Partition (song)

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Single by Beyoncé
from the album Beyoncé
Released February 25, 2014 (2014-02-25)
Recorded Jungle City Studios, Oven Studios (New York City)
Length 5:19
Label Columbia
Beyoncé singles chronology
"Part II (On the Run)"
"Say Yes"

"Partition" is a song recorded by American singer Beyoncé for her self-titled fifth studio album (2013). It was co-written by long-time collaborator The-Dream along with Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Jerome Harmon, Beyoncé, Dwane Weir, Mike Dean. Production for the song was handled by Timbaland, Harmon, Timberlake, Key Wane and Beyoncé, with additional production from Dean and Boots. The song was sent to urban contemporary on February 25, 2014 as the third single from Beyoncé by Columbia Records.

The song consists of two parts, titled "Yoncé" and "Partition". A hip hop, dancehall and electro track, "Partition" also incorporates trap elements. Its production musically consists of a sparse synthesized arrangement, a thrusting bassline and a heavy drumbeat. Exploring the deeply sexual nature of Beyoncé, "Partition" depicts sexual intercourse in the back of a limousine. The closing minute of the song features a French word interpolation similar to a quote by actress Julianne Moore in 1998 film The Big Lebowski.

"Partition" was generally well-received by contemporary music critics, who commended Beyoncé's advocacy for freedom and confidence in the expression of female sexuality. They also praised the catchy lyrics and the Monica Lewinsky reference in the second part of the song became known as one of the most memorable lines on the album. Beyoncé was complimented for her half-rapped vocal delivery and received comparisons to British recording artist M.I.A. Following the album's release, "Partition" gained some spins on United States urban contemporary radio stations. It has since reached number 23 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, number 9 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and number 1 on the US Hot Dance Club Songs chart.

Accompanying music videos for "Yoncé" and "Partition" were released on December 13, 2013, on Beyoncé. The former clip was directed by Ricky Saiz and filmed on the streets of Brooklyn, New York, while the latter clip was directed by Jake Nava and shot at the Parisian cabaret club, Crazy Horse. Both "Yoncé" and "Partition" were added to the set list and performed live during the second European leg of The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour and later during the On the Run Tour.

Conception and release[edit]

Justin Timberlake (pictured) co-wrote and co-produced the song.

"Partition" was written by Terius Nash, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Timothy Mosley, Jerome Harmon, Dwane Weir, Charisse Hill and Mike Dean.[1] The production was handled by Timberlake, Beyoncé, Dean, Boots as well as Mosley, Harmon and Wane under their stage names Timbaland, J-Roc and Key Wane respectively.[1] "Partition" was conceived as a two-part song, the first part of which is called "Yoncé".[2] The latter's original drumbeat was created by Timberlake on a bucket.[2] Mike Dean then added the dropping 808's lead synths,claps and strings. Beyoncé described the sound that he created as "organic" and said, "It reminded me of being in middle school during the lunch breaks, when you just start free-styling."[2] The trio decided to keep the buckets as Beyoncé wanted an organic production.[2] Then The-Dream started writing some of the lyrics including, "Yoncé on his mouth like liquor".[2] Beyoncé found it awkward at the beginning but she soon loved the phrase, which lead to the birth of her new alter ego Yoncé.[2] The singer revealed that she was "embarrassed" after she recorded "Partition" because of its overtly sexual lyrics.[3] Speaking about how the other part of the song materialized, Beyoncé said:

It takes me back to being in my car as a teenager. It takes me back to when me and my husband first meet, and he tries to scoop me and he thinks I'm the hottest thing in the world. I kinda had this whole fantasy of being in the car, and this whole movie played in my head. I didn't have a pen and paper. I got to the mic, I'm like, 'Oh, press Record.'[3]

