Beyonce’s Videos: High-Concept And Cutting Edge Without Being Pretentious Art Pieces

This is Beyonce’s week. Her new album 4 dropped on Tuesday, earning positive reviews and buzz that it will debut at the top of the charts. Tonight at 7pm, MTV will air a special, “Beyoncé: Year of 4,” that takes fans behind the scenes of the new album. So she’s basically everywhere, and all morning her videos were pumping through the MTV Newsroom.

Which leads us to the most terribly obvious statement we will make today: Beyonce makes great videos. Duh! But more than that, she makes extremely high-concept clips that go far beyond the usual bump and grind of many R&B and pop videos to deliver something truly artful without coming across as an art project. It’s a fine line she never crosses.

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Take, for example, the somewhat dark “Why Don’t You Love Me,” which features the typically clean-cut Queen Bey as a jilted, smoking, martini-swilling pinup vixen with her eye makeup running down her face.

Beyonce comes straight out of the Madonna/Michael Jackson school of seeing music video as an art form. She’s used it as a venue to do something unique and interesting. Another prime example of this is the continuous, single-shot style of her legendary “Single Ladies” vid.

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The “Single Ladies” clip also features a nod to Bob Fosse, the legendary jazz choreographer and director behind “Cabaret” and “Chicago,” which might seem out of place in a R&B video by any other artist. But Bey makes it seem completely natural. She’s somehow able to transcend genre in an artistic way while not coming across as particularly subversive. (Which is kind of interesting, right?)

In its review of 4, Rolling Stone identifies what it is about Beyonce that makes these strange things work: “Beyoncé is such a force of nature that it’s easy to overlook her trump card: She’s a bit of a weirdo. Not a weirdo like her stiffest competition, Lady Gaga. (Wearing sirloin to an awards show isn’t B’s style.) Her weirdness is musical – it’s in the idiosyncratic way she syncopates her vocals, the odd melodies she floats over rugged beats, her sui generis mix of rap bravado, gospel sanctimony and old-fashioned showbiz razzle-dazzle.”

It’s that little bit of weird that gives her license to be less bound to convention than many other A-list singers. Because she sees things outside the box, she’s consistently able to deliver something fresh and interesting, but because she’s not a “weirdo” to the extreme that Gaga takes it, the product is thought-provoking but also always accessible, which sometimes gets lost in Gaga’s quest to be a visionary.

I mean really, everything about “Run the World (Girls)” is pretty out there for such a mainstream artist, right? From the Major Lazer-sampling song itself to the trippy post-apocalyptic visuals (those hyenas!) in the video.

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