I Was Here (song)

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"I Was Here"
Song by Beyoncé from the album 4
Recorded Patriot Studios
(Denver; Colorado)
Boston Harbor Hotel
(Boston, Massachusetts)
Lear 60/G2 Studios
Genre R&B
Length 3:59
Label Columbia
Writer
Producer
4 track listing
"End of Time"
(10)
"I Was Here"
(11)
"Run the World (Girls)"
(12)

"I Was Here" is a song recorded by American R&B recording artist Beyoncé from her fourth studio album, 4 (2011). It was written by Diane Warren, while production was handled by Ryan Tedder, Brent Kutzle, and Kuk Harrell; Knowles is credited on the vocal production. "I Was Here" is a reflective R&B ballad, in which Knowles vulnerably reviews her past, wanting to leave an impact on the world before her life comes to an end. Described as a "career song" by Warren, its development was motivated by the September 11 attacks in the United States.

"I Was Here" garnered mixed to positive reviews from music critics, most of whom criticized the song's inclusion on the track-listing of the album and expressed discomfort about Knowles worrying about her legacy and wanting to leave an impact on the world, given that she was still below thirty years. Critics, nevertheless, favored Knowles' vocal performance on the song, which is complemented by piano keys and heavy drum beats. Following the release of 4, "I Was Here" charted at number 131 on the UK Singles Chart, 74 on the Swiss Singles Chart, and 44 on the South Korea Gaon International Singles Chart in early July 2011. Later, in 2012, the song also appeared on several charts internationally.

A music video for the song was released on August 19, 2012 and it features Knowles performing the song live at the United Nations General Assembly while images of volunteers doing humanitarian work were projected on the screen behind her. It was donated to the World Humanitarian Day and aimed to create social media history with one billion people sharing the message of doing something good for another person. Upon its release, it received positive reviews from music critics who praised the projections, Knowles' vocal performance and her look. In late July, the song was included on the soundtrack for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Final. "I Was Here" was also part of Knowles' set list for her residency show 4 Intimate Nights with Beyoncé and was used in the Revel Presents: Beyoncé Live shows during an interlude. The live video from the DVD Live at Roseland: Elements of 4 appeared online on November 16, 2011 containing Knowles' home movies and professional highlights. "I Was Here" was covered by Lea Michele for Glee's soundtrack album Glee: The Music, The Graduation Album (2012).

Development and recording[edit]

Diane Warren (pictured) wanted to work with Knowles since the Destiny's Child era, but admitted that "I Was Here" was the "perfect time".[1]

"I Was Here" was written by Diane Warren and was produced by Ryan Tedder, Brent Kutzle, Knowles and Kuk Harrell.[2] "I Was Here" is the only song on the record that was not co-written by Knowles.[3] On June 1, 2011, Warren revealed in an interview for the New York Post's PopWrap that she wrote "the best [song she has] ever written" a week and a half ago and that Knowles had already recorded it for her fourth studio album 4.[1] She described it as "a career song and probably my favorite thing I've ever written".[1] The development of "I Was Here" was motivated by the September 11 attacks.[4] Warren wanted to work with Knowles since the Destiny's Child eras, but admitted that "I Was Here" was the ideal timing,[1] "I thought that the one artist who would be my dream to sing ['I Was Here'] would be Beyoncé. This is one of those magical stories where what is meant to be actually happens."[5]

"I knew ['I Was Here'] was going to be a very special song. It just fit[s] where I was in my life and expressed something I believed and wanted to share. As an artist, you want your music to mean something or to help someone get through something, and when a song has a great message and meaning, it is what you strive for."

