Beyonce's girl power anthem Who Run The World was written by five men
Let’s start by making one thing clear: I love Beyoncé.
She’s Queen Bey, Sasha Fierce, diva-extraordinaire. And as well as this, she's a mum of three, wife, and philanthropist. She's a powerful, in charge, totally bossing it, all singing, all dancing icon for the millennial lady.
She's also the most nominated female artist in Grammy history. And she's been described by critics as “the most important and compelling popular musician of the twenty-first century."
However, a recent revelation has made me question everything: five men wrote Run the World.
What's the story behind Run the World?
When Run The World was released in 2011 it didn’t actually chart that well. It peaked at 11 in the UK charts and 29 in the US Billboard Hot 100.
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Nonetheless, it was catchy, bold, undeniably aggressive, and it made us feel unstoppable.
We all wanted to be in that video, despite our already proven inability to bust our hips or shake our booties whilst looking in any way graceful (we’ve all tried the Crazy In Love dance at 3am, it’s never attractive).
Six years later though, Run The World is considered a cult classic.
Who was Run the World written by?
Beyoncé's Run The World was written by Terius "The-Dream" Nash, Nick van de Wall, Thomas Wesley Pentz, Dave Taylor, Adidja Palmer and Beyoncé.
In principle, this songwriting line-up isn’t an issue in itself. After all, there is no rule that says songs that female artists must be written by women.
Beyoncé is credited on the titles and given that she’s known for calling the shots in her creative processes, she more than likely had a strong input in its writing.
However, there is still the reality that the marketing around the track wasn’t quite, shall we say, in-sync with the truth.
What has Beyoncé said about the track?
Beyoncé described the motivations behind Run The World:
"I think about saying the things that women want to say but sometimes are not confident enough to say. I am going to continue to write those songs that give women strength."
Notice how there’s no ‘we’ in there? The message seems to be: “I’m a woman, you’re a woman: this song is speaking on your behalf, acting on your behalf, making statements on your behalf, from a place of shared experience.”
But with five male writers, that’s not quite the truth. The truth is that the song that makes us feel so in charge was, essentially, shaped by men without any direct exposure to - for want of a better term - the "female experience" (read: catcalling, pay disparity, inequality and mansplaining, among other things). Ironically, the song itself has been also criticised for being sexist against men.
Shortly after the release of Run The World, Beyoncé gave an interview in Billboard magazine during which she was asked about the concept of power in the context of female empowerment: “To me, it's about setting a good example, and not abusing your power!”
Beyoncé's feminism has repeatedly been challenged
Much has been made of Beyoncé's decision to perform in front of a huge sign reading FEMINIST during her 2013 Mrs Carter world tour. And this is certainly not the first time that Beyoncé's brand of feminism has been challenged.
I absolutely can’t agree with those much-repeated critics who say her sexualised stage presence negates her feminist qualities. I mean, Beyoncé is proof that you can wear glitter, look sexy and make a success of yourself.
Among her more prominent critics are Annie Lennox, who described her as “feminism lite” which exists for primarily commercial purposes.
Chimamanda Adichie added: “Her type of feminism is not mine, as it is the kind that, at the same time, gives quite a lot of space to the necessity of men.''
Ultimately, there’s little denying that she inspires and empowers women across the world. My verdict? she’s still the boss.