Jesse Jarnow

“naughty girl” – beyoncé

#4 this week, #4 last week, 8 weeks on the chart

Been a while. Almost a month, folks. (Say, are there folks? Drop me a line if there are. I never bothered to install a counter on this thing.) In the time I was gone, it doesn’t look the top three have shifted at all, so I guess I didn’t as much as I feared. At number four this week, same as last, is what somebody recently called the “single of the summer” — Beyoncé’s “Naughty Girl.” I can definitely see that happening. The song doesn’t feel like an event or a defining/epic musical destination. The way some songs are meant to hit you big, some are meant to not so much hit you as slide around you. “Naughty Girl” is one of those. It’s really undramatic. It’s kind of just a groove that I can easily imagine in the background of summer weather — a cool contemporary groove, at that.

It’s definitely the center of the song. The tune begins with (and is based around) a repeating funk guitar riff. It’s like the guitar figure is the alpha male and everything else that comes into the mix must fix itself relative to that part. And they do — which is precisely what maintains the ear’s interest throughout. The first sample is just a Zeppelin-like quasi-Egyptian string thang, which begins at the beginning of the pattern. A wash leads to Beyoncé’s intro vocal, soaring over the changes, then different Egyptian string parts, which disappear intermittently (and not predictably) during the verse. The first cool trick comes when Beyoncé’s voice suddenly doubles one of the rising exotica samples and finds itself then doubling the main funk riff. I like the effect — two figures that were once laid atop one another (string sample and the funk riff) are now laid back-to-back linearly. I’m not sure if there’s term for that or not, but it’s satisfying to me as a listener — it makes the pre-chorus of the song feel inevitable, which then feeds to the title chorus which feels like a release from everything that’s come before.

The chorus, though, doesn’t feel dramatic. There’s a slight rise in the melody to let you know that it’s the chorus, but it doesn’t soar or anything. It barely moves — which is why it feels like a summertime song. It’s not aggressive about making you wanna dance. If you’re dripping in the heat fanning yourself with a newspaper, the song still feels right. On the other hand, I can imagine the song having a pleasantly sultry impact on the dance floor. In fact, the song feels like a dizzying heatwave where one must beat it or be beaten. The song capitalizes on that feeling in a sexy, confident way.