The song was produced at the Jungle City Studios and Oven Studios in New York City.[1] Once the musical arrangements were done by the production team, the music was recorded by Stuart White, Chris Godbey, Ann Mincieli and Bart Schoudel.[1] White and Tony Maserati mixed the track while the audio engineering was carried out by James Krausse and Matt Weber with assistance from Justin Hergett, Chris Tabron and Matt Wiggers; the second engineer was Ramon Rivas.[1] The audio mastering was done by Tom Coyne and Aya Merrill.[1] Timberlake and Timbaland served as backing vocalists and recorded the vocals of Beyoncé.[1] The spoken section towards the end of "Partition" was recorded by Hajiba Fahmy.[1] "Partition" officially impacted US urban contemporary radio on February 25, 2014 as the third single from Beyoncé.[4] "Partition" also officially impacted radio stations in Italy on March 28, 2014.[5]


A sample of "Partition", a two-part hip hop, dancehall and electro song full of sub-bass.[6] Exploring the deeply sexual nature of Beyoncé, the song describes sexual intercourse in the back of a limousine; it features straightforward and memorable lines (such as the Lewinsky scandal reference, "He Monica Lewinskyed all on my gown"), sung by Beyoncé on a thrusting and resounding bassline.[7][8]

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Partition" is a two-part hip hop, dancehall and electro song with elements of trap.[9][10][11][12][13] It builds on a slinky Caribbean groove[10] and spacey heavy beats[14][15] provided by Roland TR-808 toms and bass drums.[16][17] The track also musically consists of sparse synthesizer pulses, little swoops and finger snaps.[18][19] The lyrics are candidly sexual;[20] Melissa Locker Time magazine wrote that "Partition" leaves no sexual innuendo unturned.[21] Commenting on Beyoncé's vocal styles and experimentation on the track, Annie Zaleski of Las Vegas Weekly noted that she displays much attitude through her lines and ornaments her singing with trills—rapid alternations between two adjacent notes, usually a semitone or tone apart.[22] Zaleski further wrote that Beyoncé adopts a doo-wop vocal-based style to sing some of the lyrics and even utters occasional purrs—murmuring sound expressive of pleasure.[22]

The song begins with a short call-and-response audio clip from The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour as Beyoncé asks the crowd "Lemme [sic] hear you say 'Hayyy [sic] Ms. Carter!'".[20] It then transitions into what Andrew Hampp of Billboard magazine called the "lady thug anthem" of "Yoncé".[20] Beyoncé delivers half-rapped verses on the first half of the song,[23] in which the female protagonist teases male subjects in a club as she turns heads.[24] In the first verse, she warns the other women in the club, "Every girl on here gotta look me up and down / All on Instagram cake by the pound". The singer adds on the second verse, "I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker."[20] "Yoncé" closes with the bridge as Beyoncé sings repeatedly, "Yoncé all on his mouth like liquor",[17] while an ascending siren echoes over a staccato bass that hits heavily and uniformly in the background.[25]

Beyoncé uses the 1998 emerging political sex scandal between US President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky (pictured) as "a euphemism for her man finishing on her clothing" as she sings, "He Monica Lewinskyed all on my gown".[12]

The second part, titled "Partition", is preceded by the sound of paparazzi camera clicks and a window whirring up, which separates it from the first part "Yoncé".[7][26] "Partition" has a fractured production and is lyrically about the female protagonist having sex with her romantic interest in the backseat of a limousine.[27][28] Caitlin White, writing for The 405, highlighted that the song details a romantic relationship in which women do not act as sexual objects during sexual intercourse but rather use "the physical act of love as a form of agency", from which they derive pleasure.[24] "Partition" gained significant attention for its explicit lyrics,[29] with frequent references made to the opening lines of the first verse in which Beyoncé asks her driver to put up the partition:[27]

Driver roll up the partition please
I don't need you seeing Yoncé on her knees
Took 45 minutes to get all dressed up
We ain't even gonna make it to this club
Now my mascara running, red lipstick smudged
Oh he so horny, yeah he want to fuck
He popped all my buttons, and he ripped my blouse
He Monica Lewinskyed all on my gown