Beyoncé Knowles, Billboard.[6]

In May 2011,[4] Warren played the song on a guitar over the phone to Knowles' husband Jay-Z, who then called her.[6][7] Upon hearing "I Was Here", Knowles got chills,[6] and immediately made up her mind, "Oh my god, I have to have this song."[4] September 2011 was going to mark the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks and Knowles thought that the song would perfectly complete her album,[4] which had nearly reached completion.[6] The mastering of 4 was delayed to allow Knowles to record the song.[7] Warren was present at the recording sessions, which took place two days following her conversation with Knowles and Jay-Z on the phone.[7] She said, "There's nothing better than to hear the song that you came up with [sung back]. It's like your heart found another heart",[6] before adding:

I've never had chills through my entire body like I had from hearing Beyoncé sing this song. 'I Was Here' came from my soul and became the song that was coming from hers. In all my life, I have never heard anything as amazing as this. Hearing her sing 'I Was Here' will forever be one of the best moments of my life, and I know that this song will touch many other lives as well.[5]

Composition[edit]

A 23 second sample of "I Was Here" where, as stated by Joanne Dorken of MTV UK, Knowles "gets all reflective on us, [singing] about leaving a legacy."[8] Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic considered it to be Knowles' "existential moment", where she hits upon the justification for how she can claim to be an independent woman and yet feel so totally at "some dude's mercy."[9]

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"I Was Here" is a downtempo R&B ballad[10][11][12] that is instrumentally based on synthesizers undercurrent,[13] indie rock guitars,[12] musical keyboards and big drums provided by Tedder and Kutzle.[14] The sound of the song's recurring hook uses a combination of a xylophone and a piano.[10] According to the sheet music published by Alfred Music Publishing at the website Musicnotes.com, "I Was Here" is written in the key of E minor with a 6/8 time signature and has a tempo of 37 beats per minute. The song follows a chord progression of Em–C–D–Dsus–Em–C–Em–C, and Knowles' vocals span two octaves from E3 to E5.[15]

James Reed of The Boston Globe felt that "['I Was Here'] is 'Halo' on steroids — or Valium."[12] It features Knowles as the female protagonist, who wants to make her mark on this Earth before her time is up as she wants that the world remember her impact.[11][12][14] Ian Walker of AbsolutePunk elaborated on the song's composition: "'I Was Here' is Knowles' monument to the ages. The song climbs higher and higher, chorus by chorus, until Knowles reaches her apex, delivering some of her best vocals on the album. The lyrics are a bit uninspired, overly triumphant but somewhat humble as the singer contemplates her mark on history. Although she has garnered massive amounts of acclaim through her storied career, Knowles is far from satisfied."[16]

"I Was Here" begins with quivering reverb[17] and a plaintively plucked guitar setting a somber mood for about fifteen seconds before the beats begin alongside Knowles' voice.[10] Her vocals set a hushed and morbid tone on the song as she bring doses of edge and grit, singing: "I wanna leave my footprints on the sands of time / Know there was something that meant something that I left behind / When I leave this world, I'll leave no regrets / I'll leave something to remember, So they won't forget".[17][18] She further sings throughout the song, "The hearts I have touched will be the proof that I leaved that I made a difference".[19] Watery synths shimmer in the background before Knowles adopts an authoritative tone to chant the chorus lines: "I was here / I lived, I loved / I was here / I did, I've done / Everything that I wanted / And it was more than I thought it would be / I will leave my mark so everyone will know / I was here".[18][20]

Critical reception[edit]

"But then there's Beyoncé, at the center of the mix, intoning in an uncommonly hushed tone, 'I wanna leave my footprints in the sands of time.' Instead of gnashing my teeth, I listen closer, wanting to hear this shockingly affecting elegy directed for once not at one specific lover, but the world that allowed her to express that love in the first place. Oddly enough, the song reminds me of Lars von Trier's best works, which provoke actual emotional reactions while being, on paper, contrived pieces of shit. 'I Was Here', and 4 in general, is that kind of a work, objectively middling, subjectively magnificent."

—Conrad Tao, Sputnikmusic[17]

"I Was Here" garnered mixed to positive reviews from critics, most of whom felt the song's message was too deep for an artist like Knowles to sing, and criticized its placement on the track list of 4.[21] Georgette Cline of The Boombox gave the song a positive review stating that, although the lyrics are a bit on the morbid side, it works in Knowles' favor, "proving she can tackle a myriad of subjects".[14] Matthew Horton of BBC criticized the song's order of placement on the track list of 4, stating that "'Run the World (Girls)' is tagged on like a bonus track following 'I Was Here', which sounds like the perfect ending for the album."[22] Matthew Perpetua of Rolling Stone also had the same view, saying it "disrupts the flow of up-tempo songs on the second half 4".[23] Perpetua however calls it a "showstopper" and added that it "work[s] well as a bittersweet emotional climax for the album".[23] Perpetua finished his review by saying that "'I Was Here' is the blustery ballad one would expect by a Knowles/Warren team-up, and stands off as flat and generic when compared to the rest of 4."[23] Another reviewer of the same magazine, Jody Rosen complimented Knowles' vocals stating that she sings with authority; however, he coined "I Was Here" as a low point on the album and added that it is "swamped in 'My Way'-style self-mythologizing."[20]

