatto of the verses, and their rushes of paranoid realisation, complement the keening, screw-turning chorus: it’s a masterpiece of suspicion and wrath, playing off the great history of those emotions in soul music while sounding like nothing before.

But the group who made those songs was gone. LaTavia Roberson and LaToya Luckett complained about the management and found themselves discarded mid-video. By “Independent Women”, one of their replacements had already quit. Destiny’s Child was now a trio. That would be its final and platonic form, its megastar incarnation, one that still reforms now and then. Luckett and Roberson became the Sutcliffe and Best of the group, banished from Destiny’s Child before things really got big – or so the new story framed it, and never mind that no subsequent album actually sold as much as The Writings On The Wall:

Big was certainly the plan. Survivor – the album – is a soggy thing in parts, but it announced itself with unparalleled clarity and determination: three singles, three manifestos. “Independent Women, Part 1” was the first, with the most to prove. Right away, it’s clear something has changed. The switches and feints of “Bills Bills Bills” or “Say My Name” are replaced by a far more direct approach, a straight-to-the-point funk loop that bumps away all through the song, a framework to showcase its three singers. The aftershock of the new lingers – this record may streamline and back off from earlier advances, but it still sounds thrilling and self-possessed, confidently honing its approach while everyone else catches up. But there’s no question anymore of the production becoming the star. Whether or not ‘futurism’ was ever the point of Destiny’s Child, it isn’t here.

The group’s lyrical approach has also hardened. The 1998-9 singles were vignettes: little bullet-time panoramas circling a particular interpersonal crisis just at the moment of collapse. “Independent Women” throws out that approach and again prefers something that pulls your focus onto the singer: a song built around a rhetorical device, the snapped “Question” at the start of every line. It’s remorselessly direct: economic and sexual independence were always in the music, the subtext of “Bills Bills Bills” or “Jumpin’ Jumpin’”, but there’s zero room for subtext here. The new Destinys’ Child is ruthlessly on the nose.

So whether we want to be anachronistic or not, there’s no escaping it: everything’s pointing in the same directon. The music toned down, more a framework for its singers. The lyrics turned into a rhetorical barrage, keeping the focus squarely on who’s delivering them, not their situation. And the basic mathematics of the new group. There’s no centre to four (or at most – this was Roberson and Luckett’s complaint – a double centre), but three resolves into a natural shape on stage and on film, a V formation. Just ask Mary Wilson and Flo Ballard. While the spotlight in Destinys Child sometimes rotates – and Kelly Rowland’s glorious, camera-pleasing repertoire of smirks, side-eyes and reaction shots is the group’s secret video weapon – this incarnation of the band is a machine built to make a singer famous.

Before it can do that, there was a film to promote. “Independent Women” tackles its job as a soundtrack single for Charlie’s Angels as directly as it tackles everything else. Beyoncé isn’t just sharing the spotlight with her co-Childs, but with three other women – Lucy Liu, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz – who get individual shout-outs alongside constant lyrical nods to the film. This is a hostage to fortune, you might think – Charlie’s Angels was a sharp, fun movie, one I remember with only fondness, but “Independent Women Part 1” is a landmark record by one of the major 00s pop groups. There’s certainly a risk the constant product placement might diminish it now.

I think it dodges that risk. Partly it’s that within the economic game the record uses to define independence, showing off your soundtrack deal is plainly a legit move. Partly it’s the thematic tie – Charlie’s Angels is a vision (or fantasy) of a Hollywood where women get to front action films, and the line between the record made to promote the movie and the record Destiny’s Child would be making anyway is almost invisible. (”Synergy”, as the memos no doubt put it.) Mostly it’s just that the record is so forceful a celebration that it brushes caveats aside.

Because while it’s easy to see Destiny’s Child’s new directness in terms of what’s been lost, this is pop, and there’s an advantage to making the obvious unavoidable, going all-out for the anthemic. The context the group operated in wasn’t just their earlier singles, it was a trend within R&B of probing power-games and inequalities in relationships: TLC’s flaying of impecunious suitors on “No Scrubs” just the most prominent example. By September 2000, when “Independent Women” came out, Billboard could refer offhanded to “a wave of male-bashing sweeping R&B”. If they didn’t have the no-nonsense stringency of Destiny’s Child’s ‘98-’99 singles in mind, others were happy to lump the group in. The concern was overstated: rock and pop songs had been about women, money and sex since forever. The only twist was now the women had – on record, at least – control of the money and the sex. But the trend was real enough. “Independent Women, Part 1” doubled down on it by presenting the underlying theme as starkly as possible.

That meant cash: if you’re going to do a song about independence, you aim for what keeps people dependent. “Independent Women, Part 1” is as clear sighted about the transactional side of relationships as any Gang Of Four song – the difference being that the critique is pragmatic not systemic. The solution to inequality is to earn enough to afford what you want yourself. Here’s where the song’s focus, its musical and lyrical bluntness, pays off – the successive “I bought it… I bought it… I bought it…” is a stirring application of force. And then the record plays its best trick, taking the latent churchiness within the preaching, rhetorical style and unleashing it for the chorus, turning individual autonomy into a communal celebration – “throw your hands up at me!”. It’s not solidarity, exactly – no room for those who can’t or won’t earn. But in that moment, “Independent Women, Part 1” – the anthem, the film promo, the comeback, the crest of a trend, the next step in a business plan – lives the dream of the virtuous market, where all interests perfectly align.

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Comments

  1. 1

    might as well note early in the thread that i always heard the churchy “throw yr hands up at me” as a much more lovecraftian “on the wings of madness”

  2. 2
    Tom on 4 Jul 2015 #

    Throw your pseudopods up at me.

  3. 3
    DJP on 4 Jul 2015 #

    They saved all the futurism for “Independent Women, Part 2”: http://youtu.be/9f_YTbQzlik

  4. 4
    Doctor Casino on 4 Jul 2015 #

    Great analysis – you’ve hit the mark on what distinguishes this from those earlier hits in my mind, in a way I never would have been able to articulate. Would never mark it that high though – catchy as hell, but I never felt like I needed to hear it that many times. Not as grating and brassy in the ear as a certain upcoming bunny that could only hint at a big televisual cross-promotion (and to reality TV rather than blockbuster film, at that), but just not that much *there* in the song. The main funky thing is cool, and gives a new coat of paint to the stop-start Timbo shuffle that had become so dominant by this point… but it wears out its welcome and any song where the big a capella break is literally the singers proclaiming the title of the film faces certain limits. I mean, even if you feel a passionate kinship to the whole rest of the song, how do you belt THAT out in the shower?

  5. 5
    Tom on 4 Jul 2015 #

    I like the directness of all the first three singles from this album – but yeah as is often the case when I come off an enforced break the marking might be wayward! Re-reading the review it doesn’t really read like an 8, does it? Oh well.