On the hook lines, Beyoncé completely lets go as she adopts whispery vocals, singing that she wants to please her man, "Take all of me / I just wanna be the girl you like, girl you like".[18][31] The closing minute of the song features a French spoken word interpolation, which translates roughly as: "Do you like sex? Sex. I mean, the physical activity. Coitus. Do you like it? You're not interested in sex? Men think that feminists hate sex, but it's a very stimulating and natural activity that women love". David Haglund and Forrest Wickman of Slate magazine noted similarities between this spoken section and a similar quote by actress Julianne Moore in 1998 film The Big Lebowski.[32]

Critical reception[edit]

"Partition" was generally well received by critics, who commended its experimental production and sexual yet catchy lyrics. The line, "He Monica Lewinsky-ed all on my gown", was covered in several reviews.[20][27][29][33] Glenn Gamboa of Newsday wrote that Beyoncé "channels her inner Prince, moving from a sweet, girl-group pop sound to Dirty South hip-hop".[9] Michael Cragg of The Guardian highlighted that Beyoncé gives the best explanation of the album's raison d'etre through the line, "Radio say speed it up / I just go slower".[23] He further commended the way Beyoncé half-raps "with a delicious snarl" in the first part of the song.[23] Many critics, including Hardeep Phull of the New York Post, Una Mullalay of The Irish Times and Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune welcomed Beyoncé's rapping on "Partition" and compared it to the work of British recording artist M.I.A.[34][35][36] Andrew Barker of Variety magazine highlighted that among the songs that discuss sexuality on Beyoncé, "none hold a candle to the absolutely scorching 'Partition'".[11] He also praised how Beyoncé "toss[es] off a few old-school battle rhymes" with the line, "I sneezed on the beat, and the beat got sicker", being a standout.[11] Similarly, Miles Marshall Lewis of Ebony magazine noted that lines like, "I sneezed on the beat and the beat got sicker / Yoncé all on his mouth like liquor", would make listeners smile. He praised how Beyoncé "spills lyrics ... in a confident flow" and concluded, "As a singing rapper, she's still way more precious than ferocious."[17]

Andrew Hampp of Billboard magazine commended the memorability of the lyrics and wrote that "'Partition' is yet another 'gettin’ freaky with my baby' jam, with some of Bey’s most frankly sexual lines yet."[20] Similarly, Eliana Dockterman of Time magazine hailed the lyrical content of "Partition"; she noted that it suitably exemplifies "embodiment of modern feminism for a generation that has been reluctant to claim the word" and further praised how Beyoncé "express[es] her desire to please [her partner] while still projecting a fierce, independent persona".[31] Melissa Locker, also writing for Time magazine, suggested that Beyoncé should work with Timbaland more often as "his sultry beats paired with her R-rated lyrics and the catchy chorus 'It took 45 minutes to get all dressed up / And we ain’t even gonna make it to this club', make a captivating combination".[21] Chris Bosman of the same publication wrote an extensive review of the song:

But Beyoncé is far from being all sentiment. Because a large part of being Beyoncé in America in 2013 is being a sexual creature and not only being unafraid of that fact, but reveling — and reveling confidently — in it. The amorphous, shifting Houston-trap-meets-Noah Shebib trunk rattler 'Partition' exemplifies this particular sentiment. On the track, the Queen Bey tells her driver to put the partition up because 'I don’t need you seeing 'Yoncé on her knees'; uses Monica Lewinsky as a euphemism for her man finishing on her clothing; reveals that 'he like to call me Peaches when we get this nasty'; and repeats that it took her '45 minutes to get all dressed up / and we ain’t even gonna make it to this club'. And in maybe the wildest moment in an album full of bold moves, Beyoncé actually slips in the French translation of Julianne Moore’s 'Feminists love sex' monologue from The Big Lebowski.[12]

