Flawless (Beyoncé song)
|Song by Beyoncé featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie from the album Beyoncé|
|Released||December 13, 2013|
|Recorded||Kings Landing, Bridgehampton, NY,
Jungle City Studios, New York City,
Oven Studios, New York City
|Beyoncé track listing|
"Flawless" (stylized as "***Flawless") is a song recorded by American recording artist Beyoncé from her self-titled fifth studio album, Beyoncé, released on December 13, 2013. It was co-written by Knowles together with Terius "The-Dream" Nash, Chauncey Hollis and Rey Reel, with production handled by Hit-Boy, Knowles, Rey Reel Music and Boots.
The song was received positively by music critics who particularly praised the use of samples from a speech "We should all be feminists", delivered by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at a TEDxEuston conference. The track also contains a large portion of "Bow Down / I Been On", a song released by Knowles in March 2013. "Flawless" is a trap-influenced song, with a dirty groove and a clattering beat. A music video for the song was directed by Jake Nava, and includes choreography by Les Twins and Chris Grant.
On March 17, 2013, Beyoncé released an audio track titled "Bow Down / I Been On" as well as a picture of herself as a child standing in a roomful of trophies on her official website. Hit-Boy produced the first half of the track, "Bow Down", while the second half "I Been On" was produced by Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley. A sample of "I Been On" was also prominently used in an advertisement for O2 and The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour in February 2013. The release "shocked fans and fellow singers alike," as the song caused some controversy over its lyrical content. Kyle Anderson of Entertainment Weekly commented that Beyoncé seemed "to be attacking straw women a generation behind her who dismiss her as little more than Jay-Z's wife." The song was criticized by Rush Limbaugh and Keyshia Cole, among others.
In December 2013, Beyoncé explained the idea behind "Bow Down" on iTunes Radio: "The reason I put out 'Bow Down' is because I woke up, I went into the studio, I had a chant in my head, it was aggressive, it was angry, it wasn't the Beyoncé that wakes up every morning. It was the Beyoncé that was angry. It was the Beyoncé that felt the need to defend herself. And if the song never comes out…OK! I said it! And I listened to it after I finished, and I said, This is hot! I'mma put it out. I'm not going to sell it. I'm just going to put it out. People like it, great; they don't, they don't. And I won't do it every day because that's not who I am. But I feel strong. And anyone that says, 'Oh that is disrespectful,' just imagine the person that hates you. Imagine a person that doesn't believe in you. And look in the mirror and say, 'Bow down, bitch' and I guarantee you feel gangsta! So listen to the song from that point of view again if you didn't like it before."
"Flawless" contains samples of Beyoncé's song "Bow Down / I Been On", and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's speech "We should all be feminists".
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
"Flawless" was written by Beyoncé Knowles, Terius "The-Dream" Nash, Chauncey Hollis and Rey Reel. The song was produced by Hit-Boy and Knowles, co-produced by Rey Reel Music, with additional production by Boots. It is "a staccato, trap-flavored track" with a dirty groove and a clattering beat.
The song begins with a sample from a televised talent contest Star Search, with Ed McMahon announcing the performance of Knowles' girl rap group, Girl's Tyme. Then, the song incorporates a portion of "Bow Down / I Been On", with Knowles singing about "the pressure women feel to be perfect and to think of marriage as the main goal of their life" — "I took some time to live my life/ But don’t think I’m just his little wife."
A series of samples from "We should all be feminists", a speech delivered by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at a TEDxEuston conference in April 2013, starts at 1:24 and forms the second verse of the song:
We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, 'You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise you will threaten the man.' Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors – not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.
The third verse features lyrics such as "You wake up, flawless/ Post up, flawless/ Ride round in it, flawless/ I woke up like this/ I woke up like this." The song ends with another sample from Star Search, in which McMahon announces that Knowles' group lost the competition. In a video commentary to the album, Knowles explained that in her mind [as a nine-year-old], she would have never imagined losing as a possibility, and it was the best message for her. "I feel like something about the aggression of 'Bow Down' and the attitude of 'Flawless'—the reality is, sometimes you lose. And you're never too good to lose, you're never too big to lose, you're never too smart to lose, it happens. And it happens when it needs to happen. And you have to embrace those things," she added.
The use of Adichie's talk in "Flawless" was praised by music critics. Los Angeles Times's Carolyn Kellogg wrote that "Superstar Beyonce did two astonishing things Thursday night: Release a complete album without any promotion or advance notice, and sample Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie." In a video review of the album, Rebecca Nicholson of The Guardian commented that by using Adichie's TED talk as a feminist spoken word interlude in the middle of "Flawless", Knowles put "Bow Down" into a different context. Andrew Hampp and Erika Ramirez of Billboard magazine wrote, "When we first heard the Hit-Boy produced track in March it didn't contain the content of the full-version, only to come off abrasive. 'Flawless' though, with the insightful commentary of feminism by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, carries power and highlights camaraderie amongst women."
