During winter break I found myself driving a lot.
Driving to Wawa, to friends’ houses, to nowhere at all – it didn’t really matter where. The thrill of driving after a semester of relying on my feet and SEPTA was a fleeting freedom I enjoyed wholeheartedly. But this is a music column, so where does this information fit in?
Let’s talk about driving music. Actually, let’s get really specific: Let’s talk about a driving song. I wouldn’t even limit it to just a driving song. It eventually became a walking song, a playing video games song and a general feeling-alive song. Screw it, let’s talk about “Countdown” by Beyonce.
If I was forced to review the song itself, it would consist of one single word: Woah. If I was graciously given two words, it would read: Seriously, woah.
“Countdown” is a song delivered in a golden chariot by a greater being. If anything, “Countdown” confirms the existence of a greater being, possibly one that loves getting down to marching band percussion and Boyz II Men samples.
This might all sound like really excessive hyperbole, but listen to the song and try to deny the gravitational pull that it creates. I don’t care if you’re a hardcore kid covered in tattoos or a middle-aged man with a mortgage, there’s something for everyone here.
Lyrically, the song somehow teeters the line between a genuinely sweet love song and a totally badass declaration of feminine independence – a.k.a. 95 percent of all Beyonce/Destiny’s Child jamz. Taken as a whole, there is no verse, bridge or even a chorus in a traditional sense.
Upon my first listen, I struggled to pinpoint just which set of lines could be considered the hook. Once the song ended, I realized that, dear God, the whole song is the hook. Every line is meant to be quoted and sung at the top of your lungs on a dance floor or at a house party.
It’s a true anomaly on the album that it came from.
Although “4” is a very good album, there aren’t really any songs that compete with “Countdown,” with the exception of “Love On Top” – and that song could have its own separate column. It’s as if the songwriters and producers on the album focused all of their time and energy into crafting this perfect pop single and got way too tired for the rest of the album. Her loss, our gain as listeners, I suppose.
What makes the song so worthy of note is the fact that the constant driving percussion never overwhelms the listener.
You’ll find yourself thinking “well shoot, I can’t take this. There’s no way that I’ll be able to make it to the end of the song without having to wring my shirt out from the sweat and possibly taking a nap afterwards.” Well dear friends, if you have the will to persevere, making it to the end of “Countdown” is a truly enlightening experience.
Even though “Countdown” was not only heralded as one of the best singles of the year, and maybe even of Beyonce’s career thus far, the Billboard Hot 100 charts, a long decaying relic itself, showed otherwise. According to “Countdown’s” exhaustive Wikipedia page – seriously, check that out – “Countdown” reached a measly #71 spot.
Normally this wouldn’t annoy me since music charts have been immeasurably skewed since the invention of the World Wide Web, but let’s get real: What is up with Beyonce fans and general pop music listeners? Honestly, I feel like Maximus from “Gladiator” shouting “are you not entertained?” to the huddled masses. “Countdown” is the type of song that should’ve been like “Hey Ya”– leaping all genre boundaries to reach the ears of everyone at all times and achieving ubiquity.
Instead we live in a world where only those in the loop know that when Beyonce is in the kitchen for dinnertime, she’s got her heels on. Only a small percentage of the population knows what Beyonce thinks ladies should do to prove to their men that they are indeed “the flyest.”
And most importantly, where would we, as a continually developing human species, be without the phrase “me and my boo in my boo coupe ridin’?” Nowhere, that’s where. So go find “Countdown” and listen to it. Then listen to it a couple more times.
After that, run out and find a stranger and grab their face and sing it to them. Soon, you’ll find that a dance party will have formed all around you, inspired by “Countdown” and its’ mystic, transcendent capabilities.
Kevin Stairiker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.