Ryan B. Patrick of Exclaim! noted that songs in the vein of "Partition" effectively display genre diversity, Beyoncé's vocal range and "a penchant of musical experimentation".[37] Matthew Perpetua of BuzzFeed praised the French spoken section on "Partition", comparing it to the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sample on "Flawless" as she added: "It's good that these ideas aren't directly expressed by Beyoncé herself – in context, these bits are like reblogged quotes that frame her artistic intentions – because she knows she doesn’t need to be so didactic when she’s actually singing about sex, and to do so would defeat her point about owning her pleasures."[28] Caitlin White of The 405 wrote extensively of "Partition" as a song that effectively shows that Beyoncé "catapults herself out of her very femininity into personhood by positioning female sexuality as a powerful, amorphous construct--one that transcends the female body even while uplifting it." White concluded that the singer does not exalt herself to become "the highest sex object or an egotistical pop princess" but anoints herself "as sexual goddess, she is at once desiring and desired, fulfilled and fulfilling".[24] Mikael Wood of Los Angeles Times wrote that "the spooky, almost perversely stripped-down 'Partition' reflect[s] [Beyoncé's] determination, rare among superstars, to keep pushing creatively".[38] In the annual Pazz and Jop mass critics poll of the year's best in music in 2013, "Partition" was ranked at number 124.[39]

Chart performance[edit]

On the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, "Partition" debuted at number 86 for the week ending January 25, 2014 without being released as a single. It moved from 97 to its peak position of 23 on that chart for the week ending March 15, 2014.[40] "Partition" became Beyoncé's tenth number-one on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart, extending her record for the most leaders among women.[41] It also became Beyoncé's twentieth number-one on the US Hot Dance Club Songs chart, making her the third artist with the most number-ones on the chart, behind Madonna (43) and Rihanna (22).[42] As of May 2, 2014, "Partition" has sold 633,479 digital copies in the US.[43]

Music videos[edit]

Music videos for "Yoncé" and "Partition" were released on December 13, 2013 on Beyoncé. The video for "Partition" was uploaded to Knowles' official VEVO account on February 25, 2014.


The video for "Yoncé" was directed by Ricky Saiz, and features models Jourdan Dunn, Chanel Iman and Joan Smalls.[1][44] Filming took place on the streets of Brooklyn, New York.[45] Through the clip, Beyoncé introduces viewers to her new alter ego Yoncé, who likes Brooklyn, her grill, and "being the hottest girl in the club".[44] Beyoncé was inspired by the visuals of the 1990 David Fincher-directed video for George Michael's "Freedom" and she conceptualized of a "contemporary, street version" of the clip for "Yoncé".[46][47] "Freedom" similarly featured the lip-sync performance of contemporary supermodels, including Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Tatjana Patitz, Christy Turlington, and Cindy Crawford.[45] Beyoncé and the models were dressed by Karen Langley in leather, fishnets, and straps as they posed against a brick wall, with cameras showing flashes of skin, close-ups of lips, and erotic tongue flicks.[48] In one scene, Beyoncé sports a Yves Saint Laurent molded bodysuit with the pierced nipples.[48]

Saiz wanted to keep the video mostly in the moment without much narrative; he said, "[I] wanted it to be more about the girls, doing the performance with Beyoncé taking a backseat as a kind of madam character".[48] He envisioned the clip as being "sexy and provocative, but not so overt", leaning to more sophisticated visuals. In an interview with New York magazine, Saiz affirmed that there are many references to 1990s eroticism and the 1995 video for "Human Nature" by American singer Madonna in the clip for "Yoncé".[26] Elaborating further on the video shoot, Saiz told Buzzfeed, "The girls were incredible. Everyone kind of checked whatever ego at the door and we were all there to make something fun and special."[26] He described the cast as being "spontaneous and not at all contrived".[48]

Allison Davis of New York magazine described the "Yoncé" video as a "contemporary, gritty and voyeuristic" with "nineties-era eroticism and subtle sexuality", before summarizing the visual as "two minutes and four seconds of fashion and sex".[48] Conor Behan of The Independent dubbed "Yoncé" as a "street-wise update" of George Michael's "Freedom! '90".[13] Zayda Rivera of New York Daily News praised the "flawless" delivery of "sexual innuendos", "seductive moves" and the "flaunting of a whole lot of curves" in the clip.[49] Entertainment Weekly writer Hillary Busis described the video as "super sexy" further praising the singer's showcased persona.[50]


"I was 195 pounds when I gave birth... I worked crazily to get my body back. I wanted to show my body. I wanted to show that you can have a child and you can work hard and you can get your body back. I know that there's so many women that feel the same thing after they give birth. You can have your child and you can still have fun and still be sexy and still have dreams and still live for yourself. I'm not embarrassed about it, and I don't feel like I have to protect that side of me because I do believe that sexuality is a power we all have."

