Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Crazy in Love" by Beyoncé feat. Jay-Z (2003)

Jay-Z and Beyoncé actually made two back-to-back wonderful songs at the time: I have a soft spot for “'03 Bonnie and Clyde”, but the sad fact is that it consists of a 2Pac song whose lyrics the duo clearly didn't understand and a Prince song whose lyrics they clearly didn't understand. It's like they Googled 'girlfriend' and made a track out of the songs that showed up. But it's a hip-hop song built around an acoustic guitar riff, and how cool is that?

No acoustic guitars in this song, mind you: none of that soft-focus hippie stuff at all. If pop is meant to be bold and brassy, than this is a pop masterpiece. Scientists need to be studying this song, in order to discover the effortless way that the energy Beyoncé and the production team bring to it gets transferred, across radio waves and speaker wires, to the listener. As methods of energy distribution go, it's way more effective than a world of pipelines or power cables. I think this song could wake people from comas and put wheelchair-bound grandmas on the dancefloor. Not only is it infectious, but it's actually generous with its energy and sunny positivity, as if Beyoncé were strutting down the street in the middle of a parade, throwing armfuls of energy at the passers-by. There is no darkness here, no moodiness or aggression: it's just a celebration of love, of happiness and of positivity.

And it does so with one of the weirdest backing tracks I could imagine: an over-the-top horn sample looped into infinity, a cowbell-heavy rhythm loop that sounds like it's come from some island dance party. I think one of the main ways that the music – or at least the pop music – of the past decade will be remembered is through its willingness to create songs, and insanely catchy songs, out of the weirdest combinations of musical detritus. It's music designed for people who load their iPods with all manner of different kinds of songs and then listen to them on 'shuffle' mode. This is what pop music is today: an iPod on shuffle mode, condensed into a single song. Which is what makes it so great, and why for me the first decade of the 21st century is one in which the songs that were the most popular very frequently also happened to be the ones that were the best.

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