Song of the Day #1,998: ‘XO’ – Beyoncé

beyonce_visual_albumLike everybody who writes about music for fun or profit, I was thrown for a loop by Beyoncé’s surprise self-titled Dec. 13 release. All those year-end wrap-ups were suddenly and hopelessly out-of-date.

This release was the biggest popular music story of the year, both for what it means for the industry and because of its perfect, top secret execution by one of the most scrutinized women in the world.

Honestly, how did the existence of this album not leak out somehow? In an age when complete records hit the internet weeks before their scheduled release dates, this one somehow stayed completely off the radar until it showed up in full on iTunes that early Friday morning.

And on top of that, it’s not just a collection of songs but a collection of videos as well — a “visual album” featuring 17 professionally crafted short films shot all over the world. And nobody gave up the game in a random tweet? Astonishing.

My respect for that marketing coup led me to download the album that first day — as a million plus other people would do over the following week, making this the fastest-selling digital album of all time. Before it even hit stores it was one of the biggest sellers of the year.

Target and Amazon refused to carry the physical CD, so miffed were they at iTunes for landing the exclusive. But that will cost them far more than it costs Beyoncé (the move was more a warning to other, less iconic artists who might get the same idea).

I’m a fan of Beyoncé as a performer and all-around goddess, but I’ve never been much of a fan of her music. I can point to a couple of songs over the course of her career that I really like, but only a couple.

So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this new album is a wonderful piece of work. The eponymous title is appropriate, as this is a deeply personal and intimate record. Beyoncé sings and raps about her daughter, her miscarriage, her marriage, her career and her sex life (a lot). She’s never been this raunchy, but the sex songs somehow play like the world’s best advertisement for monogamy.

The album is more beat-heavy than hook-heavy, but I do hear at least a few hits, including the bubbly disco bauble ‘Blow,’ the soaring anthem ‘Pretty Hurts’ and especially today’s SOTD, ‘XO.’ I’ll be shocked if this song doesn’t show up on an Apple or Volkswagen ad in the next month.

In response to Dana’s recent criticism of the lack of hits on my year-end best songs list, I present ‘XO’ — a song I believe will be a huge hit, and which would have been high on my list if it hadn’t been such an out-of-the-blue late-year release.

[Intro: Sample]
“Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation
Obviously a major malfunction.”

[Verse 1]
Your love is bright as ever
Even in the shadows
Baby kiss me
Before the turn the lights out
Your heart is glowing
And I’m crashing into you
Baby kiss me
Before they turn the lights out
Before they turn the lights out
Baby love me lights out

[Hook]
In the darkest night hour
I’ll search through the crowd
Your face is all that I see
I’ll give you everything
Baby, love me lights out
Baby, love me lights out
You can turn my light down

[Verse 2]
We don’t have forever
Baby daylight’s wasting
You better kiss me
Before our time is run out
Nobody sees what we see
They’re just hopelessly gazing
Baby take me
Before they turn the lights out
Before time is run out
Baby love me lights out

[Hook]

[Bridge]
I love it like XO
You love me like XO
You kill me boy XO
You love me like XO
All that I see
Give me everything
Baby love me lights out
Baby love me lights out
You can turn my lights out

[Hook]

6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,998: ‘XO’ – Beyoncé

  1. Dana says:

    Actually, the fact that you would have included this potential “hit” on your best songs list underscores rather than refutes my observation. Please see Amy’s comment the other day in defense of my opinion as she probably explains it better than I have.

    Here again, like most of your songs for best of consideration, you came to it not through radio play, but by buying and listening to the album. While you may do extensive research in compiling your list, including looking at other best of lists and then perhaps sampling those songs that otherwise escaped your knowledge (mostly because you don’t listen to radio), it stands to reason that a song coming on your radar from that research has a longer shot of making your list over other songs from albums you have bought and listened to repeatedly. Thus, your list, year after year, is weighted toward tracks from your album collection over songs from albums you have not purchased.

    Anyway, with that out of the way, I do think what Beyoncé pulled off with this album is very cool. I like today’s song well enough, though I am less sure that this will be a hit. We shall see.

  2. Clay says:

    Not to rehash this debate (OK, to rehash it a little bit) but if your argument is not about hits but about familiarity, it doesn’t hold up.

    Consider that your two examples (hits by Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke) are songs with which I am very familiar. They didn’t miss my list because I haven’t experienced them enough, but because I don’t like them.

    When you post your list, I’m curious to see how many songs on it will be radio hits that are completely new to me. I suspect not many.

    Also, the exposure argument is a slippery slope. Somebody out there might knock my list for not containing any jazz or world music… do I have an obligation to touch those bases as well? Or are radio hits the only category I’m expected to represent?

    • Dana says:

      Oh, come on! You’re not really using the GOP slippery slope argument?Having greater familiarity with American popular music is not the same as familiarity with music from Zimbabwe, and nobody would call you out for not listening to the world music satellite station, if such a thing even exists.

      You claim familiarity with songs like “Blurred Lines” and “Wrecking Ball,” but that familiarity doesn’t come from radio play, as you have admitted you don’t listen to radio. I suspect your familiarity comes from seeing the videos (and who could blame you?😄) and probably the myriad parody videos and live performances like the one with Fallon. You haven’t commented on the other song I mentioned, Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.” How familiar are you with that?

      Anyway, my point remains that, even if you become familiar with songs for which you don’t own the album through your research, those songs will have a more difficult chance cracking your list because you are far more familiar with the songs you have heard repeatedly through listening to albums. As you are album oriented, that is your frame of reference. It’s not good or bad, it just is what it is. You have often stated that, while some songs and albums, hit you immediately, others are growers, and often those growers ultimately can become major favorites. Obviously, playing a song once as part of your research because you see it on others’ lists to see if it merits consideration does not allow sufficient familiarity for that song to grow on you.

      • The Cool Guy (Daniel) says:

        Dana, although I don’t feel like going in to the matter I have to say that your argument is invalid…

      • The Cool Guy (Daniel) says:

        I don’t feel like repeating what Clay has said… I’m curious what exactly you want Clay to do… It is his list and he had researched music and found the songs that he likes and if he has listened to enough radio to realize that the songs you listed wouldn’t be on HIS list… Than wha do you want him to do?

  3. Clay says:

    Thank you for the defense, Daniel!

    Dana, this year’s list featured five songs (1/5 of the total) that I hadn’t heard before doing my research, from albums I don’t own. That’s a pretty healthy number, considering the lack of familiarity.

    I have heard the Bruno Mars song (it’s the one that sounds like The Police, right?) but I’ve never been a huge fan of his.

    For kicks, I Googled the top Billboard hits of 2013 and I’m familiar with most of them. The ones I don’t know tend to be by artists I don’t generally like. I don’t think there’s a Britney Spears or Drake song languishing unheard that would have cracked my Top 25.

    Maybe, but that’s a chance I’m willing to take!

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