Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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10 Years, 100 Songs: #28. “You Ready…?”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 16, 2009

Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.

It’s practically impossible to remember a time when Beyonce wasn’t one of the biggest solo stars on the planet, but it’s really only been six years that she’s been out on her own. After spending the end of the 90s and beginning of the 00s as a member of Destiny’s Child–a group that she was unquestionably the leader and most talented member of, but a group nonetheless, and one whose success was monstrous enough (four #1 singles in a little over two years) that it was probably fairly unlikely that Beyonce would ever match it on her own. It probably says something that not only did Beyonce become titanically popular on her own, but she basically turned Destiny’s Child into the answer to a trivia question. Sure, Diana Ross was enormous on her own, but the Supremes were still the fucking Supremes, and are remembered just as fondly collectively as Diana was solo, if not moreso. but Destiny’s Child can’t even be seen as all that much more than a footnote to Naughty Oughties pop at this point. And the craziest thing was that Beyonce only really needed one song to accomplish this.

If you’re going to break out on your own from a hugely popular group, this is the way to do it. “Crazy in Love” introduces itself with a positive steamroller of a horn riff, thanks to the Chi-Lites, whose “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So)” producer Rich Harrison sampled for the hook–a hook so overwhelming that you need to listen to “Crazy in Love” about a dozen times to pick up on just about anything else going in the song. Meanwhile, boyfriend and future hubby (as well as hip-hop superpower) Jay-Z was more than happy to play carnival barker on the track, heraldng the arrival of Beyonce’s solo career with nearly as much authority as the horns, rhapsodizing “Yesss! So crazy right now! It’s your girl…B!” like he was heralding the Broadway debut of King Kong. Meanwhile, Beyonce shows up (in the video, the camera’s been zooming to her for the entire introduction, from about 100 miles out) to utter a simple question: “You ready?” Well, I thought we were, but, uh…?

The important thing to remember about “Crazy in Love,” which once again may be forgotten about now, is that as a member of Destiny’s Child, I can’t remember Beyonce ever showing anything like genuine affection for the opposite sex. I don’t know whether it was artistic design, sheer coincidence, or just really shitty luck, but the men of Destiny’s Child songs were, rather uniformly, the scum of the earth–bug-a-boos who said “no, no, no” but whispered “yeah, yeah, yeah,” who wouldn’t pay the bills, bills, bills, who acted kinda shady and didn’t call them baby. Their booty jam was a taunt of male sexual incompetence, and their club jam was intended as revenge for male ignorance (though at least they let the men get in a couple shots in that one, thus making it the closest thing to a love song among their biggest hits). Point is, Beyonce and crew seemed like they had gotten burned by the Y chromosome so badly and so many times that the chances of them ever reaching any kind of peace accord with the male gender seemed virtually non-existent.

Yet not only did Beyonce reach a congenial mutual respect with her guy in “Crazy in Love,” she went totally fucking bonkers for him. You can’t unleash a horn riff like that in just any kind of song, and so I guess it was only fair that Beyonce came up with a eye-wideningly rapturous song to go with it. The entire time, Beyonce seems like one of the black-eyed Bontemps citizens possessed by Marianne in True Blood, raving like a lunatic about just how nutso she’s gone over her fella. In the song’s climactic chorus (“I’ve been playing myself / Baby, I don’t care / ‘coz your love got the best of me / AND YOU’RE MAKING A FOOL OF ME! / YOU GOT ME SPRUNG AND I DON’T CARE WHO SEES!!!), Beyonce comes about as close to speaking in tongues as any female singer has in a love song since Natalie Cole’s positively frighteningly exuberant “This Will Be.” It’s..attention-grabbing stuff, to say the least. (Jay-Z, who the song presumably must’ve been at least in part inspired by, just kind of lays back the entire time, like “damn, girl, really?“)

Ironically, Beyonce’s man-hating musical sort of acted as a boon to her here. Friend of the blog Victor has a stance on metal power ballads that the band has to “earn” the right to perform the power ballad, through a prior career of proving just how hard they are most of the time. It’s mostly a ridiculous stance, especially because his qualifications for having “earned” the power ballad are inconsistent and often entirely illogical, but the point is somewhat shockingly applicable here. B had gone through such great lengths in her previous life to prove just how many things men can do wrong to spurn her affection, that when she actually sings about a positive love experience, it carries a much greater weight to it than some R&B floozy who’s perpetually falling in love and possesses no apparent standards or sense of relativism. So if Beyonce says that her beau is inspiring in her the greatest-ever love known to man, then I think we just kind of have to take her word for it.