Steve Jones of USA Today showed appreciation for "I Was Here": "At 29, the still-in-her-prime Beyoncé seems a little young to be worrying about her legacy, as she does on the Warren power ballad I Was Here. But she puts so much feeling into it that it winds up being the album's most moving song."[24] Joanne Dorken of MTV UK was also positive, praising the song's "simple backing music, and Knowles' flawless and beautiful voice." She concluded that "I Was Here" ends up being a "standout song on the album [and] we won't be forgetting Queen B in a hurry."[8] Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic was also positive, writing, "Payoff comes on 11th song, the epically loping 'I Was Here.'[9] Cameron Adams of the Herald Sun commented that "I Was Here" comes to "a show-stopping moment in a Beyonce concert near you".[25] James Reed of The Boston Globe wrote that the collaboration of Diane Warren and Ryan Tedder, introduces "a new strain of her balladry: an ethereal marriage of R&B sensuality and stuttering indie-rock guitars."[12] Condar Tao of the website Sputnikmusic showed his appreciation for the song, writing, "[...] perhaps even more notable is the record's penultimate track, the Ryan Tedder-produced 'I Was Here'. Tedder is arguably one of the most irritating people working in pop today, and considering his track record, it's not a surprise that 'I Was Here' is the most contemporary-sounding song off of 4. What is surprising is just how good it is. The production is predictably icky, making that increasingly common mistake of using distant footsteps and reverbed guitar to convey a clichéd sense of 'epicness'."[17] Gary Graff of Billboard said that the line "I want to leave my footprints on the sands of time" in the song defined the whole album.[26] Simon Goddard of Q magazine chose "I Was Here" as one of the best songs on 4, describing it as a "breast-clutching tour de fource".[27]

Rich Juzwiak of The Village Voice complimented "I Was Here" as knocking harder than anything on 4's "bloated predecessor", I Am ... Sasha Fierce (2008).[28] Similarly, Embling of Tiny Mix Tapes wrote: "'I Was Here' is a heavy brick of a song — overwrought, maudlin, delusionally grandiose — but it is also disarmingly honest about the addictive, undignified dimensions of fame and celebrity."[29] Genevieve Koski of The A.V. Club described "I Was Here" as "uncomfortably overwrought" although he said that Knowles manages to bring conviction to its lyrical content.[30] Adam Markovitz of Entertainment Weekly also gave the song a mixed review stating that it reached a "lifetime-movie levels of schmaltz".[31] David Amidon of PopMatters stated that "I Was Here" is "plain awkward to here a woman as in her prime physically as Beyoncé is to even approach such a tune. The dull music from Ryan Tedder and an army of co-producers does not help matters."[11] Michael Cragg of The Observer gave the song a negative review, stating that it disappoints as being "corny bluster at odds with the laid-back feel of her most accomplished album yet."[32] Andy Gill of The Independent simply stated that "I Was Here" strains too hard for "Empire State of Mind" (2009) status.[33] Greg Kot of Chicago Tribune described the song as a "toxic string of cliches".[34] Hamish MacBain of NME gave "I Was Here" a mixed review stating the song sounds like an X-Factor winner's single, full of unbelievably trite sentiments.[18]

Chart performance[edit]

Although "I Was Here" was never released as a single, it appeared on several charts across the world following the release of 4. Selling 14,173 digital downloads, the song opened at number 44 on the South Korea Gaon International Singles Chart for the week ending July 2, 2011 which became its peak position on that chart.[35] Following the release of 4, "I Was Here" also charted at number 131 on the UK Singles Chart on July 9, 2011.[36] "I Was Here" additionally debuted on the Swiss Singles Chart at number74 on July 10, 2011, before falling off the chart the following week.[37] On the chart issue dated January 16, 2012, "I Was Here" debuted at number 87 on the Australian Singles Chart and number 26 on its urban chart.[38][39]

