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Bill Lamb

A Post Mortem For the Failure Of Beyonce's "Run the World (Girls)"

By May 26, 2011

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How could a new single fail? Beyonce is quite simply one of the biggest current stars in the entertainment universe. Her first three studio albums have all been #1 hits and sold approximately three million or more copies. I Am...Sasha Fierce, the most recent, has generated four top 10 pop hits including the quadruple platinum landmark "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)." Beyonce is the owner of 16 Grammy Awards including a record-breaking six in one night in 2010. "Run the World (Girls)" was designed as an uptempo female empowerment anthem to kick off promotion for the upcoming fourth Beyonce studio album simply titled 4. The song was built around a sample from a dance club smash by critically acclaimed Major Lazer and included highly successful The-Dream as one of the co-writers. It seemed that all systems were on "go" for another Beyonce smash.

At this point, over a month after its bravura release, "Run the World (Girls)" can't be said to be a major hit anywhere in the world. It has landed in the top 10 in Norway and Scotland. In the US the song has failed to climb higher than #33 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #30 on the R&B singles chart. Following high profile performances of "Run the World (Girls)" at the Billboard Music Awards and the Oprah Winfrey Show, the song only managed to limp back up to #15 on the iTunes sales chart. Columbia closed the book on promotion of the single when Beyonce appeared on American Idol's finale last night joining contestants to remind the audience of her back catalog and then introducing a new slow burn R&B single "1 + 1."

It is always difficult to speak with certainty about specific reasons for the failure of any particular song to become a hit. However, there are elements of "Run the World (Girls)" that seem alienating. The theme of the song is so in your face as to seem angry and preachy. It also constantly hints at the use of foul language to make its point. For some, this all can be pleasingly aggressive, but for a general pop audience it seems to miss the target. I have also read many comments about the song's lack of a significant chorus to invite listeners to sing along. There are hits that have managed without the big chorus, but it is not the norm. Finally, is there a backlash in operation against the sheer size, audacity, and self-promotion in the success of Beyonce? Perhaps now, once the Millenium Award has been collected and the Grammy Awards counted, it is time for a humbler Beyonce to invest her admittedly major talents in reaching out to fans with music that engages instead of assaults.

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Single cover courtesy Columbia

Comments

May 26, 2011 at 11:46 pm
(1) Troy says:

We should agree that beYAWNcy has done it all, had her hand in everything and even “claimed” to have done it all and took credit for things that she had no idea of doing. What’s more important is 10 years is a long time and some music critics will tell you all three of beYAWNcy past cds were not music that will be considered classic and nastalgic twenty, thirty or even forty years from now. Though Single Ladies was considered a commercial hit, it would not be considered nastalgic, not even Halo, or If I were a boy will be relevant years from now. Tthe music industry is not as genuine as it was back in the 30′s 40′s 50′s, 60′s, 70′s or even the 80′s and 90′s. There was a shift in the 90′s that wasn’t good for any artist and just so happens that beYAWNcy and Destinys Child came out during that transition, but during her departure from DC, beYAWNcy had already started to feed into what one would consider, quick music for quick money. beYAWNcy knew this and she excelled in jumping into so many things at a very quick rate, because it was and is about quick money for those artist who came out in the late 90′s. One must note, like all artist who have been out in the industry for 10 or more years things start to decline, they become lost in the newer artist and their stent becomes old hat. We must also remember that like Madonna, Janet, Micheal and other artist who reached their pinnicle in their career at some point they start to decline in popularity. Let me conclude by saying that beYAWNcy has never struck me as anything but a commercial fake and it’s surprising that she’s lasted this long with the help of her father pulling strings for her. People are realizing with her copying and stealing other peoples video concepts, songs and taking credit for work that she didn’t do, except step on stage and mimick some other artist, all good things must come to an end. I say to beYAWNcy, take your halo and go.

May 27, 2011 at 12:04 am
(2) rode says:

Seriously am a big fan of beyonce but this comment made my night in a funny way. Beyawncy take your halo and go. But sweetie U and I r stuck with beyonce. She is unstoppable, Come on she is the queen of pop and R&b, cant get a rid of a queen so easily

May 29, 2011 at 5:33 pm
(3) Troy says:

I’m glad you saw the humor in that long read, but to be honest with you, I am a music lover and especially a lover of female singers, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Sarah Vaugh, Lady GaGa, Whitney Houston, Carmen McCrae, Ledisi, and others, I have saw the incline of these artist and then the decline of some of them, and it is hard to watch, but in reality, beYAWNcy fans for some odd reason thinks that this woman can do no wrong and if anyone in their right mind, and I said “Right Mind” would see the signs. The copying, the unoriginality, fakeness. One must also look at the rise and fall of the biggest Icon in musical history the Late Great Michael Jackson to be reminded that beYAWNcy will never reach that status, but even Michael had a decline in sales and popularity. beYAWNcy will never come close.

