Monday, January 6th, 2014

Beyoncé ft. Jay Z – Drunk in Love

Bey thought by dropping a record during our break she would avoid our scrutiny. Well.


Katherine St Asaph: “Drunk in Love,” fitting the title, doesn’t groove in a straight line without half-swerving into adjacent sounds: “Baby Boy,” Rick Ross triumphalism, happy hardcore, flanging K-hole. The more you zoom in, the more you hear veer off. No one expected Jay Z to do much, and he doesn’t, but Beyoncé wobbles into sounds too: sounding a lot like 4, sounding a lot like Drake (hooks and raps), and sounding exactly like a theater diva nailing the last note into her torch song. It’s a lot of sounds to imbibe, yet all at once, they feel a lot like coasting. (Speaking of coasting: the “surfboard” meme has way too much “white people lulzing at HUHHHLARIOUS pronunciation,” and it’s suspect that the urban-radio single is the one getting that treatment.)

Edward Okulicz: Does Beyoncé even get drunk? She seems too perfect for it (other than letting that downright gross Ike Turner reference stay on the track), and the first verse she sounds more like she wants some water than some liquor. “Drunk in Love” is compact as a meme-delivery device that exists to pump the internet full of animated GIFs but goes on a bit as an actual, you know, song.

Alfred Soto: Besides its length, Beyonce‘s biggest weakness is Knowles finding room on her album for appearances by guys unworthy of the shows of independence. If I’m feeling charitable I’ll peg her husband’s verse as comic relief. While she’s showcasing enough vocal prowess to blast the Leaning Tower of Pisa back into place, he’s yammering about breastfesses in the morning.

Crystal Leww: Do you think Jay Z is embarrassed about how much better at rapping his wife is? Do you think he’s aware? In some vault somewhere to be found by our alien overlords is a version of “***Flawless” where Jay Z had an entire verse. The day after “Drunk In Love” was recorded, Beyoncé woke up hungover, listened to it, and realized that Jay Z had slipped in “breastesses is my breakfast”. She cut down his “***Flawless” verse to just “CROWN” as punishment. Then she sipped tea and made her white maid pick up her napkin off the floor just because she’s Beyoncé and then she laughed a lot. It was a good day. 

David Turner: I’m gonna go with the given that #SURFBORT and Bey’s amazing release of the chorus are properly rated as capital-A amazing, because I’m here to be #teamjay. Jay Z has never been cool. It is a vicious rewrite of history that’d make him appear to be anything but uncool throughout his career. Maybe bros just really dig that his dick is apparently huge, I don’t know, but I have watched enough Jay videos to know: the man ain’t smooth or cool, though he did stab someone (!). So of course he’d delivery a total Dad verse here. Dads gotta fuck-up somehow: whether it is forgetting an anniversary; not printing out the directions for a family vacation, pre-Smart phone days; or simply the fact that Michelles around the country dress well everyday to stand next to this. Women forgive these men, they know not what they do. Or maybe don’t!

Brad Shoup: Her husband doesn’t play, but Beyoncé does, and that’s crucial to this working. All the other chefs dilute Timbaland’s fussiness, and the result is something that begs a “M-M-M-M-Maybach Music” tag. The scaling synths and sculpted bassline aren’t something Bey has to undercut, really, it’s more like she’s playing against a backdrop from DeMille. These luxuries — the blissful monogamy, the fame, the stuff — are facts, they are truths, and she’s almost got that down. But not so much that it’s all SURFBORT. The “how the hell did this happen” moment, the phased-out howls: they’re way more intimate than another pet-name revelation from Jay. I’m impressed they got to us.

Jer Fairall: Avant-R&B is no stranger to melodies this elastic, but the genre has (thus far) been a home to less accomplished, or at least less dynamic, voices than Bey’s, so it is a genuine pleasure to hear her sing circles around this. Jay’s peerless flow sounds purposely urgent for the first time in ages; it’s encouraging to hearing him caring again, and sweet that it takes one of his wife’s tracks to make that happen. Minus one point for those gratuitous rave synths.

Jonathan Bradley: Beyoncé doesn’t do ethereal well; her best songs have always been those in which the arrangement is as imperious as she is herself. (More “Lose My Breath” and less “Halo,” please.) “Drunk in Love” lacks punch and it also lacks structure, a concoction deadly over five-and-a-half-minutes. A potentially redemptive verse from Jay Z isn’t, and her adoption of Houston rap tropes, which worked so well on “Bow Down/I Been On” is here unconvincing: reconfiguring a brag about luxury car interior accoutrements for a sex pun might work if it didn’t involve stuttering “surfboard.” “We woke up in the kitchen saying ‘how did this shit happen’,” is a great detail and “Can’t keep your eyes off my fatty, Daddy, I want you” turns out to be oddly romantic, but these are mere flashes of inspiration in a record of domestic bliss exciting only to its two participants.