After the release of the music video of the song it appeared again on several charts. On the Irish Singles Chart, the song debuted at number 88 for the week ending August 30, 2012 which later became its peak position on that chart.[40] On the Belgian Ultratip Singles Chart, the song debuted at number 83 on September 1, 2012[41] and four weeks later it peaked at number 16 on September 29, 2012.[42] On the chart issue dated September 8, 2012, the song appeared at number 40 on the UK R&B Chart.[43] The next week it moved three positions up, at number 37, which became its peak position.[44] On the Hungarian Singles Chart, "I Was Here" debuted at number 6 on the chart issue dated September 9, 2012 which also became its peak position on that chart.[45] For the week ending September 22, 2012, the song debuted at number 44 on the US Hot Dance Club Songs.[46] The next week, it moved to number 31,[47] and ascended on the chart over the next weeks. It reached its peak position of number 13 on the chart.[48]

Music video[edit]

Background and release[edit]

"It says, 'I want to leave my footprints in the sands of time' and it basically is all of our dreams. And that’s leaving our mark on the world. feel like we all want to know that our life meant something and that we did something for someone else and that we spread positivity, no matter how big or how small... We all have our purpose, and we all have our strengths…it feels so wonderful to do something for someone else. And I think for the U.N. to want to include the whole world was something important, and I feel like that’s what I represent."

—Knowles describing the connection between the song and the campaign.[49][50]

On July 25, 2012 Knowles left a message for her fans on her official website stating "Leave Your Footprints on 19 August 2012", the opening lyrics to the song.[51] On July 27, 2012 it was revealed that Knowles would be releasing a music video for the song as part of a global launch of World Humanitarian Day, held by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).[52] It was helmed by production company Ridley Scott & Associates and directors Kenzo Digital and Sophie Muller.[53] Droga5 and RSA Films served as producers of the video with the animation done by Dirt Empire NYC.[54] The campaign aimed to reach 1 billion people with a single message when it launched. further making social media history.[53][55] Several illustrations were launched on Knowles' website explaining how could people leave their mark on the world.[56] The campaign was powered and measured by a new platform called Thunderclap created by creative shop DE-DE which aggregated the social reach of campaign supporters.[57] Droga5's creative chairman David Droga further explained the decision to include Knowles for the World Humanitarian Day,

"The hope, first and foremost, was to put this on people’s radar. Apart from the UN and a few newsreaders who mention this every year, people don’t even know this day exists. It’s also to make people realize it’s not just about volunteering to go and live in the Congo for four years. It’s as much about working a soup kitchen as it is helping an elderly person. Contributing something positive doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment; it can just be daily gestures. So, it was about giving the whole issue perspective... One video and a message aren't going to save everything. But when you say things together, maybe the message will be heard and hopefully will provoke action. Inherently people are good, and inherently people are distracted and somewhat lazy, so it comes down to how do you get people’s attention."[58]

Prior to the release of the video, Knowles said: "We all see the headlines and we think what can I really do to help?... World Humanitarian Day is an opportunity for all of us to work together to make a difference. This is our time to leave our mark on the world and show that we were here and we care."[53] During another interview posted on the UN website, Knowles said she was attracted to raising awareness on the day of recognition: "I found out that 22 people lost their lives helping people [in Baghdad]. I thought it was such an incredible thing to turn that into something positive and try to include the world into doing something great for someone else".[49] Another inspiration for Knowles to participate in the campaign were the finalists at the 2012 Do Something Awards and their humanitarian work.[59] Knowles also enlisted the help of celebrities Gwyneth Paltrow, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Chris Martin, Shakira, Jay-Z and First Lady Michelle Obama to support the cause[60][61] as well as Coca-Cola, MTV, and Oreo.[57] On August 3, 2012, Knowles released a black and white promotional video for the World Humanitarian Day. The video featured Knowles saying, "On August 19. It’s high time we rise together. Do one thing for a human being. Nothing is too small. … Make your mark and say I was here."[62] The music video was expected to be released simultaneously in the main platforms of television, cinema, projection screens and facilities prepared for buildings in New York, Dubai and Geneva, on August 19.[52] However, it was premiered on August 18, 2012 instead.[54] The next day, it was released on the iTunes Store in the US.[63] The performance of the song received positive reviews from music critics and celebrities who attended.[64]

Mapping and projection[edit]

The UN General Assembly Hall (pictured) served as the filming location for the music video.