May 28, 2011 at 3:31 am
(4) 4reals says:

Troy you hit it on the head. BeYAWNcy, lol, is wore out because she is just that, a commercial fake. Thats why shes lasted this long. And next will be RiYAWNna who’s is the ultimate overated commercial fake. Theyve turned her out so bad I don’t think she even knows who she is and what she’s doing anymore. She definitely needs and SOS.

May 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm
(5) Troy says:

@4reals, I agree. I think that these newer artist haven’t a clue as to what the artist before them started out as. They were the one’s who worked hard and provided a blue print for the one’s after them to follow. Unfortunately, the industry has totally changed, and it’s become about money, greed and attacks on each other as artist. The none talent is overwhelming when these artist cannot sing without using autotune or studio equipment to enhance their voices. They know nothing about live singing and playing instruments. It’s all about show, sex. beYAWNcy is no real artist, she’s a copy cat that has used youtube as a foundation to breed a new brand of illusionist that think that she is a queen or of royalty. What’s more sad is she has a following that respect her more than they do their own mother and will fight for her name. Case and point, the true talent lies in the hearts of those who have paved the way for the so-call artist of today. That’s why I know that I can trust youtube to watch artist that are true gems and nostalgic in their own right.

May 27, 2011 at 12:02 am
(6) Millie says:

I’m sick and tired of people picking on Beyonce. First of all, it’s called the “Top 100″ singles and her song is on that list. That makes it a success. The fact that it’s not yet in the top ten does not make it a failure. Use your head. Do you know how many artists dream of being on any top 100 songs’ list and never make it??? Beyonce’s songs always land on the list. That is sucess. “Girls” is a great single, it’s catchy and she did her best work with it. Her promotion of it has been exceptional. The video is the top video on the pop charts. And that’s not success to you? Wow, they let anybody write nonsense on the Internet these days. BEYONCE IS THE QUEEN OF POP; she outsings and outperforms any lame artist that you can think of. Get your facts straight before you write a lame critique of a perfectly good song. PLEASE.

May 27, 2011 at 7:13 am
(7) SirLordJ says:

Someone of Beyonce’s caliber should not be peaking at 33 on the Hot 100, especially when all her contemporaries are outshining her by debuting in the top 10.

May 27, 2011 at 7:20 pm
(8) Oweird says:

Agree… usually I would Defend her, But what would beyonce do? Let the haters talk! They are taking the time to write a review and make her even more relevant. The guy that wrote the review is just some old bitter queen.

May 29, 2011 at 7:02 pm
(9) Troy says:

@Oweird, you are weird if you think that talking about her makes her relevant. Her hard core zombie fans have spoke that the crap she released sucks. And even if they hadn’t spoke about how horrible that song was, one must interpret that she does the same type of music, the same video’s. The song sounds like a combination of Ring the Alarm and Lose My Breath and the video was nothing but a combination of her trying to channel Lady GaGa, Rhianna and Tina Turner in the film “Thunderdome” – I must not leave out the fact that the crawling in the sand half naked has been done by guess who beYAWNcy who copied if from Shakira. So ultimately who is the bitter old queen. People have to be called out of their names because they don’t agree with the sh*t beYAWNcy is doing. Why don’t you put everyone that doesn’t like her in front of the firing squad and relieve yourself of your misery…better yet, Kill yo damn self.

May 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm
(10) Troy says:

If you’re sick of people picking on beNONE-cy then I’m sick of people like you raising her up, singing her praise as if she’s some kind of Goddess, well she’s not. She’s a simple minded, embecile who can’t interview, can’t talk with her ghetto ass, and who can’t act. Her singing is mediocre and as I stated before, the only reason that chic got those 3 solo cd’s is because of who her father sent her to screw. If it were not for Matt “The Baby Maker” Knowles that chic would’ve been looking for a record label yesterday. None of her solo cd’s were good, and who she screwed to get that mess played is beyond me, but if that’s how she does business so be it, I’m not buying it….or her cd’s.

May 31, 2011 at 7:57 am
(11) Troy's a queen says:

Lol, you have no business calling anyone an imbecile when you can’t even spell the word. Just another example of how credible you AREN’T.