The Guardian's Mikki Kendall wrote, "In 'Flawless' (a track that leaked as 'Bow Down' over the summer), Beyonce quotes from author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TedX talk 'We should all be feminists', adroitly addressing the idea that she is somehow anti-feminist for not fitting into the boxes others project onto her. It's clear that like a lot of black American women, the mainstream middle class white feminist narratives with which we are so familiar aren't necessarily compatible with Beyonce's view of herself. This album makes it clear that her feminism isn't academic; isn't about waves, or labels. It simply is a part of her as much as anything else in her life. She's pro-woman without being anti-man, and she wants the world to know that you can be feminist on a personal level without sacrificing emotions, friendships or fun." Chimanda Ngozi Adichie praised the song, stating that she "likes the idea that Beyonce's song might make girls feel that they can ask to try to do these things" and further said "I have had young people in Nigeria who probably would have never heard of my TED talk without Beyonce and who are now talking about feminism."
However, Catherine A. Traywick of Foreign Policy magazine criticized the singer, commenting that "Beyonce is just full of surprises. In the past 24 hours, she dropped an album, joined Weibo, and — to our particular delight — paid tribute to one of Foreign Policy's 2013 Global Thinkers, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (...) On a track called 'Flawless', Beyonce samples Adichie's April 2013 Ted Talk, which is a thoughtful, amusing examination of subtle sexism in everyday life. Beyonce bookends Adichie's words with distinctly less thoughtful lyrics of her own: She shallowly trumpets material wealth and physical beauty and, working in a few lines from her spring single, advises others to 'Bow down, bitches.'" She continued, "Beyonce gives us a heavily-edited, watered-down version of Adichie's speech that aligns with the singer's banal brand of beginner feminism: She reduces Adichie's powerful message to an overly simplistic, inoffensive pro-girl anthem that does little to challenge trenchant gender ideals."
A music video for "Flawless" was directed by Jake Nava. It was released on December 13, 2013 on the Beyoncé album, containing a music video for every song. The video features original footage from Star Search, with young Beyoncé and other members of Girl's Tyme losing to reigning champions Skeleton Crew. Shot in black-and-white, it also shows Beyoncé "headbanging and moshing with a bunch of punks," and dancing with a team of street dancers in a graffiti covered alley. Beyoncé worked on the choreography for the video with Les Twins and Chris Grant. "We had done half the video, and we watched it, and Beyoncé knew that it needed a dance moment that would be iconic, that people could pick up on. And then we went back and reshot that part. Because after seeing the video, and after the song coming together, she was like, 'This needs a cool dance that anybody can do,'" said Beyoncé's creative director Todd Tourso.
Nate Jones of People magazine commented that the lyrics of the song were "best performed with the hand gestures seen in the video." Brandon Soderberg of Vice noted that "black punk faces in 'Flawless' correct the rockist white boy narrative around punk rock." Jenna Wortham of The New York Times wrote that the release of the album had created "a social media class of its own, generating a sort of ripple effect that is keeping the album front and center in the Web’s ephemeral consciousness," and identified shots from the "Flawless" music video as some of the most shared among fans: "A recent hashtag search for Instagram photos and videos tagged 'I woke up like this,' a reference to one of the catchier songs on the album, turns up close to 7,000 photos."
The song was added to the setlist and performed live during the second European leg of The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour; with the first performance taking place in Glasgow at the SSE Hydro arena on February 20, 2014. "Flawless" was part of the set list of Beyoncé and Jay-Z's co-headlining On the Run Tour (2014).
Credits adapted from Beyoncé's website.
- Beyoncé – vocals, production, vocal production
- Hit-Boy – production
- Rey Reel Music – co-production
- Boots – additional production, additional arranging
- Stuart White – recording, mixing
- Jordan "DJ Swivel" Young – recording
- Ramon Rivas – second engineering
- Rob Suchecki – second engineering
- Tyler Scott – assistant engineering
- Tony Maserati – mixing
- Justin Hergett – mix engineering
- James Krausse – mix engineering
- Derek Dixie – mix consultation
- Tom Coyne – mastering
- Aya Marrill – mastering
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||157|
|US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)||13|
|US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)||32|
- "Beyonce Album Credits". Beyonce.com. Retrieved June 28, 2014.