“Crazy in Love” was such a juggernaut right off the bat that almost instantly, Beyonce inserted herself in the lineage of Madonna, Janet, Whitney, Mariah, and the other single-name-recognizable female megastars of the MTV era. And like most of those names, she only got bigger from there–in the short term, “Crazy in Love”‘s parent album Dangerously in Love three further top ten hits, including #1 hit “Baby Boi,” and as the decade progressed, she had a handful of hits that even rivaled the success of “Crazy.” She still called dudes out from time to time–most notably in “Irreplaceable” and “Single Ladies,” which became two of the most iconic hits of the decade–but she still felt the love from time to time, even spreading the joy to her Destiny’s Child comeback (unfortunately resulting in the hysterical “Cater 2 U,” which set musical gender politics back about half a century). None of them were as good or as shocking as “Crazy in Love,” though–a song which unleashed a lifetime’s worth of repressed positive sexual energy into one of the biggest and best pop songs of the decade.

Probably a blast to play in jazz band, too.

(Have any thoughts or remembrances of this song? Want to correct our lyrics or call us out for relying too much on Wikipedia? Please feel free to leave a comment here, or (gulp) Tweet us about it at twitter.com/intensities. Your input is lusted after and appreciated.)

The List So Far (Now With Links!):

100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
90. Cassie – “Me & U
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It
81. 311 – “Amber
80. 3 Doors Down – “Krptonite
79. Nas – “Made You Look
78. Royksopp – “Eple
77. The Pussycat Dolls – “Don’t Cha
76. DMX – “Party Up (Up in Here)
75. Junior Senior – “Move Your Feet
74. Twista f/ Kanye West & Jamie Foxx – “Slow Jamz
73. The Streets – “Weak Become Heroes
72. Jimmy Eat World – “The Middle
71. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps
70. Snoop Dogg f/ Pharrell – “Drop It Like It’s Hot
69. Alice DeeJay – “Better Off Alone
68. Xiu Xiu – “I Luv the Valley OH!
67. Incubus – “Stellar
66. Mariah Carey – “We Belong Together
65. Andrew W.K. – “Party Hard
64. Jurgen Paape – “So Weit Wie Noch Nie
63. Taking Back Sunday – “MakeDamnSure
62. Kid Cudi – “Day n Nite
61. Paramore – “That’s What You Get
60. System of a Down – “Toxicity
59. dNTEL f/ Ben Gibbard – “(This Is) The Dream of Evan and Chan
58. Three 6 Mafia f/ 8Ball & MJG – “Stay Fly
57. Good Charlotte – “The Anthem
56. The Lonely Island – “Lazy Sunday
55. Darude – “Sandstorm
54. Yellowcard – “Ocean Avenue
53. The Killers – “Mr. Brightside
52. Luomo – “Tessio
51. Blink-182 – “Stay Together For the Kids
50. My Chemical Romance – “I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
49. Freelance Hellraiser – “A Stroke of Genius
48. Daft Punk – “Digital Love
47. Snow Patrol – “Chasing Cars
46. Sean Paul – “Like Glue
45. Ludacris – “Stand Up
44. Britney Spears – “Toxic
43. Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire
42. Jennifer Lopez f/ Ja Rule – “I’m Real (Remix)
41. Lifehouse – “Hanging By a Moment
40. Plain White T’s – “Hey There Delilah
39. MGMT – “Kids
38. Gym Class Heroes f/ Patrick Stump – “Cupid’s Chokehold
37. Franz Ferdinand – “Do You Want To
36. Kylie Minogue – “Can’t Get You Out of My Head
35. Vertical Horizon – “Everything You Want
34. The White Stripes – “Fell in Love With a Girl
33. Jay-Z – “Takeover
32. Maroon 5 – “This Love
31. Silversun Pickups – “Lazy Eye
30. M.I.A. – “Paper Planes
29. Timbaland f/ OneRepublic – “Apologize
28. Beyonce f/ Jay-Z – “Crazy in Love”

3 Responses to “10 Years, 100 Songs: #28. “You Ready…?””

  1. MBI said

    I’m sorry, I just have never heard this woman credibly express any emotion except man-bashy anger. There’s just something *inhuman* about this woman, even on “Crazy in Love,” by far her best song.

  2. Katie said

    That robot glove was probably created to assist in crushing the head of anyone who uses the phrase this woman twice in as many sentences; “man-bashy anger” is a valid emotion. Fuck Beyonce rules so hard.

  3. MBI said

    ““man-bashy anger” is a valid emotion.”

    Didn’t say it wasn’t, and I don’t object to her expressing it. I object that it’s her ONLY credible emotion. I can’t think of a single pop star with less range than Beyonce, so utterly, reptilianly incapable of projecting warmth.

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