Beyoncé’s new video creates the image of a woman just like us, but quite unlike any other pop star – which is just what she wants
The internet was clearly starving for gifs of Beyoncé using her bare foot as a phone in a hotel room and, naturally, she has delivered. The video for 7/11, her new track, is made up of cameraphone snippets of her messing about in various suites with a gaggle of backing dancers. She wears a jumper with the word ”Kale” on it, twerks a bit, then falls over while attempting to use her own leg as a skipping rope. She’s pop’s Benny Hill! She’s also its savviest businesswoman, and – for all the goofing around – the 7/11 clip is as steely an insistence as ever that she is the world’s biggest pop star.
It’s right there in the song’s closing refrain: “Man, cos I’m so fresh / Fresher than you.” She’s not talking to her fans, but puffing out her chest to other pop stars (just as, I’d argue, Flawless’s line “bow down bitches” is about her competition in the music business, not other women in general). She’s blown everyone else out of the water, again, and made it look easy. Her message is clear: you want to spend millions of dollars on a high-concept music video? Go ahead. Here’s something I knocked out in an afternoon, on the spot, in my pants. Even the choreography, if you can call it that, is hilariously literal. “I’m spinning, I’m spinning,” she sings, while she does some spinning. “My foot up, put my foot down,” she sings, as she puts her foot up, then down again. She blows a party whistle. Cut to black. Beat that.
When Destiny’s Child were at their early 00s peak, Beyoncé’s public image was that of a cold, robotic machine; she gave nothing away in interviews, and was guarded to the point of iciness. She has spent the past few years slowly, carefully thawing that perception. The “visual album” side of last year’s self-titled record showed her on rollercoasters, on holiday, hanging out with her daughter, having fun, just like us. There was the HBO documentary, with whispered confessions to camera and just enough personal detail to make her seem human, relatable, like us. It’s hard to imagine Beyoncé from 10 years ago even acknowledging the Solange/Jay-Z “elevator incident”, but in October she confronted it in a Flawless remix: “Of course some time shit goes down when there’s a billion dollars on the elevator,” she sang, then followed up with a maniacal cackle. The current Beyoncé model is “relatable” and 7/11 aims to hammer that home: she’s having a laugh. She’s just like us.
It’s an effective strategy. The Huffington Post called 7/11 “her best surprise yet”, the Telegraph praised its personal approach and Slate decided it was “unusually candid”. But of course, its candour is as carefully curated as ever. That surface frankness makes her seem likable, without letting us in on much at all – and crucially, without sacrificing any illusion of glamour. Because this is still a fancy, fancy world she’s in: huge hotel suites, massive balconies, a table full of a make-up artist’s armory, that troupe of dancers … A lesser artist would only be able to film themselves downing warm bottles of no-brand beer in a Travelodge with a view of a motorway. Here, fans are still able to aspire to her billionaire lifestyle, should they wish.
The song itself is the definition of a bonus track – essentially forgettable and not good enough to qualify for the main album – but the 7/11 video ticks all boxes by stating the obvious, so casually and so easily that it must hurt every other pop star who can only try so hard. Man, she’s so fresh. Fresher than you.
This article was written by Rebecca Nicholson, for theguardian.com on Monday 24th November 2014 11.52 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010