Why Can’t We Really Run This? (Review of Beyoncé’s Run The World)

I see B’s still doing what she does best: trick me into liking a song then dropping two or three problematic lines that make me cringe and seriously question just why I’m still listening.

It starts off well enough (and I apologize for the missed lyrics).

Girls, we run this motha (yeah!) [x4]


Who run the world? Girls! [x4]
Who run this motha? Girls! [x4]
Who run the world? Girls! [x4]

Crazy aggressive beat and lyrics that are both fierce statement and obvious answer, except for the “girls” part (which rubs me the way “geek girl” does), I’m dancing in my seat so far. We go straight into a verse that’s all swagger and no apologies.

Some of them men think they freak this like we do, But no they don’t.
Make your checks, come at they neck, Disrespect us no they won’t.

Boy don’t even try to touch this, Boy this beat is crazy,
This is how they made me, Houston Texas baby.

This goes out to all my girls, That’s in the club rocking the latest,
Who will buy it for themselves and get more money later.

I’m loving it. Then…cringe #1:

I think I need a barber, None of these hoes can fade me.
I’m so good with this, I remind you I’m so hood with this.

I ask, in a song that’s supposed to be all about solidarity, was it really necessary to say “None of these hoes can fade me”, wordplay aside? Really, really?

Cringe #2-100 comes along right after:

Boy I’m just playing, come here baby,
Hope you still like me, If you [not sure what this word was] me

I’m sighing now, because exactly what this song didn’t need is her saying “I’m just playing”, and especially not to say it to a guy. B plays that line well, aggressive but not too aggressive, it is practically her business model. But what is so damn wrong about an aggressive woman? Are heterosexual men really that insecure, so much so that a woman saying “I run this” about her life is so threatening that B had to drop the hard base line and croon at the dude. I get that women are complex, we’re not just one way or the other, but in a song with the title “Run The World”, I want lyrics that step to a baseline and work it out, a la “Diva”, whether or not I’m addressing a guy.

She drops a bit that sort of reclaims the verse:

My persuasion, can build a nation.
Endless power, with our love we can devour.

You’ll do anything for me.

Swagger comes right back in the next verse and I’m smiling again:

It’s hot up in here, DJ don’t be scared to run this, run this back!
I’m repping for the girls who taking over the world, Help me raise a glass for the college grads.

[41?] rollie to let you know what time it is… Check.
You can’t hold me I wrote my 9 to 5 better cut my check.

This goes out to all the women getting it in, you on your grind,
To other men that respect what I do, Please accept my shine

And then it gets shaky again:

Boy you know you love it, How we’re smart enough to make these millions,
Strong enough to bear the children… Then get back to business.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the biological ability to give birth, just that placed in the context of explaining to a guy exactly why he really shouldn’t be threatened by all this power, it’s a bit uncomfortable. Then again I guess you could read it as, women are strong enough to deal with whatever (because giving birth is not a cakewalk).

She goes on to end the song with more chants of  “We run the world!” finishing it all out with a final chant of “Who run the world? Girls.”

The result, well I’m not sure.

Okay B, I really want to love this song, because I’m all for a woman getting hers, and doing it all with a significant amount of talent backing her (not to mention a badass beat). More than that, I want to be able to go through your songs without picking and choosing lyrics! I want to be able to run through songs like this and “Upgrade U” without having to deal with lyrics like “Still play my part and let you take the lead role believe me/I’ll follow, this could be easy” which instead of cutting through the trophy wife stereotype they try to subvert, only enforces it.

I’m holding out for you, B. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be over here replaying “Diva”.


Music Monday: Missy Higgins – Unbroken

Lyrics beneath the cut.
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