I’ll make this short, because I already anticipate being tied to the Kogan clock tower and incinerated, or at the very least forced to wear a scarlet “B”, for the unforgivable act of blasphemy I’m about to commit—but hear me out. In my opinion, so many people love Beyonce because she has consistently produced incredibly solid, really fantastic bodies of music since 1999. I’m not going to list the litany of tracks and music video moments that have laid the foundation for Beyonce’s complete domination of the entire free world (but while we’re on the subject, take a lil minute and flip on the “Me, Myself, and I” video), or talk about the fact that I own B’Day on vinyl—all of you, whether you like it or not, understand exactly what I mean. I want to be clear: I am not in the business of devaluing Beyonce’s contribution to music, but I think very few of us would hinge this totalizing adoration for her on any claims of true sonic progressiveness. And that’s fine. That’s perfect. Up until this point, Beyonce has tried, and vastly succeeded, in being no one but herself.
And so I have to say, I’m really disappointed with her new track “Bow Down/ I Be On”. Both lyrically and production-wise, Beyonce kinda just bit everyone and it feels disingenuous and uncomfortable. Equal parts A$AP Rocky’s “Purple Swag” (come on, you didn’t think “Texas Trill” was all her, did you?) and the outro of Azealia Banks’ “Van Vogue,” B’s bizarrely aggressive, operatic track struggles amid an irksome sample to arrive short of the radio-ready standard she’s come to master. Both the A$AP Mob and AB have been credited in ushering in a new era of Harlem sound and style, but slapping “H-TOWWWN” all over one of Hit-Boy’s worst beats isn’t the way to go about participating in this aesthetic. I sincerely hope “Bow Down” is more of an anomaly rather than indicative of an overarching theme in Queen B’s fifth studio album. There’s nothing wrong with changing and growing, but we shouldn’t mistake “Bow Down” for freshness.
– Emily Manning