Rebecca A. Gowns: Nobody can bring marital bliss to life like Beyoncé. She’s giving it her all, and she truly sounds drunk on love, without compromising vocal skill. Jay Z, on the other hand, gives us a lame verse, including a cringeworthy evocation of Ike Turner. It feels like Beyoncé has remembered their anniversary and surprised him with champagne and rose petals and expensive lingerie, and Jay Z, upon opening the door, has only remembered it at this moment; he quickly bolts downstairs to dress up an old trinket from one of their curio cabinets and hopes no one notices. We all notice, Jay. We all do.

Patrick St. Michel: Love-as-intoxicant is a well-worn metaphor, and in recent times that theme has been explored through YOLO night outs and dad-worthy corniness (I see you, “Pusher Love Girl”). Thing is, none of these songs actually sound under the influence of anything. Beyoncé isn’t one to settle, and “Drunk in Love” takes the concept at the center of itself seriously. This song sounds like it’s unscrewing bottle number three, producer Detail bringing to mind a more scatterbrained “Wut.” Beyoncé shows off her impressive voice here, but that’s not nearly as great as the little details flowing through her verses that make her sound a few glasses down. Like how her words practically slur at times, or how she zips from belting out words to rapping like she can’t concentrate on just one thing. Or how certain words just sound funnier when you’re fucked up and you just keep saying them (“surfboard”). Jay Z’s contribution is horrible, but even it goes down smoother if you picture him being wasted too, just acting goofy instead of interesting. 

Anthony Easton: The woozy talk-singing — the floating quality — contains the idea of drunkenness, but it is so controlled that it never quite liquefies. This is the second or third artist who bested Jay Z  last year — this track suggests that she is more important and more interesting than he is, that the control is a way of topping her husband: they’re less of a power couple, and the switch-turned-top might be the most intriguing text here. (Fucking up his Warhol, fucking up his fame; Ike Turner’s violent physicality losing to Tina’ emotional power, for example; plus the dynamic “never tired” comment.) 

Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy: A song that rambles its way to full bloom. Knowles delivers her opening lines in a skittish manner, each line meandering before heading into a chorus of full-on drunken revelling. Where that first verse is something ponderous, the second  is bonkers, the vocalist giggling and twisting her voice into accents and weird flows: she sings “swerving” like she’s trying to chop ‘n’ screw herself in real time. On the other hand, Jay’s a sign of when you should put the damn d’Ussé bottle down and get sober in love. Before his infamous “breastesses are my breakfast” gaffe, he compares himself to Ike Turner whilst on a song with his wife which… yikes. Someone come carry Shawn on a #SURFBORT out of the paint. DIGRESSION: are all Jayoncé duets admissions of love as a type of mania (“Crazy In Love,” “On the Run,” “’03 Bonnie and Clyde”) that can only be tempered by sheer economic flaunt? Also, remember when people posted a petition regarding the “erratic, confusing and alarming” dancing in the “Déjà Vu” video? I want their liveblogging experience at Ms Knowles gyrating in the sand ‘n’ sea, followed by realising the moment she successfully turns Monica Lewinsky into a verb.

Will Adams: It’s tough to pin down exactly when the Apotheosis of Beyoncé Knowles occurred, when she went from super pop star to deity. It could be the “Single Ladies” video, which inspired flash mobs and celebrity covers. Or there’s the “BOOF BOOF” from “Countdown,” earning her an Urban Dictionary entry. Her Super Bowl performance might have been the tipping point, GIF-able as it was. From then on, Beyoncé obsession — not just love — was its own meme. If one was on the outside, joining the party was as simple as turning on the caps lock and mashing the keyboard about the surprise album. And now we have “Drunk in Love,” which: #SERFBORT. Meme Beyoncé is my least favorite Beyoncé, because it transforms her from an incredibly talented artist with nothing to prove to someone who is desperate, manufacturing viral sensations to appease the masses. Can’t the music speak for itself?

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5 Responses to “Beyoncé ft. Jay Z – Drunk in Love”

  1. Exciting to read, just to see how much divergence happened with this one song.

  2. re: Will — Probably around the time she set up her Tumblr, the one with an actual glossary for stans to use (I think it even called them “stans”; hilariously, no one actually uses it that I’ve seen and I don’t think it’s online anymore.)

  3. Ah, thanks.

    Also, because I was really paranoid of doing this, my blurb does not mean to imply that all fandom/love of Beyoncé is ironic or disingenuous. Everyone’s blurbs here were great!

  4. All of this is fascinating to read.

  5. All I know if I’ve had the “No complaints for my body, so fluorescent under these lights” line in my head ever since the album came out.