It’s 10 years since Beyoncé released blockbuster single ‘Crazy In Love’, a statement of intent that no pop song – by Beyoncé or any of her rivals – has bettered since. There’d been a solo career false start the previous year with Austin Powers theme ‘Work It Out’, a perfectly serviceable chunk of trad-funk, but for the launch of the ‘Dangerously In Love’ album campaign Beyoncé had a monster that dwarfed everything around it.
A millstone or a career legacy in one hit? Here are five reasons why ‘Crazy In Love’ is still the best pop single of the 21st century.
Well honestly, if you want people to sit up and take notice, to acknowledge that you – without your girls Kelly and Michelle – have arrived and it’s a big deal, do it with a fanfare. Doesn’t matter that it’s nabbed from The Chi-Lites’ ‘Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)’, because now it’s yours. Even The Chi-Lites would probably hold their hands up to that (assuming their cut’s substantial enough).
That fanfare’s now an invitation. Whether you’re at work or at a wedding, it’s a command to down tools, down champagne and shake your booty like you’re a really off-putting, pale facsimile of Ms Knowles. Uh-oh indeed.
It might be a bit iffy to bring up the video to affirm a song’s greatness, but Beyoncé’s clip supports the track, meshes perfectly with its outrageous splashy energy. The routine is as much a part of ‘Crazy In Love’ as Jay-Z’s spluttering, breathless rap, and just as in awe of Bey’s brilliance. You can’t hear the song without imagining Beyoncé’s riveting expression of its gyrating beats.
That’s why it lasts and that’s why it’s still out of reach. Everyone’s still trying and failing to imitate it.
Think of the other iconic Beyoncé numbers – ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’, ‘Run The World (Girls)’, even ‘Independent Women’ if we’re cheating – and the theme, typically, is about celebrating womanhood. ‘Crazy In Love’ is about union, about submission on both sides, something we can all get with.
That Jay-Z’s reduced to a cipher even when he has an extended cameo is more about the force of Beyoncé’s personality than any premeditated upper hand, but somehow it’s the start of the rot for him. Don’t blame him – who wouldn’t be overshadowed by, um, Mrs Carter?
But let’s indulge them a moment. As the Official Charts Company revealed today, ‘Crazy In Love’ is only Beyoncé’s fourth biggest selling solo single in the UK, with the relatively anodyne ‘If I Were A Boy’ at the top. This hardly diminishes it though. ‘Single Ladies’ has a dancefloor pull too, and another routine to make us fall flat on our faces, but it doesn’t compare for cultural impact. It’s not always the mammoth sellers that stick in the public consciousness.
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Take the testimony of Christian Smith, Head of Music at Kiss:
I’ve worked at Kiss for 12 years and it’s probably one of the most requested tracks in that time. The calls and texts (there was no Twitter in 2003!) for it were non-stop around its release and to this day, it’s constantly requested for our Kisstory hour of old school anthems.
The people have spoken. ‘Crazy In Love’ is an ecstatic blast that enhances the moment, whenever, wherever.
And that, after all, is the acid test.