Song of the Day #654: ‘If I Were a Boy’ – Beyoncé

Once in awhile (for purely artistic reasons) I’ll watch a Beyoncé video or two on YouTube. ‘Single Ladies‘ is definitely a favorite, and ‘Crazy in Love‘ has yet to disappoint.

I’ve made the distinction before between live artists and album artists, citing Rihanna as a fine example of the latter. She isn’t a thrilling live performer but her albums are excellent. The combination of controlled performance, fine songwriting and expert production makes for a great listening experience. I wouldn’t go to a Rihanna concert, but I have her last two albums in my car stereo rotation full-time.

Along the same lines, I consider Beyoncé a perfect video artist. She’s also a fine live performer, but if I had to choose a category for her, I’d go with videos.

One obvious reason is that Beyoncé is perhaps the most fetching creature to ever inhabit the planet, and any opportunity to see her in her full glory is a blessed one.

But another reason is that she makes good videos. ‘Single Ladies’ is perhaps the best example, but her videos consistently feature interesting cinematography and editing and eye-popping visuals. The videos for ‘Halo‘ and ‘Irreplaceable‘ blend a little bit of story with the performance, allowing Beyoncé to play off a male actor and showcase some of the acting chops she brought to the big screen in Dreamgirls and Cadillac Records.

Somehow I’d missed the video for ‘If I Were a Boy’ until recently, and I believe it’s her best yet. For one thing, I like the song better than most of her tracks (the irony in my Beyoncé obsession is that I don’t really like her music). And it does a great job making its point visually the way the best short films do.

Also, I could watch Beyoncé in a cop’s uniform on a loop, forever.

If I were a boy
Even just for a day
I’d roll out of bed in the morning
And throw on what I wanted and go

Drink beer with the guys
And chase after girls
I’d kick it with who I wanted
And I’d never get confronted for it
Cause they stick up for me

If I were a boy
I think I could understand
How it feels to love a girl
I swear I’d be a better man
I’d listen to her
Cause I know how it hurts
When you lose the one you wanted
Cause he’s taking you for granted
And everything you had got destroyed

If I were a boy
I would turn off my phone
Tell everyone it’s broken
So they’d think that I was sleeping alone

I’d put myself first
And make the rules as I go
Cause I know that she’ll be faithful,
Waiting for me to come home

If I were a boy
I think I could understand
How it feels to love a girl
I swear I’d be a better man
I’d listen to her
Cause I know how it hurts
When you lose the one you wanted
Cause he’s taking you for granted
And everything you had got destroyed

It’s a little too late for you to come back
Say it’s just a mistake,
Think I’d forgive you like that
If you thought I would wait for you
You thought wrong

But you’re just a boy
You don’t understand
And you don’t understand
How it feels to love a girl
Someday you wish you were a better man
You don’t listen to her
You don’t care how it hurts
Until you lose the one you wanted
Cause you’re taking her for granted
And everything you had got destroyed

But you’re just a boy

20 thoughts on “Song of the Day #654: ‘If I Were a Boy’ – Beyoncé

  1. Amy says:

    Great video! I’d never seen it either, so thanks for posting it today. This song (and likely this video) is the one my students have brought up for the past couple of years when I start discussing gender roles, having them take IAT’s and playing Dar Williams’ “When I Was a Boy” for them. While I don’t find this song as poignant as the other, it is undeniably powerful. And you’re absolutely right that the video makes it even more powerful.

  2. Dana says:

    For me, there is no comparison between the looks or talent of Beyonce andr Rihana. And while a studio can make a hamster sing on key, that alone doesn’t merit lavishing praise on Rihana–the woman really just isn’t that good of a singer. Sorry, I just don’t get her.

    As for Beyonce–she is the rightful heir to Whitney Houston–she has the voice, the looks–she is the real deal. Still, because I just don’t gravitate to pop R&B, I really don’t seek out her music.

    Having said that, this is a nice enough song and a compelling video.

  3. Clay says:

    Don’t compare Beyonce to Whitney Houston! Houston couldn’t carry Beyonce’s leotard.

    I know, I know, you’ve been trashing Rihanna for ages now… but I’m also not a big fan of pop R&B in general — I don’t own anything by Beyonce or Whitney Houston or anybody else in their genre, really — and yet I absolutely love the Rihanna albums I own.

