Beyoncé would like you to dance.
You have no choice but to oblige.
Her Highness, Queen Bey, dropped two new songs Friday morning. “Ring Off” and “7/11” are off of next week’s box set, Beyoncé Platinum, and it’s the latter of the pair that carries with it the aforementioned royal decree. Thou shalt dance.
“7/11,” with its frenetic percussiveness and rapid-fire delivery, is the more obvious hit of the pair of new tracks, a club banger if there ever was one. The song calls back the flirty aggressiveness and grit that made “Flawless” such a game-changer for Beyoncé’s sound, but swaps out the empowerment “woke up like dis” message for a different, perhaps more universal mantra: get up and dance your ass off.
And should you be confused, the track’s first, breakneck two-and-a-half minutes carries with it special instructions, spat out with ferocity by its dance master. “Legs movin’ side to side, smack it in the air,” she demands. “Clap, clap, clap, clap it / Foot up, my foot up / Hold up now my foot up/ I’m spinnin’ my foot up.”
So maybe it’s not Beyoncé, typically one of pop’s greatest bards, best lyrical moment. But the intensity that she tears into her call to the dance floor hints that she really doesn’t care. Shut up and put your foot up, she’s saying. Now spin it around.
Beyoncé just made her very own “Hokey Pokey.” Resistance is futile.
Repeat listens to “7/11” suggests that it’s intended as a 4 a.m. dance-floor anthem, meant to be listened to when you’re in that state of mind: drunkenly dancing with your friends and literally shouting lyrics at each other like screaming the words to the song is most serious thing you all have ever done. “GURL I WANT TO KICK IT WITH YA.”
And should there be any confusion as to the venue the song should be played at, there’s this breakdown: “Oh let go like alcohol / Don’t you drop that alcohol / Never drop that alcohol, never drop that alcohol.”
In comparison, “Ring Off” is almost jarring in its more cooled down, island vibe. (Listen here.) It’s a happy-go-lucky track. Well, about as happy-go-lucky a track as a track about the suffocating pressures of marriage and family can be. “Mama, I understand your many sleepless nights / When you sit and think about father / Or how you tried to be the perfect wife.”
Understandably, the lighthearted verse gives way to a sonic, almost claustrophobic chorus that more accurately evokes the spirit of the lyrics. “Until you had enough then you took that ring off / You took that ring off / So tired of the lies and trying, fighting, crying / Took that ring off.”
And should you think that our B is being a bit of hypocrite—first she tells you to put a ring on it, now she’s telling you take it off—“Ring Off” is meant to be every bit as empowering as “Single Ladies” was. The stage of the relationship might be different, but the self-confidence the act—ring on or off—is supposed to make you feel is the same. “Dust yourself off and you love again,” she sings. “You found a new man now you shine and you’re fine.”
The track is a change of pace for Beyoncé, in that it’s one of the most conventional songs she’s produced in a while.
So much of the Beyoncé album, the life-changing baby dropped on us all like a surprise from heaven’s stork-angels last December, worked to reinvent its legendary creator. Radio-friendly hooks took the backseat to sex-soaked, meandering experiments that were as hard-hitting as they were moody and romantic. It’s no wonder that the album never yielded a number one single—it’s meant to be taken as a collection, a modern pop masterpiece.
In contrast to that, “Ring Off” seems like a Beyoncé who’s not taken herself quite as seriously. The song doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it just rolls with it, letting the singer work out her relationship insecurities on a satisfyingly pleasant track that concludes with a reference to “Love on Top”—perhaps her most joyous single of the last decade. “Mama, so put your love on top,” she sings. “You gon’ shine and put your love on top.”
Naturally, by releasing a song titled “Ring Off” mere months after rampant speculation that she and husband Jay-Z were biding time until announcing a divorce Beyoncé is reigniting rumors about her marriage all over again. She and Jay are parents now, so it’s hard not to read into the song’s “mama” and “father” characters and not view them as stand-ins for hip-hop’s royal couple.
But Beyoncé has been nothing if not a master of seizing her own crisis management. She faced bad press following the world’s greatest silent film ever, the elevator brawl between her sister Solange and Jay Z, by posting Instagram photos of she and Solange looking happy together. As talk that she and Jay were headed for a split reached a deafening volume, she called him her “beloved” and kissed him and their daughter on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards. As for those reports that Jay had an affair with Rihanna? Well, Beyoncé Platinum is rumored to include a remix featuring the singer.
In the past 12 months, Beyoncé has changed the music industry, weathered a media frenzy speculating the end of her marriage, as she’s coming out of it with a classically Beyoncé track that’s the most peaceful she’s sounded in years, concluding with a line of comfort: “You’re gonna survive.”
It’s Friday. It’s Beyoncé Day. You’re gonna survive. And you’re gonna dance.
Queen B would like you to.