In keeping with 2013’s theme of wrongfooting pop surprises, Beyoncé slapped a megamix of two new tracks online last night – ‘Bow Down’ and ‘I Been On’. Nanoseconds passed and social media was coated with gripes. This kind of thing: “Beyoncé’s gone trill!”, “Call this a song?” and – probably – “I preferred Justin Timberlake waffling on for three-quarters of an hour about Jessica Biel’s Hubba Bubba-tinged privates”.
But is the new Beyoncé really so bad?
‘Bow Down’ – produced by ‘Watch The Throne’ collaborator Hit-Boy – certainly comes snarling out of the blocks, thick beats pinning it down as B dishes out some home truths. “I know when you were little girls/You dreamt of being in my world/Don’t forget it, don’t forget it/Respect that/Bow down, bitches” – that’s a comeback. And “I took some time to live my life/Don’t think I’m just his little wife/Don’t get it twisted, get it twisted/It’s my shit/Bow down, bitches” is clearly a witty rejoinder to everyone up in arms about The Mrs Carter Show. Assuming she fills those hours she spends not tweeting actually reading Twitter.
Pretty bracing start, but the ‘I Been On’ bit’s a different kettle of trappist drone, with B pitched down to a guttural drawl – a shy way, maybe, of spitting out rhymes about “gold ass rings/gold ass fangs” and keeping it “trill“. Talking point more than actual track, and good God it’s worked.
One enterprising soul’s already sped up the Witch-House-Beyoncé on the second half of the track, so we can really hear what she sounds like when she’s smacking that trick. About the same basically, just pre-stroke. Sample it here:
Whatever, it’s an arresting overture to the new album.