 — Beyoncé describing the concept of the "Partition" video[51][52][53]

The video for "Partition" was directed by Jake Nava and was shot at the Parisian cabaret club, Crazy Horse.[26][54] The video was filmed quickly as Jay-Z had to go on his tour to London after the shooting. In a video commentary to the album, Beyoncé said: "The day that I got engaged was my husband's birthday and I took him to Crazy Horse. And I remember thinking, 'Damn, these girls are fly.' I just thought it was the ultimate sexy show I've ever seen. And I was like, 'I wish I was up there, I wish I could perform that for my man...' So that's what I did for the video."[51][55] Talking about the video, Nava noted that for the shooting Beyoncé was trying to be "even more risque than she's been in the past". While filming, he further tried to "create and capture a bit of genuine intimacy" between the singer and her husband.[56]

The story of the video was meant to accompany the lyrics of the song. It depicts the sexual fantasies of a rich and bored housewife played by Beyoncé who tries to seduce her man while having breakfast at her house wearing a white robe. She strips for her husband and performs a pole dance wearing lingerie.[57] The video features cameo appearance by her husband Jay-Z, and the Crazy Horse dancers.[1] Wearing a thong and a bikini top, she dances seductively in the video.

Initial reaction to the video was mixed as Beyoncé received criticism for the overt sexuality of the visual. Vivienne Pattison of Mediawatch-UK commented that such visuals showed that Beyoncé had "sold out" and undermined her position as a "role model" and previous "powerful messages that empowered women and girls".[58] Contrasting reviews hailed the explicit nature of the video, with Alice Newbold of The Daily Telegraph stating how it showed Beyoncé as "one sassy lady on a mission to show she's back in the game".[52] Conor Behan of The Independent qualified the clip as being "effortlessly sexy".[13] Whitney Phanuef of the website HitFix praised the video for "Partition" as the best one on Beyoncé further praising its "unforgettable song/video combination" accompanied with eroticism and Beyoncé's post-child sexuality.[59] Zayda Rivera from the Daily News echoed Phanuef's statements that the video "debatably stands out among the rest" on the album adding that the clip was Beyoncé's "most X-rated" in her career.[60] Beyoncé later clarified the reasoning behind the visual, namely her 65 lb weight loss after the birth of her daughter Blue Ivy; she wanted to show that women can get back in shape and still be sexy after giving birth if they work towards it.[53] The video was nominated in the category for Video of the Year at the 2014 BET Awards.[61] At the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards the video is currently nominated in the categories for Best Choreography and Best Female Video.[62]

Live performances[edit]

Both "Yoncé" and "Partition" were part of the set list of the second European leg of The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour with the first performance of both tracks taking place in Glasgow at the SSE Hydro arena on February 20, 2014.[63] During the performance of the songs, Beyoncé performed similar choreographies to the ones seen in the music videos of the songs with her background dancers.[64] The end of "Partition" saw Beyoncé appearing with a silhouette, dancing on a couch.[65] While reviewing one of the concerts of the tour, Robert Copsey from Digital Spy noted that the chair dance performed during "Partition" was the dancing highlight of the show.[66] Graeme Virtue of The Guardian felt that "Partition" along with "Blow" and "Naughty Girl", "make[s] a persuasive case for Mrs Carter, the unstoppable sex machine".[65] BBC News' Mark Savage felt that "her new material [from Beyoncé] showcases an unparalleled variety of vocal styles, ranges and phrasing" during the concert, something he noticed in the "urban swagger" of "Yoncé".[67]