  6. 6
    Ed on 4 Jul 2015 #

    “The dream of the virtuous market” gets it exactly right, I think: this is a record about economics, and it reflects the economy of its era in a way that places it very precisely in 1999-2000, dating it even more clearly than the Charlie’s Angels references.
    The late 1990s were the only period between the late 1970s and today when average income (technically median income) in the US rose significantly in real terms, allowing for inflation. The notorious top 1% of earners have done very well since 1980, but for most Americans real incomes, and hence living standards, have not risen at all. The one exception was what is sometimes called the “Clinton boom” of 1993-2000, and ‘Independent Women Part 1’ would have been written just as that wave was cresting.
    In that context, the dream of economic independence, and the practical ability to buy your own jewellery, car and house, seemed more attainable for the majority of Americans than they ever have since.
    IWP1 is the ultimate anthem for that time of rising economic confidence.
    (The story of the 2000s was that incomes stopped rising but people wanted to keep spending, and they did it by borrowing more. The anthem of what happened when that became unsustainable is ‘Umbrella’, but we will get to that another day.)

  7. 7
    Shiny Dave on 4 Jul 2015 #

    Knew this would be worth waiting for!

    The date is significant here – its US release was in the midst of the coinflip 2000 Presidential race, and by the time it made it here Bush and his lawyers had snatched the victory. There would be plenty of people – and, especially, plenty of black women – who would indeed be very much left out of the pursuit of economic independence, at least partly because that administration was essentially governed by (with a couple of high-profile tokenistic exceptions) and for white men. The other Destiny’s Child chart-topper – – yes, the other, they have the same number of bunnies as the Outhere Brothers –

    Anyway, this is one of the great pop manifestos, and it’s not exactly the fault of the band that many of the people who looked up to them were in no position to embrace it; it’s also one of the great soundtrack singles, and as Tom astutely points out, that’s because it’s essentially something Destiny’s Child would already have written and made brilliant, only with added product placement.

    The astonishingly-unbunnied “Hey Ya!” actually namechecks Beyoncé and Lucy Liu in the same line, but it does so in terms of ushering them to the dancefloor, and there’s more than the whiff of objectification about it, especially as it leads up to that other great – and even more rapidly dated – piece of product placement in 2000s R&B, “shake it like a Polaroid picture.” We will have plenty of opportunities to discuss the sexualisation of Beyoncé in particular, but the product placement link to “Hey Ya!” sprung to mind and invited me to note it now.

  8. 8
    Shiny Dave on 4 Jul 2015 #

    #5 Well, it reads a fair bit stronger than the “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” review, and you gave that a 7! If anything, I can say that you bumped it up for “making an obvious pitfall actually work,” which I’m choosing to interpret as the reason “Oops” got the Britney 10 rather than BOMT. (That, and allowing Sinead to stand as the undisputed Song of the 90s!)

  9. 9
    Ed on 4 Jul 2015 #

    @4 I agree about how slight the song is. Having loved the singles from TWOTW – ‘Bug-a-Boo’ and ‘Jumpin Jumpin’ are every bit as good as the two Tom mentions, IMO – I thought ‘Independent Women’ was the biggest let-down on first hearing since Prince’s ‘Kiss’. I have listened to ‘Kiss’ countless times since, and now love it for the work of genius that it is, but I still haven’t really warmed to IWP1. The verses are weak and the movie references are jarring. All there really is is a chorus. But on the other hand, it is such a storming, epoch-defining chorus that it redeems the song. Am I right in thinking this would send parties and clubs wild with the requested demonstrations of wealth? I am sure I have read about that, though I never saw it. Eight feels about right to me. There is better to come from DC.

  10. 10
    Jonathan on 4 Jul 2015 #

    This is my favorite era of Beyonce (that is, if we are kind enough to extend an era from Writing’s On the Wall to “Irreplaceable”). It’s when she felt surprising rather than inevitable. And she was always surprising, even though I found more awe in “Jumpin Jumpin,” which was better, and “Survivor,” which was not.

    In re #4, I think the economic analysis of #7 might have to do with why, as absurd as it should be, I don’t find the Charlie’s Angels insert to be distracting. It’s a song about a specific time, and that movie was part of that time. The song evokes a time when that movie was something people cared about, and, voila, here are three people caring about the movie.

  11. 11
    flahr on 4 Jul 2015 #

    I’m 7 (er, in 2000, not now) and still basically hate music (I still basically hate music, probably, that’s why I love it so much), but as legally mandated (well, rather, legally heavily suggested) I went to primary school, and no primary school student can possibly avoid pop music.

    I remember “Say My Name” from the school playground. I remember the subsequent bunny from the school playground. But I don’t remember this at all, and this is the one that I’ve actually consciously listened to post-2000. I suppose the subject matter is not very Year 3.

    (NB ‘from the school playground’ =/= ‘in crude parody form’ in this one (well, these two) specific instances)

  12. 12
    Ronnie on 4 Jul 2015 #

    “Charlie’s Angels was a sharp, fun movie, one I remember with only fondness”

    Do your memories a favor and don’t watch it again, because you are one of a vanishing minority to call it “fun” and maybe the only person in history to call it “sharp.”

  13. 13
    Tom on 4 Jul 2015 #

    Ha, well, there’s a reason I’m not a film writer. Unmentioned in the review is that I saw it recovering from one of the worst hangovers of my life, which may have led me to exaggerate its qualities. It wasn’t THAT bad though, was it?

  14. 14
    Izzy on 4 Jul 2015 #

    I thought this was incredible at the time, and easily DC’s peak. The directness and economy of the lyric, the subtle groove of the backing, the anthemic hook (not that I can call it to mind right now, exactly).

    But it’s seemed thinner and thinner on subsequent listens, to my puzzlement. I’m still not sure why, maybe it *is* that elusive hook – or maybe it’s because others have since picked up those qualities and made better records; whereas nobody’s come close to doing the same to The Writing’s On The Wall. (7)

  15. 15
    thefatgit on 4 Jul 2015 #

    Is this the confirmation that Donna Summer was looking for when she covered Jon & Vangelis’ “State Of Independence” in 1982? In the time it takes for a baby to become a woman, “Independent Women Part 1” confirms that so much has been gained…at least on the face of it. Here we have some sisters celebrating doing it for themselves, but I still feel there’s a hollow ring to the triumphalism at the heart of this single. Obviously, Destiny’s Child was a product to be marketed in the same way that The Supremes had been when I was a mere baby. If Donna was singing about personal liberty; DC were all about business and money, and the freedoms that came with that.

    The future as yet unwritten, would never suggest the power that Beyonce wields today, but there was a clear Diana Ross comparison, with Kelly and Michelle as Flo and Mary, as Tom states. It was intentional. The four-piece was compelling. The three-piece was intoxicating.

    The film? Not bad as I recall. Charlie’s Angels rubbed shoulders with Dude, Where’s My Car and Scream 3 for shifting popcorn by the tonne. Lucy Liu, Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz were charming enough, but someone as old as me would remember Farrah, Kate and Jaclyn with no shortage of fondness.

