“If I Were a Boy” by Beyonce

I think the accusations Beyonce gets of being a misandrist can all be traced back to this one song. True, she’s always specialized in kiss-off singles, but there’s a difference between delivering a well-deserved putdown to a cheating ex-boyfriend and the kind of sweeping generalizations on display here. For the record, I have a great deal of respect for most of Beyonce’s output, and I’m aware this particular complaint…that sexism can work both ways…is often exploited for spurious trouble-making, but you can make a serious case that this song, with its ugly generalizations about the entire male gender, does go a bit too far. I get what Beyonce was going for here, because I’ve seen it done correctly many times, in Christina Aguilera’s “Can’t Hold Us Down” and in many of Beyonce’s own songs, but this kind of thing seems to be more suited to proud, declarative anthems than it is to this kind of bitter, brooding ballad. There’s no pride or defiance here…just a song from the point of view of a bitter, angry woman who’s decided that all men are scum because one man broke her heart. The fact that this song is probably at least mildly offensive isn’t really the main point here…I’m more concerned with the fact that its pervasive bitterness makes it a spectacularly unpleasant listening experience. Yes, the tune, like all those on the first disc of I Am…Sasha Fierce, is pretty, and Beyonce does convey the character she chose for this song very convincingly, but neither factor is enough to save the song. While Beyonce would certainly release worse songs from the Sasha Fierce album (“Diva”, “Video Phone”), no other song would ever do as much damage to her reputation as this one, and as much as I like most of her music, I have to say that this song was not one of her better decisions.

Verdict: Bad enough to do genuine damage to Beyonce’s well-earned positive reputation, which is no mean feat.

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