"Partition" and "Yoncé" were part of the set list of Beyoncé and Jay-Z's co-headlining On the Run Tour (2014) where both of the songs were performed separately. The performance of "Partition" opened with a new half-minute explicit rap verse sang by Jay-Z seated as crimson light illuminated him.[68] After he finished his part, Beyoncé appeared on stage in front of a digital screen dancing along with her female dancers on stripper poles.[68] Consequence of Sound's Alex Young chose the song as one of the particular highlights of the show.[69] A pre-recorded performance from that tour was broadcast at the 2014 BET Awards on June 29, 2014.[70] Lily Harrison of E! felt that the pair "certainly brought the house down with their sexy performance" while praising Beyoncé's look and accurately performed choreography.[71] Maurice Bobb on behalf of MTV News felt that the BET Awards "saved the best for last" and described the performance as "exciting" despite being pre-recorded.[68] Adam Fleischer of the same publication felt that the rapper was "sprinkling his classic Jay flair all over" in his verse during the performance.[72] Spin editor Colin Joyce found the duo's delivery of the song to be "stunning".[73]

Cover versions and cultural impact[edit]

On January 9, 2014, Azealia Banks posted an unofficial remix of the song to her Soundcloud account, featuring Busta Rhymes. Their remix of the song has an extended intro lasting 90 seconds with the rappers singing "dirty" bars.[74] Reviewers were critical of Rhymes' contribution to the remix, with Spin's Marc Hogan calling it "conventionally porny",[75] and Hayden Manders of Refinery29 suggesting it "take[s] the tease of the original's writing and turn[s] it into sleaze."[76] Banks' effort was contrastingly hailed for "delivering the ratatat wordplay that brought her to acclaim while wisely avoiding trying to beat either of the track's other artists for sheer bawdiness" by Hogan[75] and "working perfectly with the deep, subdued beat of Beyoncé's original" by Carolyn Menyes from the website Music Times.[77]

Upon the release of the album and "Partition", the song has been covered by multiple dance crews on YouTube.[78] Writing for Billboard, William Gruger and Jason Lipshutz thought that the dance videos uploaded to YouTube helped "Partition" to appear on charts such as the Hot 100, although there were no official videos released as well as the audio was not available via digital retailers such as Spotify or Pandora.[78] They further compared "Partition" to "Harlem Shake", which performed well on charts due to viral videos, later created the meme with the same name.[78] However they also noted the differences that "Partition" was mostly covered by professional choreographers, unlike "Harlem Shake".[78] On March 13, 2014, Vanessa Hudgens posted a video where she performed a choreography for "Yoncé" by Michelle "Jersey" Maniscalco along with four female dancers.[79]


Credits adapted from Beyoncé's website.[1]

Song credits[edit]

  • Beyoncé – vocals, production, vocal production
  • Timbaland – production
  • Jerome Harmon – production
  • Justin Timberlake – production, background vocals
  • Key Wane – production
  • Mike Dean – additional production
  • Boots – additional production
  • Stuart White – recording, mixing
  • Chris Godbey – recording
  • Ann Mincieli – recording
  • Bart Schoudel – recording
  • Ramon Rivas – second engineering
  • Matt Weber – assistant engineering
  • Terius "The Dream" Nash – background vocals
  • Niles Hollowell-Dhar – additional synth sounds
  • Derek Dixie – additional synth sounds, mix consultation
  • Hajiba Fahmy – spoken words recording
  • Tony Maserati – mixing
  • James Krausse – mix engineering
  • Justin Hergett – assistant mix engineering
  • Chris Tabron – assistant mix engineering
  • Matt Wiggers – assistant mix engineering
  • Tom Coyne – mastering
  • Aya Merrill – mastering

Video credits[edit]


Chart (2014) Peak
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[80] 2
Belgium Urban (Ultratop Flanders)[80] 12
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[81] 9
France (SNEP)[82] 120
Ireland (IRMA)[83] 57
South Korea (Gaon International Chart)[84] 128
UK R&B (Official Charts Company)[85] 15
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[86] 74
US Billboard Hot 100[87] 23
US Hot Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[88] 1
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[89] 3
US Rhythmic (Billboard)[90] 7

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]