Emily Gould does a really good job describing "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" in her post on marriage:
Since she’s a married lady — married to Jay-Z, duh! — Beyoncé can’t very well sing lyrics like “man on my hips/got me tighter than my Dereon jeans,” anymore, so she has had to create an alternate persona named Sasha Fierce. Sasha performs the half of B’s new double album that’s not treacly, wife-appropriate ballads, and the best of the resulting tracks, ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’ is not going to start getting played by wedding DJs anytime soon. It’s a feminist anthem! Well, sort of. If you want it to be. It’s a classic post-breakup eff you about being “up in the club” and dancing with another guy to make your ex jealous — “I could care less what you think,” ‘Sasha’ sings, which is always a funny kind of line because, hello, you are making it clear that you’re just acting this way for the dude’s benefit. (cf: “You probably think this song is about you” [MediaMaven note: Carly Simon's "You're So Vain"] or “Thanks to you, now I get what I want.” [Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone"]). And then the chorus: an amazing, jumpropey chant of “If you like it then you should have put a ring on it.” In the video the chorus is accompanied by an amazing hip-twitching dance that’s capped by this move where Beyoncé and her backup dancers raise and revolve their left hands, flashing what ought to be conspicuously ringless fingers — “All the single ladies, put your hands up!” But Beyoncé doesn’t just have her famous 5 million dollar diamond — hey, what happened to ‘Sasha?’ — on hers, she’s also got on a whole metal-plated robot glove that makes ominous and addictive and comic-bookish kriiiing sounds when she twists her wrist.Emily's onto something. She ends her post in a very Housian way, with "we're all going to die alone anyway"--very cynical and reductive. But I understand her ambivalence, and the onslaught of the current culture, especially if you're single and a woman, is just so damn hard to fight sometimes. I listened to a lot of "Single Ladies" last week (as well as I am Sasha Fierce, since it's available free on MySpace), and while the album was better than I expected, it was still the usual Beyoncé fare. And I felt incredibly guilty and conflicted listening to it. Why? I liked the music, and I actually thought it was good, but it was just that the messages offended me. Do people feel this way when they listen to Eminem or hardcore racist mysogynistic rap? Beyoncé's songs (like so many other pop songs) are reductive. There's nothing wrong with that--music doesn't have to be deep, and I love plenty of music and musicians that aren't. But I just can't figure out why her music bothers me so. One of the reasons I've always loved Beyoncé is because she's a consummate professional--she's just so confident and cool and just so good at what she does. I've never seen her perform, but my brother told me she's one hell of a performer, and her performance with Tina Turner at the Grammys was fantastic, to say the least. I'm tired of her songs being the same two notes--I-love-my-man-so-much-I'll-do-anything-for-him, and My-man-screwed-me-over-I-don't-need-him-anymore. It doesn't fit her life, and if she wants to show audiences a more personal side of her, she's failing (I am Sasha Fierce is not bold and honest). She needs to grow up, look past the simplistic polars of relationships, and stop infusing an entire generation of women with retarded notions of love.
‘Sasha’ wants to be up in the club, acting up, drink in her cup — but she also, badly, wants someone to put a ring on it, or at least she wants someone to want to.
But boy, do I ever wish I could dance like Beyoncé in that video. Hot damn.