Features | Awards

2008’s Award for the Empowerment of a Side of Bacon

By Conrad Amenta | 18 December 2008

Beyonce Knowles :: “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”
from I Am…Sasha Fierce
(Sony; 2008)

Chet’s review of Beyonce’s meta-statement and pending solution to the American financial crisis, I Am…a Bengal Tiger, was apt and fair. Where it may have lacked, however, was in that it forgot to mention that “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” is both the pop single of the year…and also basically “Declare Independence” by Björk. Its lyrics are at least as stupid and wrongheaded, and with a similarly impotent aim at empowerment with Beyonce’s firmly monogamous dignity in place of the oppressed peoples of wherever Björk’s attention currently lies. The music, which thumps and vacuum-zooms with nothing resembling traditional instrumentation, didn’t even have to come gift-wrapped in the caveat of a return from the avant front; Beyonce never left pop’s comforts, wrapping herself and luxuriating in it as if it were a real fur coat that streams champagne from hidden cuff-pipes.

And, finally, the song is at least as stupid, paradoxical, and infectious as anything else ridiculous that happened this year. Dehumanization and possession draped in a discourse of lines in the sand and getting one’s dues, Beyonce returns to the meat-market of the club to reconcile the recent end to a “three year” relationship (it was for real) with broken solutions: “I’m up on him / he’s up on me.” Like an abused person subjecting themselves to cyclical self-blame, Beyonce personifies an abject void of personality, the hole in oneself created by the lost but cruel partner, with an inhuman gusto matched by the song’s perfectly mechanical fuzz. I can think of no better description of the post-colonial condition summed up by Björk, very wrongly, when she said, “Don’t let them do that do you!” My cynicism and surety of commercialism’s universal grasp assured, the song has encouraged me to put rings on everything I like just to make sure that they are absolutely and undoubtedly mine. C’mere, lasagna!