  4. Dana says:

    Now, come on, I am no fan of Whitney Houston—but, back in the day (the 80’s) she had a better voice than Beyonce and huge hits. She may not have had the dance moves of Beyonce, but, otherwise, she was clearly the predecessor diva to Beyonce.

    Both Houston and Beyonce could have been stars in any decade, which Rihana without autotune = no career.

  5. Clay says:

    See, you and I are looking at these things entirely differently. From my perspective, it doesn’t matter how well Whitney Houston could sing or how high her songs charted… there is simply a universe between her and Beyonce in terms of overall appeal. Houston couldn’t hold my attention for ten seconds, even in her heyday, while Beyonce draws me like a magnet.

    As for Rihanna, if she didn’t have a career (thanks to AutoTune or whatever else) I’d be without two of my favorite albums from the past three years, and that would suck.

  6. Amy says:

    I admit I’d never heard this song or heard this video, but your debate got me curious. This is Houston circa 1999, and I see where she suggests Beyonce.

    I also see it in this video, featuring a song I know much better and is probably more indicative of the type of thing Houston usually does:

    Really, I could see either of them playing the character from Dreamgirls, though I’d much rather hang out with Beyonce and Jay-Z than Whitney and Bobby.

  7. Clay says:

    She does nothing for me in either of these videos (which is not to say she doesn’t have a very strong voice… I agree that she does).

    I do like this line from the first song: “If six of you went out that night, four of you were really cheap. Because only two of you had dinner. I found your credit card receipt.”

  8. Amy says:

    It’s not a matter of whether she “does something” for you. Just that she’s a natural predecessor of an artist such as Beyonce.

  9. Clay says:

    Oh, it matters to me! 🙂

    I have no argument with the suggestion that she’s a natural predecessor.

  10. Dana says:

    I believe that had you been into pop R&B as much in the 80’s as you are now, you would have been into Houston. In fact, I think that if a magical time machine brought Beyonce back to the 80’s and 80’s Houston to today, you would be crowing about Houston and dissing Beyonce.

    Perhaps you should pick up a copy of Houston’s debut album–which sold a mere 25 million copies, as compared to Beyonce’s last album, which sold 6 million copies. (Total Houston album sales are over 170 million making her the 4th best selling female artist of all time, while Beyonce, when you combine her solo and Destiny’s Child albums, has sold about 100 million–so who is carrying whose leotard?)

    Again, I’m not a fan of either one of these women, but I think if you gave Houston more than the 10 seconds you have previously afforded to her, and listened with your new 2010 “I’ve never met a genre I didn’t like including pop R&B” ears, you might just “get” why Houston was the Beyonce of her day.

  11. Clay says:

    Again, I care nothing about the music or album sales of either of these women! I don’t like Beyonce’s music. I’m not arguing that she is the better artist, singer or Billboard performer. I’ll happily concede that Whitney Houston has blown Beyonce out of the water on all of those counts. I’m not sure what point you’re trying to argue.

    This would be like me telling you that you should be more into Julia Roberts than Tina Fey because Roberts’ films have grossed a billion dollars and she’s won an Oscar.

  12. Dana says:

    Well, my comments were mostly based on your statement: “Don’t compare Beyonce to Whitney Houston! Houston couldn’t carry Beyonce’s leotard.” Does this comment not invite comparison???

    In any event, my larger point remains that you dismiss Houston, yet embrace Rihana and, perhaps to a lesser extent Beyonce, because you now seem to like R&B pop music far more now than you did in the 80’s, when your musical world primarily, if not exclusively, was centered on rock, folk rock and alternative rock. So, you therefore dismiss Houston based on preconceptions from your past, while you will give far more than 10 seconds to Beyonce because you now seem to like the genre far more.

    This really hearkens back to a comment Amy made awhile back when you seemed to suggest that country artists like Paisley were far more special/unique, qualitatively different than country artists of the past, to which Amy suggested you should probably get “schooled” in some of the country artists who were doing in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s very much what Paisley is doing today.

    I find it interesting that, in the rock genre, when your faves cite older musicians as inspiration, you seem more apt to try to discover those older artists in an effort to understand why someone you now love holds those artists so dear, but I don’t see that same process going on with your country and pop collections. Indeed, I think you even admitted that you find the prospect of such similar great talent existing in past country artists daunting.