    IWp1 is just another piece in the 21st Century jigsaw puzzle of pop. Another example of the dominance of Stateside R&B. It works on its own terms, even more than a means to shift popcorn at mulitplexes. But one can’t help but think that there are other Destiny’s Child singles a tad more deserving of #1 than this. (7)

  16. 16
    mapman132 on 4 Jul 2015 #

    Good to see you back, Tom!

    I was expecting this might be a 10 to the point I skipped ahead to the mark before reading the review, but I must’ve misinterpreted previous comments by Tom. I seem to remember him saying there was another 10 before the end of the year (2000? or 2015?). Still trying to figure out what…

    IW1 was the third and biggest of DC’s four US#1’s – 11 weeks at the top. I know a lot of people consider it their signature hit, but the film references (which I had forgotten about) really grate on me today, and I agree with those that think it dates and diminishes the song a bit. You can get away with that if a film is truly iconic but CA, which I admit I’ve never seen, falls well short. So 6/10 is about as high as I can go here.

  17. 17
    Tommy Mack on 5 Jul 2015 #

    I’m a sucker for songs that namecheck the band at the start (“Marco, Merrick…”) so I’ve always liked this, around a 7 sort of level. I’d probably rate it a bit higher but I’ve always been uncomfortable with exhortations to conspicuous consumption: “declare your independence…by perpetuating the system that seeks to weaken you”.

    If you wanted, you could read Charlie’s Angels as a metaphor for the pop industry: high-kicking female empowerment upfront, shady blokes pulling the strings behind the scenes. I think that’s a lazy alt-rock-dude reading of pop but there’s still something uncomfortable about the idea independence=buy your own jewels. During my teacher training, a group of female fellow student teachers (seriously smart, well-educated women) were discussing whether Katie Price was a good role model for girls because she’s made her own money, not just married a footballer. I said it was pretty patronising to women that they’d even have to consider the question: no-one asks if, for example, Dean Gaffney is a good role model for boys. The conversation then took a left turn into a discussion of how disgusting Dean Gaffney is.

  18. 18
    Shiny Dave on 5 Jul 2015 #

    #17 One of my friends (who at this point has just watched – and come close to being in – the first season of Big Brother) has met Katie Price. “She’s smarter than you think. Also very likeable. She plays up being thick, but she’s clever, an astute businesswoman, and has a fine line in the smart comeback.”

    For me, she pretty much epitomises what becomes a fork in the road of feminism – how do feminists interpret a strong-willed woman who carves out a career autonomously, but does so as very much a player in a patriarchal game? That is a legitimate question to which there are legitimately feminist arguments in each direction.

    This takes on its own distinct turn as women of colour and/or trans women do the same, frequently exposing racism and/or transphobia amongst some mainstream feminist commentators. Beyoncé has long been a lightning rod for this, and the video for the latest Rhianna single (which I’m expecting to be bunnied, and if so, I’m expecting Tom to refer to “Independent Women Part 1” when he reviews it in about 2023!) turned out to be perfect bait there too.

    In fact, between that and the recent #GiveYourMoneyToWomen hashtag from a few influential Twitter feminists – which has itself sparked debate within feminist Twitter, as I understand it – it strikes me that Tom managed to get to this record at the perfect time.

  19. 19
    mrdiscopop on 5 Jul 2015 #

    “Beyoncé, as she is happy to tell us, works astonishingly hard, but one of the things she works at is controlling her narrative.”

    So true. She’s the master of her own mythology (not that it’s uncommon – U2 and Prince are equally guilty).

    What I remember about the promotional campaign for the Survivor album was how much the band pushed the idea that Beyoncé was an incredible songwriter. She never said it herself, of course, she just smiled beatifically while Michelle and Kelly sang her praises.

    It was so effective that, until recently, I believed she had sole writing credits on this run of singles.

    Interesting side note: The tour to promote this record suffered a lengthy postponement after September 11, when many U.S. acts couldn’t get insurance to fly to Europe. Several acts scrapped entire tours, but DC made sure they came back – which shows that, however ruthless Beyoncė’s business persona can seem, she has an instinctive empathy with her audience.

  20. 20
    AMZ1981 on 5 Jul 2015 #

    Prior to this Destiny’s Child’s chart trajectory had been 5, 19, 15, 6, 9, 3, 5 so they were already seven singles in and not, by the standards of many chart acts of the time, overnight sensations. So when a connection to a much hyped film pushed this all the way I didn’t think anything of it at the time. Obviously with fifteen years hindsight this is arguably the most significant chart topper of the year.

    If I was marking this it would be a 6; I’ve got nothing against it but it’s not really my thing. I’ve always found Beyonce’s stuff a bit samey but then again I possibly wasn’t paying attention at the time.

    Going back to the early Destiny’s Child hits I’ve discovered something I’d completely forgotten. They also scored a minor (24) chart placing by guesting on She’s Gone by Matthew Marsden; at the time a former Emmerdale/ Coronation Street actor trying to carve out a pop career. Today the idea of Beyonce duetting with an actor from Coronation Street is only marginally less probable than the Queen and Prince Philip releasing a cover of Something Stupid for their platinum wedding anniversary in a couple of years time!

  21. 21
    Tom on 5 Jul 2015 #

    #18 not seen the video but I’d be astonished if BBHMM was bunnied – mainly because it’s been kicking around the charts and playlists for most of this year without risking becoming a massive hit. I really like the record and it would have more character than most of this year’s bunnies but I just can’t see it.

  22. 22
    lonepilgrim on 5 Jul 2015 #

    had my early 80s self been transported Marty McFly style to the year 2000 I would have needed no convincing that this was the sound of the new millennium. Ultra-precise beats and synthesised tones fronted by hyper-confident women of colour asserting their independence suggest a glossy utopia – but with their independence evidenced by their ability to buy things there was the suggestion that this was not a sustainable future.
    It’s a measure of how much I like this that I have disappeared down a Youtube rabbit hole over the last week or so and while it may not be their best (or at least my favourite) its still pretty good.

  23. 23
    Mark M on 5 Jul 2015 #

    I had been totally thrilled by the Writing On The Walls singles – to go beyond Ed (#9), I think Jumpin’ Jumpin’ and Bug-a-Boo were possible my favourites, although I love them all. This felt somewhat less astonishing, although I still like it – especially the ‘Question:’ device. I’m definitely keener on it than the singles immediately after.

    Charlie’s Angels I remember as being not particularly good. I don’t think the Barrymore/Diaz/Liu trio was particularly good combination and the balance between comedy and action wasn’t quite right. The main excitement in the critical circles I moved in was a mainstream outing for Crispin Glover. But at least as movie adaptations of Aaron Spelling glamorous-detective shows go, it was a hell of a lot better than The Mod Squad.

  24. 24
    Chelovek na lune on 5 Jul 2015 #

    “Jumpin’ Jumpin’ would have been a breathtaking number 1.

