The Decade In Music: Beyonce's 'Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)' (2009)

Friday's Pick

Song: "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)"

Artist: Beyonce

CD: I Am... Sasha Fierce

Genre: Pop/R&B

Beyonce; courtesy of the artist i i

In the video for "Single Ladies," Beyonce and her back-up dancers spawned parody after parody, featuring everyone from toddlers to grown men to animated chipmunks. courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of the artist
Beyonce; courtesy of the artist

In the video for "Single Ladies," Beyonce and her back-up dancers spawned parody after parody, featuring everyone from toddlers to grown men to animated chipmunks.

courtesy of the artist

[Every weekday from Nov. 9 to Nov. 20, Song of the Day is surveying the past decade, one year (and one song) at a time, with an emphasis on America's most popular music. These picks don't exactly qualify as musical discoveries, but they do have something to say about the 10 years we're about to leave behind. Song of the Day will return to new music on Monday, Nov. 23. —ed.]

Sure, Beyonce's "Single Ladies" actually came out in 2008. But, since we don't have numbers on this year yet, it's fair to argue that it's the jam of 2009. (Though, admittedly, some would argue that it's neck-and-neck with Miley Cyrus' "Party in the U.S.A.") Beyonce has given us, finally, a dance craze that requires little more than the deployment of jazz hands with a wrist twist, thus inspiring countless episodes of behind-the-wheel above-the-waist breakdowns and an unfortunate number of full-body dance-floor takeovers. Not least because she had one of the best videos of all time.

In "Single Ladies," Beyonce sounds like a total pro: contained, on-message. Aside from the bass drum, the perfectly mussed hand-claps and the Phantom of the Opera organ way in the back row, all the extras that give the song its depth and creeping discomfort could have been jacked from Need for Speed if the cars were mounted with lasers (stop lying; you post up at ESPN Zone too sometimes). Everything about it feels calculated, but the disheveled, breathless mess that results from putting "Single Ladies" on in earshot of a group of happy people — regardless of marital status or gender — proves that something is going on underneath the surface.

It could be the meta cognitive dissonance between the lyrics and the facts of life. After all, we know that he did put a ring on it. Jay-Z locked it down! Which Beyonce makes clear in the video: That ring is definitely on her finger (though she does look a little shocked to see it around 1:55). So there's hope for the rest of us? And there's that intermittent but ominous grinding at the low end of the song, which only make it more obvious that Beyonce's vocals, layered though they might be, are the only thing holding the song together. She barrels through it.

Not only did "Single Ladies" cement the reign of The-Dream and Tricky Stewart as the premier pop songwriters and producers of the late 2000s (later on, Scott Storch), it also allowed Beyonce to stake a claim to the title Queen of Pop (TM). One thing's for sure: She brings the ladies to the dance floor, which brings the boys to the club, which brings the dollars to the pockets that matter. Viva la reina.

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