Review: Beyonce strikes sour note in new single 'Run the World (Girls)'

She's bright, independent, ridiculously attractive. She has a cool celeb hubby, a supportive family. Unlike many of her pop peers, she possesses that rarest of commodities: genuine vocal chops. She's the closest thing we have to a real superhero, Wonder Woman with better gams.

She's Beyonce: Hear her roar.

And yet, according to B's new song, Run the World (Girls), just released on Thursday, Jay-Z's better half has a serious identity crisis. How else to explain why the rickety girl-power misfire — co-written by the-Dream, who helped pen her smash Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) — devolves into street-tough phoniness and switchblade blahs?

Never mind the so-tired marching band beat that B has mined before; the song's central problem is that the woman singing it is flat-out conning us — or at least clumsily trying to con us.

I think I need a barber

None of these hoes can fade me.

I'm so good with this

I remind you I'm so 'hood with this.

Hoes? Hood?! At 29, Beyonce has picked a weird time to become Nicki Minaj.

Ms. Knowles is a superb singles artist — Crazy in Love, Irreplaceable, If I Were a Boy, to name a few — and yet she's never been able to put together a complete album. She's a bold-faced star in every respect, and yet her concert sales have never been what they should be. (Case in point: her last trip to Tampa, when she put only a few thousand fannies into the St. Pete Times Forum.) She has charisma and big-screen sheen to spare, and yet her movie roles have never quite popped the way they should have, with critics or with box-office throngs.

The problem, as Run the World (Girls) illustrates, is that Beyonce wants to be all things to all people. Unfortunately, in trying to do that, she has become absolutely no one, a shifting gallery of gals. Bravo to her for keeping her private life private, but in a way, that only exacerbates the problem. If we reward Beyonce for being classy, why would we also applaud her for being a coarse also-ran?

Response to Beyonce's new song (from an upcoming fourth album due this year) has been tepid at best, with one former fan going as far as to say: "Stick a fork in her." That sounds harsh, but it also might be prophetic. It's hard to sell female empowerment when the ultimate message is swap your style until it sells.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life column is at tampabay.com/blogs/poplife.

Review: Beyonce strikes sour note in new single 'Run the World (Girls)' 04/22/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 10:30pm]

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