    This is merely pretty damn good – sassy, confident, assertive – the message and the performance really puts the Spice Girls in the shade when it comes to promoting realistic notions of “girl power” (something that the recent somewhat poor and final Spicers no 1, which seemed to have been cast in a pale and obvious imitation of “The Writing’s On The Wall” style, makes all the more clear).

    Possibly the greater willingness in US culture to talk about material realities, rather than the embarrassed class-ridden preference that leads one often to avoid mentioning money or even hinting at the topic in England is one reason for the difference (I think there are other reasons for DC’s greater solidity and confidence, some of which are touched on explicitly in their future bunny) – but the list of “achievements” and “purchasers” and “earnings” on IW, well, is a rather more substantive and to my mind admirable manifesto than “if you wanna be my lover, you’ve gotta get with my friends” – although perhaps DC had already covered than in “Say My Name”. Women of colour, too, note, without the immensely questionable need for any of them to be labelled as “scary, either”. And the film tie-in references in the lyrics….well, allow DC to get away with being both DC themselves and the characters alluded to, again backing up the message of the song.

    It’s not quite a 10 – it’s not epoch-defining (but maybe if the film had been….), the song does not quite catch fire (Jumpin’ Jumpin’ certainly did that, over and over again, Bills Bills Bills managed to do so too,at its “I don’t think you do” payoff), but IW is powerful, convincing, and plausible, solid, chunky, and, for all that, it seemed like an enormous step forward from the quite brilliant previous album (one step that the forthcoming album didn’t quite fulfil – but we have a later chance to discuss that too).

    But yeah, hell yeah, this is a fine thing. 9

  25. 25
    Inanimate Carbon God on 5 Jul 2015 #

    I’m surprised any wily old sage hasn’t piped up and said “This [cover] was the most interesting thing Elbow ever did….” :)

  26. 26
    Ed on 5 Jul 2015 #

    Another data point that may be relevant to economically focused R&B: the gap between men’s and women’s earnings was then – and still is – smaller among African-Americans than for any other group in the US.

    In 2013 African-American women earned on average 91% of African-American men’s earnings, while non-Hispanic white women earned just 78% of white men’s earnings.

    (Source: http://www.aauw.org/2014/09/18/gender-pay-gap/)

    In other words, there is much greater equality in earnings between men and women for African-Americans than for white people.

    You can’t take this idea too far. Black women on average still earn less than two-thirds (64%) as much as white men.

    But I still wonder if that economic reality helped inspire the wave of financially assertive songs sung by women. As Tom has mentioned, No Scrubs and Bills Bills Bills were the anecdotal, observational reflections of the trend. Independent Women turns them into a manifesto.

  27. 27
    Phil on 5 Jul 2015 #

    I hated this so much. And still do, apparently – I tried playing the video, but only got as far as the first “All the women” before I had to close the window.

    Explaining why would probably involve a long disquisition on 1970s feminism (with & to some extent in which I grew up) and I’m not really up to that right now. Let’s just say that when other people are oppressing you and treating you as a thing, treating yourself as a thing and then defying the oppression is problematic – and that, in terms of power dynamics, there’s a big difference between woman/man and star/fan. Women telling men to piss off is, more often than not, a good thing – but Beyonce looking like, well, Beyonce, and telling men in general to piss off, is something other than radical or empowering. (‘Spectacular’ would be one word.)

    No score, because I can’t get away from the feeling that – however well they do it – what they’re doing here is a bad thing.

  28. 28
    Tommy Mack on 5 Jul 2015 #

    But Beyonce saying to girls ‘I’m cool because I don’t need a man to buy me these things’ is better than saying ‘I’m cool because I’m pretty so I can get a man’, no? I’m dubious about any celebration of consumerism as empowerment* cos I think it’s one step away from a Nike commercial but I don’t think Beyonce’s being antifeminist in saying Independent Women buy their own jewels, just very American.

    *mind you, I’d reckon a lot of DC’s audience were teenagers and when you’re young, it DOES feel empowering when you first get a job and can buy your own stuff so there’s a degree of empathy going on here.

  29. 29
    JoeWiz on 5 Jul 2015 #

    Ah, Miss Knowles. Welcome.
    I’d been completely unaware of Writings on the Wall,
    the singles weren’t quite big enough hits to register, so this was my first exposure to Destiny’s Child. I hated it then and quite like it now. With hindsight, it’s far inferior to much of WOTW, but the opening is sleek and smooth enough to draw you in, and sounds pretty contemporary. Obviously the film references lose that contemporary nature, and the chorus is a bit of an empty mish mash of call and response, but this sounds pretty good still to me. Rowland really was the secret weapon, her voice would’ve been good enough to lead most other groups, but her presence in the videos is oddly mesmeric, you can’t quite take your eyes off her sharp poses and attitude smiles. Maybe it’s just me.
    I think Beyoncé turned out to be one of our most precious popstars, there’s a few clues why in here.
    Oh, and Lucy Liu is excellent in ‘Elementary’.

  30. 30
    Phil on 5 Jul 2015 #

    #28 – the moment you get a job (particularly your first job, particularly as a teenager) you’re making yourself dependent on other people’s approval & surrendering any control over most of your waking hours. You can repress that knowledge and take a defiant pride in suppressing your own independence and managing your own disempowerment – and God knows lots of people do – but that attitude doesn’t really make sense, and it certainly isn’t radical or progressive in any way.

    I think the message of this song & video is precisely anti-feminist, inasmuch as it celebrates the self-discipline of sexual display & the elitism of bling. If DC looked remotely like their audience it’d be a very different statement – and wouldn’t have worked in the same way. (Although it could still have worked in a different way, as we’ll see in a 2002 bunny.)

  31. 31
    Tom on 6 Jul 2015 #

    One of the things I find consistently interesting about Beyoncé (I’d class myself as a casual fan, FWIW) is her ability to sell aesthetically positions that make me squirm a bit, or a lot, politically. More on that next time.

  32. 32
    Jonathan on 6 Jul 2015 #

    There’s limits to the extent capitalism functions as a force for empowerment, but as well as reading this in feminist terms, the song should be understood within the long African American history of seeing economic justice as being as fundamental to being liberated from white supremacy as civil rights are. I feel like there is real empowerment to “the house I live in — I bought it” in an America removed from redlining only by decades.

  33. 33
    Izzy on 6 Jul 2015 #

    30: I’m bewildered by the sentiment that employment = disempowerment. What does radical and progressive have to offer that’s any better?

  34. 34
    Phil on 6 Jul 2015 #

    Not a sentiment so much as a statement of fact, particularly at the lower end of the scale. Sure, at the end of the week you’ll have money in your pocket – hurrah – but for the next three hours you’re going to be stacking those shelves, and you’re going to do it with a smile. Taking pride in doing a good job under conditions like those strikes me as very much the same mentality as taking pride in being beaten and not crying out – you’re disciplining yourself, internalising the boss’s role.