May 27, 2011 at 3:49 am
(12) stephen smith says:

All of beyonce’s albums have done unbelieveably well because shes brought her creativity to the table 3 times round and if your a true beyonce fan you know she gets inspired by her life and experiences. So obviously if your muse for creating music changes the finished product which is her music is going to change. So first of all i was really dissapointed by the beyonce fans who didnt give run the world a chance when its clearly not one of the worst songs out there. Its a club hit and in this pop/uptempo music invested industry its not an obnormality. Songs like party rock by LMFAO and Jlo’s on the floor do increadibly well and there still the same genre as run the world. My second reason for the singles failure is the idiot who leaked the unfinished version which caused the rushed release of the single. Initial promotion and exposure of a song is pivital to its success in its peak of popularity so beyonce’s single who’s not different. The song was leaked when the video hand not even been shot so it caused the song to be rushly released to take advantage of the buzz for the single. But with no video or live performances for fans to gossip over there was hardly any buzz available to make the single a success.

May 27, 2011 at 10:30 am
(13) Mel says:

A truly great song shouldn’t need a video to make it a hit. It should be able to stand alone before the video comes out (video killed the radio star :-/ ). Anyway, “Pon De Floor” that came out like 2 years ago is hotttt!!!! Her use of the track is mediocre at best which is partially not her fault because Diplo and Switch who did Pon De Floor helped write and produce Run the World. I just don’t think the general public was ready for it. They want the sing-songy pop/r&b Beyonce they know and love. Some things should just be left to those who do it best.

May 27, 2011 at 7:19 am
(14) SirLordJ says:

The song just isn’t any good, she’s basically screaming for 4 minutes under a rather annoying beat. She tired something different and it didn’t work. I also don’t think 1+1 is going to do well either it’s to slow and will be tough to get non-R&B stations to play it. She needs to get with it if she’s going to make this era a success.

May 27, 2011 at 11:52 am
(15) Tee says:

It didn’t resonate with me at all when I heard it. Beyonce’s songs, generally speaking, don’t have much in the way of melody, with the exception of “Halo,” and “Irreplaceable,” which where written largely by Ryan Tedder and NeYo, respectively. “Single Ladies’” hooks make themselves apparent after several listens, but they weren’t immediate.

As Bill Lamb cites above, with “Girls,” there isn’t much of a hook, either in the verse or in the chorus, and there’s just a lot of production noise and a general sonic assault akin to a machine gun. It seems to be nothing more than a retread of “Ring The Alarm,” and I would have expected her to have learned that lesson that hooks sell after 14 years in the business.

It’s jarring when you see things like this happen.

May 27, 2011 at 6:34 pm
(16) DaDonRoMaN says:

Critics.. I Dont Get Them.. They Tell You How To Do It But They Never Did It.. (-_-)

May 27, 2011 at 7:07 pm
(17) Sydney says:

Pop artists for the past couple of years are only using one formula. That is to have a song consisting of a catchy beat with crappy lyrics. But as long as the catchy music eclipses the lyrics, the song seems to be “different”, “out of the box”, and “powerful” according to the artist. The only music with really good lyrics without unnecessary hype is in the past. At the end of the day, I don’t get what these artists are inspired from to make songs like these. If there’s personal experiences or a strong message that comes from a song, then let it speak for themselves instead of using those themes just to produce some pop music for the sake of it.

May 28, 2011 at 9:30 am
(18) Emma says:

Beyonce is a great talent and I love her music. But the simple fact is she missed the mark with this single. People generally don’t like to listen to music where it seems they are being screamed at. I hope her second single off her upcoming album is and does better. I have heard snippets of it and maybe it will grow on me like Deja vu.

May 28, 2011 at 11:10 am
(19) zania says:

Most of these pop artist’s songs are at best hallmark greeting card songs. You can easily picture their lyrics in greeting cards, that’s how less great these songs are. But everyone loves hallmark greeting cards and obviously they will be popular for a long time. You won’t see a song like Lily, Rosemary, and Jack of Hearts on some greeting card because people don’t like to read. People just like to hear a catchy tune and read few words because that’s easy and fun. Then, these songs will be promoted by the artist as distinct and unique.

May 28, 2011 at 8:43 pm
(20) Adam says:

The simple fact is that Beyonce did not do what is pop music right now…ie this techno stuff. She made a club song for her core fans the “Stans” if you will. The song is an underground type song. It is progressive. People always talk about how “safe” Beyonce is when the truth is all her music has always been forward thinking. The truth in America still is that black artists are not allowed to experiment. Kelly Rowland tried with When Love Takes Over, Commander, and Rose Colored Glasses and it took Motivation…a song that could easily have been released in 2006 to be a hit. Color still plays a huge part in the entertainment industry. Look at Janelle Monae. All the critics raved about her album and she doesn’t get mainstream success. Even Beyonce who outperforms everyone is affected. It seems like you have to make yourself look like a clown ie Nicki Minaj/Gaga to be successful. Go see Beyonce live and experience how much work she puts in.