- "Bow Down/I Been On". Beyonce.com. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Saad, Nardine (March 18, 2013). "Beyonce revisits Sasha Fierce in new track 'Bow Down / I Been On'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Payne, Chris (March 17, 2013). "Beyonce Drops New Hit Boy-Produced Track, 'Bow Down/I Been On'". Billboard. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- "New music: Beyoncé – Bow Down/I Been On". The Guardian. March 18, 2013. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
- "BEYONCÉ - O2 Priority TV ad". YouTube. February 3, 2014. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- "Beyonce Sparks Controversy With New Song". ABC News. March 19, 2013. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Anderson, Kyle (March 18, 2013). "Beyonce premieres new songs 'Bow Down' and 'I Been On': Hear them here". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Payne, Chris (March 21, 2013). "Beyonce's 'Bow Down' Criticized, Misinterpreted By Rush Limbaugh". Billboard. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Carlson, Erin (March 19, 2013). "Keyshia Cole Calls Out Beyonce For 'Bow Down'". Billboard. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Tate, Amethyst (December 19, 2013). "Beyoncé Explains 'Bow Down': 'It Was The Beyoncé That Was Angry'". International Business Times. Retrieved January 3, 2013.
- Wass, Mike (December 17, 2013). "Beyonce Introduces 'Beyonce': Justin Timberlake, Pageants & Her Incredible "Bow Down" Explanation". Idolator. Retrieved January 3, 2013.
- Pareles, Jon (December 13, 2013). "A December Surprise, Without Whispers (or Leaks)". The New York Times. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- McCormick, Neil (December 13, 2013). "Beyoncé, album review: 'the most X-rated pop album since Madonna's Erotica'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
- Wood, Mikael (December 14, 2013). "Album review: 'Beyonce' is full of surprises". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Torgovnick May, Kate (December 13, 2013). "Beyoncé samples Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx message on surprise album". TED. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Fekadu, Mesfin (December 13, 2013). "Beyonce Announces, Releases New Album on Same Day". ABC News. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Traywick, Catherine A. (December 13, 2013). "Beyonce's New Album Got FP Global Thinker Chimamanda Adichie All Wrong". Foreign Policy. Retrieved December 15, 2013.
- Bury, Liz (December 13, 2013). "Beyoncé samples Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's call to feminism". The Guardian. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Hess, Amanda (December 13, 2013). "Queen of the Filtered Instagram Image, Beyoncé Critiques Our Airbrushed Beauty Culture". Slate. Retrieved December 15, 2013.
- ""Self-Titled" Part 2 . Imperfection". YouTube. December 17, 2013. Retrieved January 2, 2014.
- Kellogg, Carolyn (December 13, 2013). "Beyonce's song 'Flawless' features writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 15, 2013.
- Nicholson, Rebecca (December 13, 2013). "Beyoncé's new album: 'A brilliantly strange record' – video review". The Guardian. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Hampp, Andrew; Ramirez, Erika (December 13, 2013). "Beyonce, Beyonce: Track-By-Track Review". Billboard. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- Kendall, Mikki (December 13, 2013). "Beyonce's new album should silence her feminist critics". The Guardian. Retrieved December 14, 2013.
- "Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Chimamanda: Beyonce is helping feminist talk". Contactmusic.com. April 11, 2014. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
- "The Village Voice's 41st Pazz & Jop Music Critics Poll: The Last Word on the Year in Music". The Village Voice. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
- Gottlieb, Steven (December 13, 2013). "Beyonce "Flawless" (Jake Nava, dir.)". Video Static. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
- Soderberg, Brandon (December 16, 2013). "Navigating Beyoncé's Self-Titled Video Cycle". Vice. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
- "'I see music!': Beyonce shocks fans as she releases surprise full album on iTunes... along with Seventeen new videos". Daily Mail. December 13, 2013. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
- Dobbins, Amanda (December 18, 2013). "Beyoncé’s Creative Director Todd Tourso on Her New Album and Keeping Secrets". Vulture. Retrieved December 21, 2013.
- Jones, Nate (December 14, 2013). "Your Guide to Every Video on Beyoncé's Surprise Album". People. Retrieved December 15, 2013.
- Wortham, Jenna (December 20, 2013). "Bingeing on Beyoncé: The Ripple Effect". The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
- Corner, Lewis (February 21, 2014). "Beyoncé starts reworked Mrs Carter Show tour in Glasgow". Digital Spy. Retrieved February 23, 2014.
- Young, Alex (June 26, 2014). "Jay Z and Beyoncé kick off On the Run Tour with massive 42-song setlist". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved June 26, 2014.
- "Chart Track". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
- "CHART: CLUK Update 8.03.2014 (wk9)". zobbel.de. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
- "Chart Search for Flawless". Billboard. Retrieved May 16, 2014.