    The radical alternative is working for a living – but reluctantly, in the knowledge that you’re being exploited and (the fun part) while taking opportunities to slack off, chat, leave early etc. Collectively, of course. The first time I heard Friday referred to as Poets Day, the speaker was older than me & senior within the workplace.

    FWIW, #GiveYourMoneyToWomen also makes me want to bang my head against something. The logic seems to be “I put a lot of work into looking this good for your benefit – pay me for my time!” The radical (and straightforwardly feminist) alternative to this one being to refuse to do all that work in the first place. Collectively, of course.

  35. 35
    Tom on 6 Jul 2015 #

    This makes setting up ILX – which we once calculated had cost the UK economy several million pounds thanks to its potential for workplace distraction – by some distance the most radical action I have ever been involved in.

  36. 36
    Tommy Mack on 6 Jul 2015 #

    “The radical alternative is working for a living – but reluctantly, in the knowledge that you’re being exploited and (the fun part) while taking opportunities to slack off, chat, leave early etc.”

    Don’t think much of this new Sleaford Mods single, it doesn’t even rhyme ;-)

  37. 37
    JLucas on 6 Jul 2015 #

    The first shot of Beyoncé in this video finds her sitting at the head of a conference table. She’s flanked by her bandmates, but her centralised position makes it clear who the CEO is of this particular corporation.

    It tells you everything you need to know about the dynamic of the group, obviously, but it’s also a decent metaphor for Beyonce’s position as perhaps the most self-possessed pop icon of our time. Other pop stars have displayed a keen instinct for controlling their images – Madonna being the most oft-cited example – but none have succeeded in climbing to such heights while appearing to give so little of themselves in the process.

    Because after all, even fifteen years on from this record, what do we really know about Beyonce Knowles? You won’t find her giving tearful confessional interviews, battling substance abuse or writing overtly personal lyrics. Vulnerability is not her M.O. Her signature hits are rallying cries, her slower moments determinedly non-specific. More often than not, they’re framed in markedly businesslike terms. Take ‘Irreplaceable’ – a surprising non-bunny from 2006. It’s a classic pop kiss-off, but the lyrics could as easily be addressed to a terminated employee as a spurned lover.

    Much of this will be more relevant to future entries, but the seeds for what was to come can be found here. The Writing’s On The Wall era took the group into the stratosphere, but the double lineup change was a PR nightmare that threatened to derail the group at their moment of triumph. For the first and only time, Beyonce was in danger of looking unprofessional.

    On the other hand, the slimmed down trio that emerged on Independent Women made it all the easier to position her as the de facto leader of the group. She was careful to be more generous to her co-stars than Diana Ross had been – Kelly and Michelle at least got a line or two to sing solo on most of their major hits – but this is the moment when even the most casual pop pundits come to learn her name.

    Interestingly, almost at the exact moment that she finally becomes undeniably famous, her public image is already beginning to calcify into the titanium-plated facade she presents today. Pre-IW interviews show a much more unguarded young woman, clearly very much the leader of the group, but not quite as secure in the role. Youtube is awash with footage from this time of her contradicting her bandmates on-camera and occasionally actively shutting down lines of conversation that threaten to go off-script. Diplomacy is a learned skill, and with the rogue elements of her group discarded, Beyonce shortly becomes the mistress of more subtle means of controlling her narrative. You’ll have to search very hard to spot any cracks in her armour from this point on.

  38. 38
    thefatgit on 6 Jul 2015 #

    #34 I’ve been doing that for 20 years, and so has my colleague. Nobody has noticed a thing.

  39. 39
    Tommy Mack on 6 Jul 2015 #

    #34, #38: It’s quite depressing though, no? Whenever I’ve found myself in that mindset (most jobs I’ve had) I’ve always just thought ‘if I don’t enjoy this job enough to do it really well, why don’t I quit and do something I care about?’ To that end, I’d just got enough freelance work and eased into a regular writing schedule when Mrs Mack started getting broody…ho hum, the struggle continues (actually parenthood is the one time I’ve found myself gladly undertaking drudgery – even in my band I’d pay roadies to carry the gear if we were making more money, I don’t think I’d want a nanny changing baby Mack’s nappies for me and handing her over ready for scheduled cuddling)

  40. 40
    Andrew Farrell on 6 Jul 2015 #

    Phil, you seem to be discussing some Lapsarian Fall, or as we know it Autumn – first job, new year at college, new year at school – the hand of the Man making you do things you don’t want to has been fairly well embedded by the time of your first paycheck – the difference is that now this results in things you can exchange for goods and services.

    You’ve also, for reasons I really can’t fathom, generated some opposition between “I am happy that my job pays me money” and “I am not very professional”. The fact that most people can resolve these pretty easily is (as Tom suggests) embedded in the very code you are viewing right now.

  41. 41

    I rewatched Charlie’s Angels properly last night, as it’s a film I generally (half)watch when it comes on, and feel I’m enjoying — and I was a bit surprised by the murking it was getting here.

    OK, it’s no masterpiece, or any kind of an important film (its director has made nothing of interest since, including the follow-up iirc) (haha McG!). But it’s definitely funny and self-aware — the three leads are all accomplished physical comediennes, Bill Murray is Bill Murray. The opening sequence is terrific (inc.good cameo from LLCoolJ) (for it is he); the closing battle is also pretty good*; and the Mission Impossible-esque heist in the middle, with Diaz and Barrymore in male drag and Liu posing as an efficiency consultant-stroke-dominatrix beating up on the geeks is excellent (once you get past a slightly clumsy anticipatory exposition set-up)

    It definitely doesn’t hang together — the leads tend to be at their best in their solo scenes (heist sequence excepted), and as a result it’s never more and sometimes less than the sum of its parts. The tell being that there’s a few too many dud reaction shots in the ensemble scenes (some of them looking a bit perfunctory, as if the Angels don’t actually find each other hilarious as performers and have to fake it a bit?) (this is a drawn-out of way of agreeing with Mark M that it definitely lacks a crucial bit of chemistry)

    It’s largely quick-witted and non-awful about several of the things that could have tanked it: first and foremost the manifold contradictory varieties of feminism and girl-power being called on (and the fact that they can’t coexist in real life, only in this absurd cartoon)**; and to a lesser extent the never-not-dodgy othering exoticism of this mode of film (= the spy thriller which with or without comedy elements is forever careening through mosques and temples and endless stereotypes of this or that picturesque or sexy or ‘sinister’ aspect of the cultures of others, more often than not blowing them to pieces)***

    it has a scatter of genuinely good laugh-out-loud lines (but yes, could do with many more)

    Curry (being massaged by Liu): “You’re very good with your hands. I could use someone like you on my staff.”
    Liu (as cold as only she etc): “Thanks for the offer but my hands aren’t going anywhere near your staff.”