The video was filmed in front of a live audience at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on August 10, 2012.[65][66] SuperUber worked on integration between animations and technology, the structure design and projection mapping that took over the General Assembly Hall after it was invited by Kenzo Digital. 10 20K HLM Barco projectors were placed and mapping was done using Pandora's widget designer and 5 Pandora's Dual Box servers.[67] The final video had an 8856 x 1664 resolution and was split into 10 slices of 1080 x 1664 pixels, since each projector was turned on its side and the images were projected vertically in order to cover the whole structure.[67] Two slices were fed into each system and SuperUber did the warping and edge blending inside Pandora. The screen which was used was over 12,000 square feet; Lucas Werthein, a representative for SuperUber commented that it was the largest indoor temporary screen that was a tilted compound curve adding that from an engineering standpoint, it is "extremely complex".[67] It was custom-designed to mold to the inside of the General Assembly Hall. It spanned 68m X 15m and surrounded the audience with a 240 degree immersive projection.[67] Ten synchronized and mapped projections covered the screen with 200,000 lumens, creating one continuous giant image.[67] The screen which weighed 1000 pounds was sewn by forty five people. The whole structure, which was hanging off the UN ceiling weighed 6000 pounds. Werthein revealed, "In order to create the proper tension for the screen to hold its shape we had to weld permanent rigging points into the dome of the general assembly."[67] Peter Kirn of Create Digital Motion wrote that the projection mapping was performed onto a fairly simple surface: "What makes the mapping so effective is the way in which it can fill the space, making those pictures immersive on a grand architectural scale. It makes the image a real volume in which the performance can take place."[67] Russ Rive, SuperUber’s director said, "It’s an ambitious project that has completely transformed an iconic location – seen as immutable and unchanging, with its goldplated panel and grand volume. By adding a virtual layer to it, we could digitally rebuild it, playing with the architectural elements, and therefore changing the notion of something static. The technology made the integration between animation and architecture. We used projectors to 'paint with light' the UN General Assembly’s Hall – a unique opportunity to transform such an emblematic place."[67]

Live performance and synopsis[edit]

On August 10, 2012, Knowles appeared at the Assembly for the rehearsals prior to the performance.[68] Julia Stiles, The-Dream and Diane Warren were the celebrities who attended the performance. Prior to the performing the song, Knowles met with United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon.[65] Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Jan Eliasson, announced Knowles' performance giving a short introduction about the singer: "Tonight [she] brings more than her stunning talents; she brings inspiration to help another person, to help another human being".[68] He further recalled a "dark day in the history of the U.N." when 22 humanitarian workers lost their lives in a terrorist attack in Iraq on August 19, 2003 adding that the event and the World Humanitarian Day both honor those lost lives and encourage others to join the effort.[68] He further interviewed guests whose relatives lost their lives in the accident. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos also appeared encouraging everyone to log on to the website WHD-IWasHere.org by August 19 and commit to doing one good act to help someone in need further saying, "I told [Beyoncé]: It's great that we have her, because she can reach millions of people. I could spend the rest of my life doing what I do, and I wouldn't reach a 10th of that number. And she said: 'Don't sell yourself short.'.[68]

Knowles appeared on stage wearing a floor-length white gown with micro-sequins from designer Marc Bouwer's pre-fall collection[69][70] while her hair was pulled back in a sleek ponytail.[71] She performed on a high-rise stage with a big screen spanning from ceiling to floor behind her.[68] As she sang, the screen filled with images of U.N. aid workers on the scene in various wars, famines, and floods around the world.[70] Following the performance, she announced, "I'd like to ask everyone to make sure they're a part of August 19th... It's such a beautiful, beautiful day, and I'd like to honor the 22 people who lost their lives. God bless you all. Thank you so much for having me."[72] The music video for the song starts with Knowles singing the song with the U.N. audience seated in front of her, and images from recent disasters screening in panoramic view behind her. As the song progresses, scenes of globes and constellations turn up; laser lights and a small blue arrow, imprinted with the song's title, trace a path along the globe.[71] The performance footage is also mixed with images of global volunteer efforts; as the giant screen displays globe-reaching graphics they morph into pictures of humanitarian work. The music video ends with the question "What Will You Do?" and offers the official website for the World Humanitarian Day.[73]

