Hard to believe that this monster horn blast had been collecting dust for over thirty years, ever since 1970, when the Chi-Lites’ “Are You My Woman (Tell Me So)” stiffed. Sometimes a songwriter or an arranger just doesn’t quite grasp how to capitalize on a killer hook. But Rich Harrison, who’d later top himself with Amerie’s “1 Thing” (and then, apparently, fade into the pop ether), builds on the energy of that brass, and transforms the drum loop so it feels like go-go avant la letter. Now that’s how you start a damn solo career.
Or, you know, re-start. Beyonce’s first lone turn in the spotlight, “Work It Out,” showcased Neptunian electro-funk at its most retro rococo, and marked on of the few moments Pharrell and Chad were genuinely too arty for the charts. Before that, of course, there was the all-too-singularly named Destiny’s Child. All girl groups are make-believe exercises in female solidarity, but some exercises are more make-believe than others, and the inevitability of Beyonce’s solo career consistently clouded the chart success of an act apparently held together by quotation marks.
Not that Beyonce is on her own on “Crazy in Love”–after the stunted coming-out party that was “’03 Bonnie and Clyde,” here she stands alongside her beau publicly. And Jay, relegated to the role of B’s hype man, spits the rare guest rhyme that doesn’t sound like he’s balancing his checkbook. Granted, considering how crazy about the lug she confesses herself to be, you’d think he could spare a compliment or two. Then again, how could he compare to her frenzied infatuation? “Crazy in Love” not only marked Beyonce’s subtle retreat from the faux-sisterly, ignoring her friends’ doubts (“who he think he is?” they mutter). Celebrating the loss of self-control as exhilaration, as liberation, as victory, it’s where she redefines he opposite of “whore”–from “virgin” to “diva.”