    (This is unfortunately immediately wrecked by the toe-curling ‘Turning Japanese’ geisha cosplay scene that follows: it’s true that the hand-me-down Orientalism is the Curry character’s fetish, and they’re playing along to infiltrate and defeat, but it’s still crass) (also I hate that song) (on the whole the S/T is very very good)

    It’s clearly better than any of the Bonds of the 80s-90s-00s-10s (in fact, as a major non-Bond fan, I’d say the only reason it can’t be judged better than EVERY Bond is that it requires them to have existed to have set up the tropes it largely depends on); it’s better than any of the Mission: Impossibles (Ethan Hunt what a hem hem bore) (actually I think I haven’t seen them all, maybe there’s a Sudden Hidden Gem); it’s of course not as deliriously inventive as the first two Austin Powers movies (though it is — arguably — a bit tighter and less self-indulgent); obviously it’s no Spy Kids and is merely dwarfed by The Powerpuff Girls ****… but then what isn’t?

    *it’s lower stakes maybe than such climaxes usually are, but this is because it also has to sustain the comedy bubbles of the four main leads
    **viz that women can be strong and sexy and vulnerable and deft and technically deft and knowledgable (barrymore the scrabble fiend and anagrammatician; diaz as bird-fancier) and violent-when-needed and kind and etc etc, all the time all at once with immense dizzy gusto (ok liu is never dizzy). Interesting too on the politics of the kinds of BFs an Angel will have, or be interested in. The Barrymore bad-girl subplot’s a bit of a mess here, but this is more a problem with her love interest than her (I don’t actually mean the Tom Green character — I know some people are entirely allergic to him in all forms, but I actually think there’s something quite charming and plausible between his and Barrymore’s relationship, a spark maybe based on the fact that they were newly married at the time and she fought to get him cast) (if you loathe this section I won’t hold it against you, but I liked it)… anyway, the idea of each Angel have a kind of Boz-alike as a BF, a guy who just gets on with his own life and is pleased and proud of Angel accomplishment, is a tidy enough way of handling a potentially derailing element

    ***so that the scene where diaz innocently dances through the soul train line, winning an all-black club clientele from ferocious side-eye to amused approval, is definitely played for its self-mocking absurdity — and to be honest probably doesn’t quite leapfrog the WTF element to this (inherited) trope
    ****as so often (powerpuff girls always excepted) the villains are weak: crispin glover is thrown away, tim curry is as awful as ever, and the primary masterminds [no spoilers] are just super-dull — there’s something interestingly prescient about the notion of tech-geek millionaires as wrong ‘uns (this can’t be the first film it surfaces in) but then this swerves into a plot based in backstory related to the charlie’s angels own classic set-up (which is of course a colossal millstone — the non-presence of charlie was at best a practical repeat framing device in the original, tho the self-destructing spool in mission impossible was always much better — as soon as you start making knowing jokes about charlie as an actual real person or folding his life into the plot at some kind of would-be heart-tugging level, it’s obviously a dud)

  42. 42
    Phil on 6 Jul 2015 #

    The knowledge that you’re being exploited is only depressing if you don’t fight it – or if you’re the only one fighting it (in which case your coworkers will just think you’re a slacker). A workplace where everyone – or everyone who isn’t actively trying to get promotion – fairly regularly starts late, finishes early or goes to the pub at lunchtime (or all three) is a happy workplace. I’m not at all convinced it’s less productive, either. As for professionalism, I believe – or rather, I know from personal experience – that it’s entirely possible to hit deadlines, keep colleagues and clients satisfied, produce a high-quality end product and generally do a bang-up job, while slacking off for part of the day. You just need to be organised about it.

    Having said that, I spent the first twelve years of my working life trying to get out of jobs where the main pleasure was a long lunch break and into one that I would actually enjoy doing, which at the time meant journalism* (it now means academia). I haven’t done a job I hated since 1995.

    *You probably won’t have noticed my byline, as I recklessly flouted rules 1-3 of Getting Anywhere In Journalism – Move to London, Go to Parties and Meet People. I had a crack at 2 and 3, admittedly – I had a long chat with Andrew O’Hagan who seemed genuinely interested! Martin Jacques addressed me by name, and we hadn’t even been introduced! – but doing it from Manchester was tough.

  43. 43

    adding: even as a hormonal teen, i thought the original charlie’s angels was annoying rubbish — the film is much much much better, and sadly inherits its primary plot weakness by pandering to misconceived fondness for the original

    (obviously it wouldn’t exist at all if not for this misconceived fondness, but they didn’t think their way through this problem)

  44. 44
    katherine on 6 Jul 2015 #

    No comments on Independent Women (Part 2)? People tend to forget it exists as it’s an album track that samples Willy Wonka and the tie-in caused some fuzziness in terms of what is in fact Part 2, but all the “is Beyonce feminist? Well?!? WELL???” discussions should have been pre-empted by that track long ago. It outright goes “if you’re independent I congratulate you — if you AIN’T IN LOVE, I congratulate you.” That blew my mind as a kid.

  45. 45
    katstevens on 6 Jul 2015 #

    The early DC singles were huge for us lot – I was still indie-snob-extreme but even I liked singing along (or attempting to, at least) to Bills Bills Bills and Say My Name in the car. I also loved Charlie’s Angels to the maxx, especially the ridiculous Smack My Bitch Up fight scene, so full of ham you could start a deli counter. But Independent Woman Part 1 is probably my… fifth(?) fave single of theirs – how in any universe is it better than GET ON THE BUS? (28 years old I was Stew etc)

  46. 46
    Susanna on 6 Jul 2015 #

    Reading through these comments makes me wonder – what proportion of the commenters on this site are women? I get the feeling that it’s largely male (as it also seems to be at Popjustice) but it’s hard to tell from usernames alone. It seems interesting that a lot of current writing about pop music – which is very often associated with young women – is being done by men. Or am I just not looking in the right places?

    As for this song – I was 25 in 2000, and by my own standards, an independent woman – I certainly bought my own shoes and watches. Re-listening to this song now brings back vague recollections of feeling puzzled, back in 2000, that the song defined female empowerment as earning money and buying things. I certainly didn’t know many women who aspired to find a man to support them financially, which seems to be what this song is railing against. However, I didn’t own a house or a car (and still don’t, and quite possibly never will), so I probably don’t pass the Destiny’s Child Independent Woman Test in any case.

    It’s a likable song, and the Charlie’s Angels inserts don’t bother me – I never saw the film so there are no good or bad associations to come with them. It’s not one I’ve ever felt compelled to listen to though – if I’m in the mood for Destiny’s Child I’d either go back to the earlier singles mentioned, or to the later ‘Lose My Breath’, my fave of theirs. I’d give Independent Women a 6 or 7 I think.

  47. 47
    Andrew Farrell on 6 Jul 2015 #

    “As for professionalism, I believe – or rather, I know from personal experience – that it’s entirely possible to hit deadlines, keep colleagues and clients satisfied, produce a high-quality end product and generally do a bang-up job, while slacking off for part of the day. You just need to be organised about it.”

    Yes, we know – everyone knows. That’s what’s called “a job”. But that’s orthogonal to “I have my first job and I’m happy because I’m getting paid”.