May 29, 2011 at 6:55 pm
(21) Troy says:

@Adam, Girl please…you are in denial. Nicki Minaj/GaGa set out to do what they intended to set shock value to the masses. Kelly Rowland set out to make an Pop Album with a taste of R&B until Matthew “The Baby-Maker” Knowles sabatoged her career, and was f*cking Michelle and kept her in the gospel field so that she would not have to compete with his daughter. You see beYAWNcy never did a gospel cd, and claims she was such a saint, but she back tracks on a lot of her claims and words, because she’s a bonafied liar like her mother and her daddy. Kelly went techno only after three attempts to get out of the spotlight of beYAWNcys and Matts wrath, knowing that the club scene was the way to go, she found her niche. The only thing is, she wasted too much time and energy worrying about what beYAWNcy would say about her and how Matt would black ball her like he did the other members of DC until she got up enough nerve to finally leave, a step Michelle took as well. beYAWNcy, her mother and her father are crooks. She’s a whore to the industry.

May 29, 2011 at 8:58 pm
(22) Beylover says:

@troy Take beyonces 16 grammys n shove em up your ass please. When you have the ststus she has in the music industry, then come back and judge. I swear haters come a dime a dozen……

May 29, 2011 at 9:32 pm
(23) JT says:

I understand where both @Troy and @Adam are coming from. My take on it is that Beyonce is truly at a point in her career where everything she does revolutionizes the music industry. Run This World (Girls) was a huge risk for her and I do believe she missed the mark with it. But this new era of Beyonce where she is not afraid to take chances will eventually pay off for her. She has 16 Grammy’s to her name and too many other awards to even fathom. For she has nothing to prove anymore and that is the advantage she has over other artists. She can basically do the whatever kind of music she wants and that is what is so exciting about the new album. So “Girls” was too out there and “1+1″ was too R&B, but the songs to follow will be the make or break for her. But the simple fact of the matter is, either way, the album is going to enjoy moderate to major success just because she is Beyonce.

June 2, 2011 at 7:36 pm
(24) Troy says:

@JT – Simply put, “ALL” artist have their high point and low point. Fans build them up and they will tear them down. because so many people have built her up, she has a to work extra hard to stay there and any little mishap will tear into her flesh like a knife because the intent is too intense. When her light dims, she’ll hit rock bottom and may even fall into the drug scene, alcohol or irratic behavior. Michael Jackson did it, because the expectations where too high for him, Britney Spears, Janis Joplin, etc. beYAWNcy is the type of bitch who loves attention and if she doesn’t get it, she can’t exist, that’s why she won’t sit her country, yodeling ass down for fear of losing the limelight…and I won’t miss the bitch at all. I’m sick of her, been sick of her when she was with destinys children.

June 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm
(25) obamarocks says:

Everybody go to Youtube. Theres a remix of this single produced by this guy name Fyuchur. Its Hot!!! Even her fans love it

July 28, 2011 at 8:50 am
(26) juniper says:

Everything I’ve heard from ’4′ so far sounds like she’s too big for her britches. I read an interview where she calls the project more of an ‘album’ and it wasn’t about singles, more about the soul and emotion of music. LOL – amazing how this happens when the singles aren’t working. And it’s laughable to consider ‘Run the World’ as a soulful song. It’s the most vacuous ego-trip masquerading as an empowerment song that I’ve ever heard. And all along, you still get the sense that ‘B’ just sits there thinking to herself, ‘They just don’t get it. It’s all brilliant.’ Just noticed that the latest single (which actually is much better than RTW) peaked at 23 on Billboard and is already falling. Perhaps it’s that dud of a video that where we are supposed to celebrate a woman who seems to have been so obsessed with a past slight from a guy that she’s singing about him on her wedding day, of all days. Ironic, isnt it, that at the same time, her past cohort Kelly is doing better with her own single ‘Motivation’. (one of the sexist slickest grooves in a long time)
Underneath that ‘Ah schawks, I’m just a God-loving southern girl that is so awed and thankful for my career and talent’ is a woman who quite clearly thinks she’s the bees knees. I was never quite so off-put when on Oprah once she commenting about the money she makes she said that we have to realise that she works very hard. LOL – yes, many of us do Beyonce. At jobs that don’t pay us even 1% of what you get for shaking your ass.
4 is going to be a failure. B and the record company will make the required noises of being happy that it sold such and such millions but everyone will know that in the scheme of things, it was not a win. And you can bet that her next album will have some crackin’ singles on it.

September 15, 2011 at 6:58 am
(27) Trystan says:

The reason why beyonce took on a different direction is because shes bored people will predict her next move when shes making her next album and people will get bored of her and shes getting bored!!

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