Beyoncé comes off like a barely sentient but cohesive and rational human being in real life. Too much so for a star of her stature. Her reserve of crazy is far from bottomless, and she seems to save it all for her music videos, and I love her for that. I still get prickly flesh when I think of the rage she exudes in “Ring the Alarm,” a performance that in four minutes should have earned her a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in scenery-swallowing. Her far more successful clip for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” was a TRON-ier merger between (wo)man and machine than an entire soundtrack's worth of Daft Punk. And she buoyed her somewhat stagflating reputation last year with a monumentally outré double-dip in Lady Gaga's Petri dish.
The move, as it turns out, may have been somewhat defensive, an acknowledgment that “If you can't beat them, split the bill with them.” At this point, there's no question B's bonkers blandishments have been pushed off the Freudian couch by Gaga's pathologically self-medicating id-cum-self-esteem pusher. She returns to the ring with “Run the World (Girls)” already on the ropes, thanks to the single's shockingly weak chart performance. Somewhat predictably, the video is more an arsenal than—as compared to “Single Ladies”—a tactical assault, and it's held together only by Beyoncé's will to power. It's awesome in distressingly fragmented ways. With that in mind, here are some of the random thoughts I had watching the clip:
0:05: This song's opening still sounds so much like Future Sound of London, only now it sounds hopelessly retro.
0:07: Is that a mural of Beyoncé…or Grace Jones?
0:19: Oh good, B's going to ride that bull.
0:31: The longer they hold this pose, the more I think it's an outtake from the MST3K'd non-classic Warrior of the Lost World.
0:35: The way her sunrising face shifts from unsuccessful menace to unconvincing benevolence: That's what I love about Beyoncé.
0:50: Beyoncé's choreography opens by shruggingly admitting, “I don't know.”
1:05: How does someone with a penis (as B's two male dancers evidently do) qualify for this army of girls? How would they prove their allegiance?
1:12: Oh, looks like being able to move their bodies without using their heads is part of the initiation.
1:23: And now we're cutting their heads off completely. Andrea Dworkin couldn't have planned this better.
1:32: B's in her comfort zone here, doing something her “Telephone” partner couldn't possibly. Gaga's two left feet were not born this way.
1:56: I will publicly denounce Gaga, Janet, and Whitney wholesale if, by the end of this video, Beyoncé gets those two hyenas to dance.
2:04: Yeah, I get it. You've got a ring on it.
2:17: Stomping as if to say, “Get these bricks off me!”
2:26: A flawless inverse of [0:35], double time. Gentlemen, start your .gif engines.
2:35: Love the mock femme gestures in the wrists. You know they're just playing.
2:50: Bob Fosse wants his break back. Or at least wants the boys to start putting up a fight.
3:05: Waving bye-bye with your ankles. This is what's known as a “breather” in the dance world. I expect a costume change to fit in here during live performances.
3:25: Is this outfit an homage to Bruce Conner? I'm going to pretend it is.
3:47: This may be a case of sandy spurs, but B looks so much like Kate Hudson in front of this production line, it's distracting.
4:15: Okay, most of this choreography is the hip-hop equivalent of time steps. I was sort of hoping for a better climax.
4:29: Think they're all like “I am Beyoncé!” “I am Beyoncé!” just like in Spartacus? Even if they're not, they're all harmonizing beautifully.
4:35: I just figured it out. This is an epic remake of Janet's “You Want This” video…set in a post-apocalyptic parking garage. You still want this.
4:49: Emptiest. Gesture. Ever.