  48. 48
    Andrew Farrell on 6 Jul 2015 #

    Susanna – I won’t defend FT, but a decent start on the right places would be http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com (which is not historically short of FT contributors, but a while back had a specific diversity drive in a way that wouldn’t really suit FT).

  49. 49
    Tom on 6 Jul 2015 #

    #46 “Horribly low” is the answer to your question, unfortunately. A handful of regulars, a few more occasionals, but the brutal truth is the ratio is probably 1:10 for commenters. Dreadful. And as the guy writing it, and as such steering the comments discussion, I have to take the blame for that. It’s especially embarrassing because Popular wouldn’t and couldn’t exist in its current form without inspiration from an enormous list of women writers who I’ve read or followed online for years, on alt.music.alternative, ILM, LiveJournal and especially Tumblr.

    The good news is there is a lot of very good writing about current pop around right now by women. As well as what seems to me gradually increasing numbers of women writing about it professionally, the non-professional sector – from the Singles Jukebox to Tumblr projects like One Week One Band – is trying very hard to spotlight women. Like Andrew says, TSJ is a good place to start: find a byline you like, and the chances are she’ll be writing elsewhere, paid or not.

  50. 50
    Andrew Farrell on 6 Jul 2015 #

    Also this will probably be the best place (not just for Phil-trolling) to say that it’s a shame we won’t get to discuss anything from Josie and the Pussycats.

  51. 51
    Susanna on 6 Jul 2015 #

    Thank you Tom and Andrew Farrell! Following both on Tumblr now. (I did used to follow One Week One Band but had unfollowed for some reason).

    I had started to wonder whether women in general feel disinclined to blog about pop due to the fact that many women face ridicule for their taste in music – especially as teens – if it leans in the chart pop direction, especially boy bands etc. I am glad to find that this seems not to be the case! I may have a go myself once I’ve finished with my infernal PhD. (I very, very briefly had a chart commentary site of my own back in 1996, called ‘Straight In At Number One… Again’ which I thought was the height of wit at the time.)

  52. 52
    katstevens on 6 Jul 2015 #

    Maybe I should start a new Tumblr about ‘Get On The Bus’ #nevernotreadyforthisjelly

  53. 53
    Ronnie on 6 Jul 2015 #

    I… really don’t like this song.

    Part of it is that Beyonce is still very young and I think she’s a very callow singer up until her first solo album, and if we meet her on this blog before then I’ll have the opportunity to expound because “Independent Women” starts what I consider the worst phase in Beyonce’s career.

    As for celebrating “independence,” I can only think of this song and others like it (Ne-Yo’s “Miss Independent” especially) as propaganda, similar to celebrating women who don’t smoke and stay in school.

    It doesn’t help that every time I try to remember this song, I think of the far more memorable “Jumpin Jumpin” instead. 4

  54. 54
    pink champale on 7 Jul 2015 #

    It seems ike a lot of you here, I was a bit disappointed after WOTW’s Dispatches from our Cyborg Future to get something that was, well, just a very good record. But it is a very good record. I think my favourite incarnation is the 2many DJs Dreadlock Holiday mash-up – the two songs’ breakdowns chiming together perfectly makes my spirits lift every time.
    @51 – It’s depressing how early the default assumption that any cultural product that is aimed at or liked by women is contemptable kicks in. there’s now clearly a massive playground backlash against Frozen to the extent that my six year old daughter and her friends all vie with each other to say how much they hate it, only occaisionally allowing themselves to admit that actually they don’t. you never see the same thing with all the rubbish my son likes (except the general thng of hating something once it’s seen as babyish of course).
    I’m another forty-something bloke btw. and I sometimes slack off at work, but don’t really think that means I’m sticking it to the man.

  55. 55
    Tommy Mack on 13 Jul 2015 #

    So I listened to WOTW, damn that’s some good stuff. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed the ‘automo-bills’ wordplay of Bills, Bills, Bills. The pile-up of petty frustrations seems very relatable too. Fair play for starting with a skit that’s actually funny for once, I don’t know why but ‘Beyonce Corleone’ made me laugh out loud. I like the idea of it being a concept album about relationship rules too.

    I’d never properly listened to the lyrics of Say My Name before, I always thought it was ‘acting kind of shady, keep calling me baby’ so Say My Name meant treat me like an individual, not your baby, rather than ‘aint calling me baby’ [because you’ve most likely got another woman there], such a recognisable situation, I’m surprised no-one wrote about it before.

    The album must have been a deluxe reissue cos it had IW parts 1 and 2 tacked on the end. I think I prefer pt2: more spiky, lyrically and musically. Sounds like they wrote that first then rehashed a less uncompromising version for the Charlie’s Angels tie in. Though pt1. is still fairly rousing, fiscal cynicism aside. Interesting that Tom mentioned Gang Of Four, I remember reading (in Simon Reynolds’ Rip It Up And Start Again iirc) someone possibly one of GoF themselves) criticising the scene around the band for their brand of feminism where ‘women became harder and drier like the men, men didn’t become softer and gentler like women’ (a sexist statement in itself no doubt) Seems plenty of people here are accusing DC of peddling a similar line here: women can compete with men, but only on male terms, being a baller, a player, a money maker.

  56. 56
    Ed on 13 Jul 2015 #

    @55 Haha yes I always had the same mishearing of ‘Say My Name’. I think I still prefer our original version, TBH.

  57. 57
    Mark M on 13 Jul 2015 #

    Re55/56: Likewise.

  58. 58
    Tommy Mack on 13 Jul 2015 #

    55/56/57 My first instinct is to say ‘ha, I was right’ but I’m loathe to start a game of Men Telling Women How They Should Be Doing Feminism. The argument for the recorded version compared to our mishearing is in the pragmatic outlook Tom mentions: as men we have the luxury of engaging with feminism in the abstract or at least in the third person. If you’re on the wrong end of dudes’ dickbaggery ‘prove to me that you’re not cheating’ might well be a more pressing concern than ‘stop undermining my autonomy in pernicious, probably unintentional ways’

    None of which should obscure the fact that in the court of public opinion I AM A BETTER FEMINIST THAN BEYONCE. And probably more bootylicious too. In fact Beyonce’s dad picking her over me to be lead singer of Destiny’s Child just proves how ridden with corruption and nepotism the music business is.

  59. 59
    Andrew on 14 Jul 2015 #

    #55 yes, there was a re-release with IW. The first edition of the album had included a bonus CD with No No No Part 2, meaning there were versions of the album featuring singles from their preceding and following albums.

  60. 60
    Tom on 14 Jul 2015 #

    #55-58: Don’t worry lads, there is a mid-00s number one which will satisfy your need for a song addressing this point (unless I misheard that, not unlikely since at the time I completely hated it).

    Actually the misreading opens the door to an even soapier interpretation of the “he’s cheating” idea which doesn’t also require you to ignore the entire rest of the song. Say the woman he’s with knows full well he already has a regular girlfriend, but doesn’t know who she is – so he “keeps calling me baby” rather than her actual name: enough to raise the singer’s suspicions. But why not use her name? Because the woman there with him IS THE SINGERS BEST FRIEND ZOMG.