Reception[edit]

Following Knowles' performance, American journalist Anderson Cooper who was present at the Hall and served as a host jokingly asked the crowd, "Is this what happens at the U.N. every Friday night? Because, I've gotta tell you ... I wanna be here every Friday night if this goes on."[68] Diane Warren described the performance as "one of the best experiences ever" in her life.[74] The performance and the music video received positive reviews from critics, who praised Knowles' live vocals. Pamela Falk of CBS News described the performance as "breathtaking" and "stunning".[64] Jim Farber of Daily News was also positive about the performance saying that she "delivered a powerful live vocal to the song's musical track".[70] Molly O'Brien of Prefix Magazine commented that the video was "simple and powerful: Beyoncé gives an impeccable live performance of the song... On the album, 'I Was Here' is pompous and a little cloying; live and accompanied by those images, it's got the same change-the-world flavor as Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror.'"[75] Nadeska Alexis of the same publication wrote that Knowles belted out her vocals while members of the audience sang along further noting that the moment ended "all too quickly".[68] A writer of OK! magazine praised Knowles for being "striking as always" while belting out "I Was Here" in the video.[76] MTV Act's Jose Iniguez described the performance as "phenomenal, flawless, goosebump-inducing, inspiring" adding that it gave him life and made him feel "gobbled up" by the presence of Knowles.[59] He added that "I Was Here" couldn't have been a better fit for the campaign and concluded that "Bey[oncé] was simply flawless. Her voice, her dress, her touching (yet short) address after her performance sent chills down very limb."[59] Mike Larkin from the Daily Mail described the performance as "spectacular" while praising the "virtual galaxy" created on the stage with "lavish" production values, Knowles' "spine-tingling" vocal rendition while hitting the high notes and her "fantastic" look complete with "dazzlingly glamorous white frock, which hugged her spectacular post pregnancy body in all the right places".[77]

Leslie Gornstein of E! Online praised Knowles' dress worn during the video, writing that "[it] reminds us of a long column of light".[69] Lisa Potter from Marie Claire described the floor-length gown as "dramatic".[78] A writer of MTV News also praised Knowles' "glamorous [look] in white".[71] A writer of Rap-Up wrote in his review that the singer was "glowing" in her white dress, adding that she put her "powerful pipes on display as she belted out the empowering ballad".[74] E! Online's Sierra Marquina described Knowles' look as "stunning".[55] Melissa Maerz of Entertainment Weekly described the gown as "sleek, space-age white" and further praised Knowles for "belting out" the song emotionally with tears, comparing it with the live video from Live at Roseland: Elements of 4.[79] Sarah Bull of the Daily Mail generally praised Knowles' look during the performance saying that she shows off her "stunning" curves in a "gorgeous" figure-hugging outfit and added that the make-up was kept simple for the performance.[80] Adelle Platon of Vibe magazine praised Knowles' look in a "stunning" white gown "belting against a backdrop of worldly images".[81] Jason Lipshutz of Billboard wrote that the images of global volunteer efforts during the video were "striking".[73] Peter Kirn from Create Digital Motion commented that the powerful projection used in the video "can make imagery big enough that it invites big thinking — and debate".[67] Kirn concluded that "In the end, you see a performance in which neither Beyoncé nor the imagery upstages the other – it’s two powerful performances, not just one."[67] The Huffington Post's Sarah Dean described the video as inspiring while "shining a spotlight on humanitarian work".[61] On August 29, 2012, according to Thunderclap 1.13 billion messages were shared worldwide.[57][82] The video was nominated in the category for Best Video with a Social Message at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards on August 25 but lost to Macklemore's "Same Love".[83][84]

Live performances[edit]

Knowles performing during the 4 Intimate Nights with Beyoncé.

