As the Mad Hatter told Alice, “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret: All the best people are.” And from the aptly titled “Crazy In Love” to the unhinged “Ring the Alarm” to her whole wacky Sasha Fierce persona, bonkers has always been a hat Beyoncé has worn well.
The singer’s new single, however, is just plain daft. “Run the World (Girls)” is the kind of hollow girl-power track masquerading as a self-empowerment anthem that she’s been serving in one form or another since her days with Destiny’s Child. Atop a played-out marching-band beat and co-producer Switch’s trademark pitched-n’-screwed vocals (both, it should be noted, lifted straight from a track by Major Lazer, Switch’s side project with Diplo), Beyoncé lays down atonal verses and a repetitive, expletive-laden, sanity-challenging hook about—you guessed it—girls running the world.
Beyoncé deserves credit for not playing it safe, but “Run the World (Girls)” is the kind of track that makes record label execs light cigarettes and pour shots like they’re in an episode of Mad Men. (Cue follow-up single in five, four, three, two…) The song’s one bright spot is the bridge, which features B’s warm, gooey harmonies and the lyric “My persuasion can build a nation.” But if Mrs. Shawn Carter was shooting for edgy a la “Diva,” her response track to Lil Wayne’s “A Milli,” she misses the mark big time here, “murdering the time” almost as badly as the Hatter when he tried to entertain the Queen of Hearts.