It all started with “Ring the Alarm,” then picked up steam with subsequent singles (and videos) like “Get Me Bodied,” “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” and “Diva.” The theory that, somewhere beneath her media-trained demeanor and her well-buffed veneer, [artist id="1236911"]Beyoncé[/artist] was harboring the soul of a wild woman, one who yearns to break free and run screaming through the streets and burn up dance floors and take hostages and drink the blood of her detractors.
Or, you know, something like that.
Needless to say, B would probably be a pretty interesting gal to have a few drinks with. There is no pop star of her level or pedigree that releases the kinds of singles she does — glitchy, careening, hip-shuttering dance tracks — and pairs them with videos that look like Fellini films on fire. She is either the most adventurous megastar on the planet or the most insane. Possibly both.
But aside from the battiness, most of Beyoncé’s recent singles — the high-energy ones, at least — have something else in common: They are all great. “Ring the Alarm” and “Bodied” were departures, sure, but they were undeniably catchy tunes, and “Single Ladies” placed second on my Best Songs of 2008 list (and I wasn’t the only one to fall in love with its mechanized whomp and mind-melting video — Rolling Stone put it at #1 on their list.) And now you can add another one to her hit list: the just-released “Sweet Dreams.”
The song itself isn’t particularly new — it actually leaked before the release of Beyoncé’s 2008 album I Am … Sasha Fierce, only back then, it was called “Beautiful Nightmare” — but it’s been tapped as the latest single, and in keeping with grand B tradition, it’s accompanied by an eye-popping, herky-jerky, high-fashion video, this time directed by Adira Petty (whose résumé includes clips for Duffy and Regina Spektor).
So, once again, we get Beyoncé popping her pelvis in ways never imagined. We get Beyoncé strutting with her two doppelgängers (Ebony Williams and Ashley Everett). And we get Beyoncé wearing about a million flashy, asymmetrical costumes. She expands on her burgeoning robot fetish (which I think is supposed to symbolize her Sasha Fierce alter-ego), flashes the crazy eyes and contorts her body in downright unsettling ways. All of which is to say that “Sweet Dreams” is just like every amazingly crazy Beyoncé video from the past three years, which — to extend the point — also means that it’s pretty great.
Oh, and the song — it’s great too. The gnarly low end (which kind of sounds like Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” for about half a second), the spare snare kicks, the expansive-yet-molecular chorus — sonically, it’s as adventurous as anything she’s ever released. And her vocals — icy and cool, slippery like mercury — are nothing to scoff at either. All in all, it’s another undeniable smash … sort of unsettling, kind of crazy, totally unlike anything anyone else is doing right now (sorry Gaga). There’s truly no one else in the game like Beyoncé, especially when she gives us a peek at her inner freak.