Tuesday, July 17

Second Take: Beyoncé’s recent ’7/11,’ ‘Ring Off’ signal thematic shifts

Beyoncé released a music video for her new track "7/11" Friday without previous advertising. The music video currently has more than 20 million views on YouTube.

(YouTube: Beyoncé)

Beyoncé released a music video for her new track "7/11" Friday without previous advertising. The music video currently has more than 20 million views on YouTube. (YouTube: Beyoncé)

Followers of Queen Bey everywhere, rejoice: There are two new tracks in town.

On Friday, Beyoncé spontaneously dropped a music video for dance anthem “7/11” and the full track for “Ring Off” after short clips of both had leaked online. With these two releases, however, the pop superstar seems to be changing direction after her eponymous album, “Beyoncé,” dropped in December 2013.

While the album’s sound was dark, gritty and heavily experimental – a sex-powered record vastly removed from more upbeat albums like 2011’s “4” – the instrumentals of “7/11” and “Ring Off” seem to be shifting back to the lighter sound of the mid- to late-2000s.

“7/11” is the more jaunty of the two tracks: Beyoncé flaunts her impressive dancing skills in this lo-fi club banger of a music video, which was dropped in the most characteristically Beyoncé way imaginable – with no previous advertising. Nevertheless, the video, which already has more than 20 million views on YouTube, caused a major sensation on social media, particularly because of her hyperactive choreography and a possible somersaulting Jay Z, seen for a split second.

The message of the song is clear: Dance, put your heart into it and let loose with reckless abandon. Beyoncé’s playfulness in “7/11” is a refreshing change from the highly polished “visual album” “Beyoncé;” she prances around her messy bathroom in her underwear, twerks with her backup dancers, sips from red Solo cups and jumps on her bed in her pajamas.

While “7/11” seems like just another dance-party anthem at first listen, it signals an important change in direction for the singer. The videos from “Beyoncé,” such as “Drunk in Love,” were slightly intimidating and highly polished, highlighting a certain ethereal quality of Beyoncé that many listeners may not have been able to relate to. In the “7/11” video, Beyoncé comes off as just another person who enjoys time off with her friends, child and husband on a casual Friday night – a crucial rebranding of her ethereal persona in order to reach out and touch more listeners.

It’s her most personal video yet. In infusing the scenes of the video with a carefree dorkiness, Beyoncé seems relatable and infectiously happy, putting a new and fresh twist to her “I woke up like this” image.

“Ring Off,” on the other hand, speaks of the more serious issue of addressing broken marriages. Its message conveys Beyoncé’s support of her mother, Tina Knowles, in her 2009 separation with Destiny’s Child former manager and Beyoncé’s father Mathew Knowles.

“Ring Off” is featured on the Platinum Edition of “Beyoncé,” released Monday. The track centers on the theme of broken marriages.
(Columbia Records)

The lyrics – “Mama/ I understand your many sleepless nights/ When you sit and you think about father/ Or how you try to be the perfect wife” – are juxtaposed with the bright, tropical beat thudding in the background. Beyoncé expresses her solidarity with her mother as Tina Knowles “took that ring off,” a stark shift away from the “If you like it, then you should’ve put a ring on it” theme in the 2008 hit “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”

Throughout “Ring Off,” another thematic shift arises. Beyoncé’s sound throws back to the catchy melody of “Love On Top” – she even references the song in “Ring Off” when telling her mother “It’s your time to put your love on top” – and shies away from the darker, more polished sound of “Beyoncé.” Lyrically, however, Beyoncé has moved the focus from her power-motivated, sex-driven marriage – think “Drunk in Love” – to another important aspect: her familial relationships with her daughter, husband and mother.

Despite their unannounced, spontaneous releases, “7/11″ and “Ring Off” are important milestones in Beyoncé’s career. In “Beyoncé,” the focus of the album stemmed from putting others – her husband and her child – before herself. “7/11” and “Ring Off,” comparatively, speak volumes about how similar themes, like living as an independent woman and enjoying time spent with loved ones, stem from putting herself first.

Shreya Aiyar

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