Jesse Jarnow

“irreplaceable” – beyoncé

Time to revive the occasional Good Beat entry. What better way than to get back into it but with the newest single by Beyoncé, whose “Crazy In Love” revived my faith in pop.

week of January 27, 2007
#1 this week, #1 last week, 13 weeks on chart
(download) (buy)

(file expires January 31st)

The use of the acoustic guitar on Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable” interests me. Specifically, it’s that in pop there’s nothing given about using one. The normal palette is so much wider than that. The song’s bed could just as easily be a reconstituted horn section and nobody would bat an eye. But here, the Norwegian production team Stargate has chosen to go into strum overdrive. The vibe, then (at least, as a white male accustomed to acoustic guitars), becomes more girl next door than melodramatic pop diva. Of course, it’s one shiny m’fuckin’ acoustic guitar. On first listen, the beat seems nothing more than an amped-up version of the bland drum machines many singer-songwriters normally employ. Considered as that, it’s way more complex, filled with lots of subliminal fills and cross-patterns. And, considered as that, Beyoncé’s vocal performance suddenly becomes more intricate, as well, vocals cooing and layering and harmonizing in a way no coffeehouse crooner could conjure. In creating a little box for itself (Beyoncé as singer-songwriter) and then using pop spit-polish to make it sound so much bigger than that genre, there’s a visceral excitement in “Irreplaceable.” It also reminds me a lot of Mike Doughty’s version of Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love,” especially the “you must not know about me” refrain, which really is rather wistful. Or maybe it’s just Norwegian.