Beyoncé has an affinity for recalling the past in her videos — from the "Mexican Breakfast" Bob Fosse/Gwen Verdon routine that inspired the "Single Ladies" video to her tortured '50s homemaker character in "Why Don't You Love Me" — and her latest clip for the horn-heavy "Countdown" jam is no exception.
The video is a feast for the eyes, with Beyoncé taking on a variety of iconic looks. Her makeup when the video opens recalls the mod styling of Twiggy, but soon enough, she segues into full-on Audrey Hepburn mode, taking both her look and dance cues from the 1957 film "Funny Face."
From there, we see the pop star in a variety of bold, brightly colored bathing suits and a black-and-white hat, set against a constantly changing background of vivid colors. It's an iconic image that brings to mind the classic Vogue photo shoots of yesteryear.
The pregnant diva's baby bump is less visible in the bathing suit scenes but is featured prominently earlier in the clip and is rubbed lovingly later in a scene that features 10 different incarnations of Beyoncé in a loft space. The visibility of Beyoncé's pregnancy varies throughout the video, indicating she likely shot a great deal of the footage for "Countdown" earlier in her pregnancy and more recently re-shot or re-conceptualized the clip to reflect her growing belly.
Viewers also see that even pregnancy can't stop Beyoncé from dancing. The clip cuts quickly from the bathing suit sequence to shots of the star in an audition space straight out of the film "Fame." The sequence features the kind of seamlessly choreographed moves that Beyoncé is famous for — moves that would be at home in an early-'80s dance film or onstage in 2011.
It's a perfect mix of classic and modern, which seems to be what Beyoncé is aiming for in this era of her career. It's a feeling reflected in the smooth, '90s vibe and reliance on live instruments that sets her album 4 apart from her previous work as well as other artists on the charts right now.
The "Countdown" clip is loaded with other references as well, including a wink to "West Side Story" as dancers snap in unison and a nod to Bridget Bardot when the video cuts to and from shots of Beyoncé in a men's dress shirt with her hair styled up with a scarf.
She also briefly references her film "Dreamgirls" — or, more likely, that film's inspiration: Diana Ross — during a few brief scenes in which she rocks a short, sparkly dress and bob hairstyle.
The clip then sequences from "Fame" to "Flashdance," with Beyoncé and her dancers in another open warehouse-like space sporting the iconic off-the-shoulder look from the 1983 drama starring Jennifer Beals.
The video ends with the superstar in a chair, grooving to her uptempo track. Throughout the clip, which bubbles with excitement, she is all smiles, perhaps reflecting her joy at beginning a new phase in her life.
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