Knowles performed "I Was Here" live for the first time on August 14, 2011 during her 4 Intimate Nights with Beyoncé in Roseland Ballroom, New York City.[85] She performed the song in front of 3,500 people wearing a gold dress and backed by her all-female band and her backing singers, called the Mamas.[85] "I Was Here" served as the closing song of the residency show with Knowles changing the line, on which the tile of the song is based, to "Roseland, we were here."[86] Jason Newman of Rap-Up magazine commented that "in less confident hands, the line would have come off as hokey. For Beyoncé, it was the recognition of a singular event before returning to the stadium."[86] According to Brad Wete from Entertainment Weekly, during the performance of the song Knowles "bowed, fanatic screams and cheers followed."[85] Mike Wass of Idolator wrote:

[Knowles'] ability to bring new depth and texture to quality material is almost as impressive as her uncanny knack for connecting with the audience on an emotional level. Take, for instance, the final song — it was impossible not to be moved by [Knowles] as she fought tears while tackling the clearly personal lyrics of 'I Was Here'.[87]

Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone, who had given the song a negative review wrote that "on record, ['I Was Here'] was a hollow exercise in self-mythologizing. On Sunday night, though, Beyoncé brought the song to life, singing with a tenacious mix of shmaltz and soul that evoked two of her heroes, Barbra Streisand and Aretha Franklin [...] It sounded less like bluster than confession. It was almost intimate."[88] Yolanda Sangweni of Essence magazine stated that ending the show with "I Was Here" was "triumphant note" and that "Diana Ross and Michael Jackson would be proud."[89] During the ITV special A Night With Beyoncé which aired on December 4 in the United Kingdom, Knowles performed "I Was Here" to a selected crowd of fans.[90] The performance from A Night With Beyoncé was later broadcast on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on December 31, 2011.[91] A writer of Essence magazine noted that she performed a "powerful rendition" of the song further adding that she "looked and sounded glorious".[92] In May 2012, during Revel Presents: Beyoncé Live, a video montage of Knowles holding her child Blue Ivy Carter, drinking a pint of Guinness, and going whale-watching was shown while the song was played in the background, before she began singing the first verse of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You".[93][94]

Live video[edit]

The live performance for "I Was Here" as part of 4 Intimate Nights with Beyoncé, where it served as the closing song, was taped and premiered online on November 16, 2011. It was added on the DVD Live at Roseland: Elements of 4, which was released in late November 2011.[95][96] The video begins with Knowles onstage in a shimmery silver minidress, giving the crowd a bit of a windup about where "I Was Here" came from. She says: "It's taken a lot of hard work to get to where I am. I searched all around the world, and I found myself. You all are my inspiration. I want to sing this last song and dedicate it to all of you guys."[97][98] The video then turns into a career retrospective in the form of Knowles' home movies and her professional highlights. It splices poignant memories throughout Knowles' life, from her childhood, to partying and vacations with her family, to most of the locations she visited around the world, to her rise with Destiny's Child into solo stardom and her love story with Jay-Z.[96][99] Also containing footage from major performances and awards shows, the clip begins with a young Knowles thanking the judges in a talent show and later doing the snake in her living room, performing in her TLC-inspired neon overalls.[97][100]

The live video of "I Was Here" from the DVD Live at Roseland: Elements of 4 featured appearances by Prince (left) and Nelson Mandela (right) among others.

The clip briefly returns to the center of the stage where Knowles starts to belt out the ballad over a montage of other home videos.[97] It later shows Knowles, as an adult, hugging Michael Jackson, performing with Prince, Tina Turner, her husband, and contains cameos by Oprah Winfrey and Nelson Mandela.[99][100] The montage additionally contains moments of the everyday behind-the-scenes footage of Knowles; her sometimes-awkward teenage hair, Knowles playing on a Slip 'n Slide,[100] playing with her nephew in a pool, frolicking on a beach,[101] going for whale watching,[102] and trying on her actual wedding dress at the 3:36 mark.[95] Other footage includes: Knowles performing on her world tours in support of her second and third studio albums,[99][101] her performance at the 2011 Glastonbury Festival where she was the first major solo female headliner to appear on the Pyramid stage in over twenty years,[103] a backstage scene of Knowles at the 52nd Grammy Awards, holding her six Grammy awards, which broke the record for most Grammy Awards won by a female artist in one night,[104] The clip ends with Knowles revealing her baby bump on 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.[100] a performance of "Run the World (Girls)" at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards, where she was given the Millennium Award for recognizing her career achievements and influence in the music industry.[105]