    Clearly, Houston was an influence on Beyonce (and probably Rihana as well), just as Garth Brooks probably inspired a young Paisley, yet, to my knowledge, you haven’t explored those older artists. I say run, don’t walk, to but Whitney’s debut album, along with Garth’s! (Though I will be happy to never have them played in my presence:))

  13. Clay says:

    My comparison of Whitney and Beyonce has nothing to do with their music (note that I’ve stated repeatedly, even in the original post, that I don’t like most of Beyonce’s music). And in every comment on this post, I’ve repeated the point that I have no argument with your claim that Houston and Beyonce share musical similarities and that Houston has been the more successful artist overall. As is often the case, we’ve been having two completely different arguments.

    As for Rihanna and music of the past, bear in mind that the album I’ve frequently compared her Good Girl Gone Bad to is Michael Jackson’s Thriller, a pop R&B album from the 80s that I loved. I didn’t dismiss this kind of music any more then than I do now.

    Depending on who you’d lump into this R&B/pop genre, I’m guessing I don’t have much of it represented in my collection, new or old.

    Also, I don’t spend a lot of time seeking out older rock artists that are named as influences by today’s musicians. Most of the older artists I like I’ve liked for a long time. I can’t really think of an older rock artist I’ve “discovered” in the past ten years.

    You’re right that I’m aware of more of those artists than their country counterparts because I was more open to them in high school and college when I was soaking up whatever music I could find. But I don’t continue that process now, in any genre.

  14. Dana says:

    Well, Dusty Springfield comes to mind as a recent find that I believe you reached back to because of artists you currently like citing her as an influence. You also reached back to Joni Mitchell and Lauren Nyro, I believe, though, at least with Mitchell, I know you were not thrilled with her.

    And saying you loved and owned Thriller in the 80’s does not make you a fan of R&B pop. That album was ubiquitous and ever present in the collections of the whitest of whites who had probably never before owned R&B records. Hell, it was the album that forced MTV to play a video of a black artist (Jackson) for the first time. So, please don’t use that as an example of your early love of R&B pop. Name one other R&B pop album you owned pre-1990 or even pre 2000.

  15. Clay says:

    That’s my point… I didn’t love R&B/pop then and I don’t love it now. I can’t name many albums I own from that genre post 2000, either. Jackson and Rihanna are exceptions from different decades.

    Dusty Springfield, Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell aren’t rock artists. Springfield could probably best be described as pop/soul, which is a genre you suggested I haven’t gone back to explore. The other two are singer/songwriter types, a category that has always been my cup of tea.

  16. Dana says:

    You keep tap dancing around my point. In addition to Rihana, you have featured Beyonce at least 2-3 times on this blog, while, as I pointed out in the next SOTD comments, you have wholly ignored a number of non-R&B artists such as Joe Jackson, Jackson Browne and Don Henley.

    And I think you have bought more R&B albums post 2000 then you are owning up to. I’m not sure how many of the following artists you own, but would be curious to know:

    Kanye West
    Keyshia Cole
    Mary J. Blige
    John Legend

  17. Clay says:

    I still don’t know what your point is, because it doesn’t seem to be based on the facts!

    I’ve featured Beyonce on the blog a few times, yes, because she is a freaking goddess! I believe I’ve pointed out in each of those posts that I’m not crazy about the songs but am obsessed with the videos. That should tell you why I’m featuring Beyonce (and not, say, Mary J. Blige).

    I’d categorize Kanye West as rap (though he certainly crosses genres), and I do own two of his albums.

    Of the rest, I own one album by Duffy, but she is more along the lines of Dusty Springfield (or Aimee Winehouse) than the sort of music you’re talking about.

  18. Clay says:

    Also, keep in mind that I’m up to Song #654. I try to hit on a wide spectrum of styles, and I’m guessing R&B is less represented than most other genres.

  19. Dana says:

    I see, so when you say “Don’t compare Beyonce to Whitney Houston! Houston couldn’t carry Beyonce’s leotard,” you’re really just talking about looks:) I get it now.

  20. Clay says:

    Yes… though I would expand “looks” to include overall charisma (and ability to move in ways that are illegal in many countries).

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