    It makes you wish Destiny’s Child had had the idea to do Trapped In The Closet.

  61. 61
    Ed on 15 Jul 2015 #

    So on your reading, the boyfriend has another girlfriend who is relaxed about the idea that he’s already attached, but would be horrified if she realised his other girlfriend was her own best friend?

    Next version: when he rings her, she realises the call is coming from inside the house…

    BTW, haven’t we already come across something quite like our misheard version, from Madison Avenue?

  62. 62
    Tommy Mack on 15 Jul 2015 #

    And then we discover his mistress, er, Tylera Durden was Beyonce’s wild alter ego all along. But only after she’d cut his knob off for cheating.

    Too much?

  63. 63
    Tommy Mack on 16 Jul 2015 #

    #62: clearly I should have said Sasha Fierce!

  64. 64
    Mark M on 16 Jul 2015 #

    Just heard – on Vintage TV revisits 1980 – Sheena Easton’s 9 To 5 (or Morning Train, as we knew it on the other side of the Atlantic) for the first time in years. Jesus Christ. It’s one thing to go, ‘I’m only really alive when you’re with me’ (which is of course the standard romantic gunk of thousands of songs and films*) but quite another to bring in the notion of the working day, so that the narrator’s life is by her own account meaningless specifically while her bloke is off earning a crust. And this is sung in a buoyant, even celebratory manner. What I’m saying is it puts the criticisms above of IW, Pt1 and its capitalist/materialist version of feminism into some kind of relief, at least for me.

    *Eg, ‘I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.’ from one of my favourite movies, In A Lonely Place.

  65. 65
    Ed on 16 Jul 2015 #

    @64 True. But you could also compare it to Dolly Parton’s own blistering ‘9 to 5’, released the same year.

    I wonder if she had heard Easton.

  66. 66
    Mark M on 16 Jul 2015 #

    Re65: Nice idea, but timing and the fact that Parton’s song was written for the movie of the same name, which she starred in, suggests not.

    I’m aware that Easton’s song was shockingly retrograde by the standards of its own time, not just from a later perspective.

  67. 67
    Phil on 16 Jul 2015 #

    #65 – or “Car Wash” four years before that.

    SE’s 9 To 5 was a weird little 50s throwback; remember the NTNN sketch?

  68. 68
    Ed on 17 Jul 2015 #

    @67 I don’t think Car Wash quite fits: it’s about the fun of working in a low-wage manual job. “The boss don’t mind sometimes if you act the fool”.

    That’s very different from Parton’s scathing critique of the way women’s energy and intelligence is exploited under patriarchal capitalism. The singer’s “cup of ambition” is revealed as a delusion, a sign of the false consciousness inherent even in white-collar employment:

    It’s a rich man’s game
    No matter what they call it
    And you spend your life
    Putting money in his wallet

    That could, again, have come straight from a contemporary Gang of Four album, except that Parton’s lyrics are more observant and more pointed.

  69. 69
    Tommy Mack on 17 Jul 2015 #

    Dolly Parton was the original Sleaford Mod.

  70. 70
    Phil on 17 Jul 2015 #

    I mentioned Car Wash because it’s about a woman going out to work. It certainly doesn’t have the class consciousness of Dolly Parton’s song – something which I think is much more normal in country music than soul/R&B (though there are probably counter-examples aplenty).

  71. 71
    Pink champale on 18 Jul 2015 #

    And tying things up nicely, the Independent Woman / Dreadlock Holiday mashup I mentioned up thread segues on the album into…. Dolly doing 9 to 5.

  72. 72
    speedwell54 on 7 Nov 2015 #

    Independent Woman Part 1 was the 43rd simultaneous UK and US No1 hit single.

    In November 2015 ‘Hello’ by Adele has become the 71st, and we also have a simultaneous No2 hit single with ‘Sorry’ by Justin Bieber.

    Three of the next four places on the chart are shared singles (“but not necessarily in the right order”) Drake, Weeknd and Bieber again.
    Has there ever been such a transatlantic similarity?

  73. 73
    Ed on 7 Nov 2015 #

    That is interesting.

    Is it the homogenisation and end of local idiosyncrasies that we were promised as a consequence of the internet?

    The most distinctively British song in the charts for the rest of the year will be ‘Half the World Away’, of course. Because America doesn’t have John Lewis.

  74. 74
    mapman132 on 8 Nov 2015 #

    I noticed this too.

    FWIW, the last US #1 to not reach the UK top 5 was “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson three years ago. It reached #8. The last US #1 to not chart in the UK at all was “Buy U A Drank” by T-Pain eight years ago. It is still common for UK #1’s to not reach the US, but less so than it used to be.

    The US and UK had/have the same top song of the year in 2012, 2014, and so far 2015. They probably would’ve been the same in 2013 if Billboard had used the calendar year rather than “chart year” that ends in November. 2011 saw different top singles, but they were by the same artist.

    We’re probably at the greatest point of convergence since at least the 80’s, and maybe ever.

  75. 75
    Billy Hicks on 14 Nov 2015 #

    ‘Hello’ and ‘Sorry’ are also respectively #1 and #2 in Australia, which makes it three countries if not more with the same top two.

  76. 76
    speedwell54 on 14 Nov 2015 #

    RE Ed@73.

    I agree with the internet theory, this and other events have contrived to lead us here. The internet undoubtedly eases simultaneous promotion, release dates, and access to stream/download/purchase.

    The current situation is a perfect storm and I guess it will not be a frequent occurrence that two such huge international artists (in this case, both at the peak of their careers thus far ?) will release singles at the same time.

    A lack of a (inter)national soundtrack single, a ‘X Factor’ type track, or a really strong home grown release, has really cleared the path.

    You could argue poor timing from the Bieber camp. ‘Sorry’ has missed out on multiple No1s. So far he has only made it in Sweden and Denmark, and they do kind of like him in Denmark. (‘Sorry” is his eighth No1)

    At least they have managed to get Bieber’s album out a week before Adele’s’25’ lands.
    How many countries will have the Adele/Bieber No1/No2 in the album charts in a fortnight?

    Billy@75 I see your Australia and raise you Denmark, Spain, Finland, Italy, Norway, New Zealand, Netherlands, and Ireland.

  77. 77
    Ed on 14 Nov 2015 #

    Even more shocking: that identical US and UK top 5 of Adele, Bieber, Drake, Weeknd and Bieber again has no Americans in it!

    No US Americans, anyway.

    It’s the Commonwealth Invasion.

  78. 78
    Ed on 14 Nov 2015 #

    (Trying there to shoehorn Adele into what is basically a Canadian takeover.)

  79. 79
    Gareth Parker on 31 May 2021 #

    Sorry, not for me, lyrically cliched and I find the constant “Question” interludes extremely irritating. 3/10 is my score.

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