Music critics generally welcomed the video as for most of her time in the spotlight, Knowles has been a strictly private celebrity. Melissa Maerz of Entertainment Weekly wrote that it was pleasant to see Knowles unguarded as it is a rare occurrence. He added that though the clip is a more professional-looking than most people's home movies, it remains the closest thing that fans have seen so far to "Bey[oncé] just being Bey[oncé]".[100] Similarly, Brent Woodie of The Christian Post commented about how the 2008 wedding of Knowles to Jay-Z was kept very private; there were no photographs or videos released from the event, leaving media and gossip columnists to speculate on the nuptials. He welcomed the clip for being the first behind-the-scenes footage of Knowles on her wedding day.[99] Luchina Fisher of ABC News described it as "a home movie featuring highlights from Beyonce's decorated life" and felt that it's "the personal moments [in the video] the singer's fans will no doubt devour".[106] Samantha Cortez of Daily News felt that the content of the video which included Knowles' most personal moments and the lyrics of the song, "add even more sentiment to the video".[107] At the 43rd NAACP Image Award presented on February 17, 2012, the video for "I Was Here" was nominated in the category for Outstanding Music Video.[108][109]

Cover versions and usage in media[edit]

A cover version of "I Was Here" performed by Lea Michele was included on Glee's soundtrack album Glee: The Music, The Graduation Album released on May 14, 2012.[110] On November 29, 2012, Diamond White, a contestant of the second season of The X Factor in the US covered "I Was Here".[111][112] Michele Amabile Angermiller of The Hollywood Reporter noted that "Her performance had some pitch problems, but she pulled it out."[113] Daniel Fienberg from the website HitFix wrote that she made a smart choice with the performance of the song adding that there were "some sharp notes here and there, but she sings her heart out".[114] Bobby Olivier of The Star-Ledger described White's version as "pitchy"[115] while Lisa de Moraes of The Washington Post wrote that she "blasts" through the song.[116] American Idol contestant Angela Miller performed the song during the shows of the twelfth season of the show in March 2013.[117] Michael Slezak of the website TVLine graded the performance with B- saying that "tears may have affected the vocal a bit",[117] while a writer from Daily Mail described her performance as "stunning".[118] Ericka Alston of Los Angeles Times wrote that Miller made "an appropriate choice" with the song.[119]

On July 19, 2011, "I Was Here" provided the soundtrack for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Final.[120] As reported by ABC News on September 11, 2011, Knowles paid tribute to the September 11 attacks with "I Was Here" on the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the event.[121] On September 21, 2011, it was announced via PR Newswire that Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) would launch "a star-studded" new Public Service Advertising (PSA) campaign and that the soundtrack for the campaign would be "I Was Here".[122] Nationwide, Boys & Girls Clubs provide high-impact, affordable programs, and caring adult mentors, to keep kids on the path to great futures, emphasizing academic success, good character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles.[122] The director, Ron Howard explained the reason behind choosing "I Was Here" as the soundtrack of their new PSA: "We wanted the most powerful piece of music possible, to underscore the dramatic message that what we do today to shape the future of our children is vitally important. We could not have picked a more moving track. Diane's words and Beyonce's delivery are over the top."[122] In November 2013, the song was included on the relief album Songs for the Philippines; the proceeds of it were donated to the Philippine Red Cross for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.[123]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from 4 liner notes.[2]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2011–12) Peak
position
Australian Singles Chart[124] 85
Australian Urban Singles Chart[39] 26
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[125] 18
Hungarian Singles Chart[45] 6
Irish Singles Chart[40] 88
South Korea International Singles Chart[35] 44
Swiss Singles Chart[37] 74
UK R&B Singles Chart[44] 37
UK Singles Chart[36] 131
US Hot Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[48] 13

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External links[edit]