004 :: SAVAGEListen to "004 :: SAVAGE" on Spreaker.
Have four single chords ever sounded so dope? Have four single chords ever so effectively encapsulated a whole song? Two seconds in and you already know everything you need to know. This song is an attitude, and that attitude is defiance.
These chords, with their half-step alternation, refuse any stable tonal centre. These chords, with their taut syncopation, resist any clear metre (at least until the beat drops). Yet nothing here is wavering, nothing here is uncertain. The sound is all tension, holding these sonic contradictions together in a single, confident, self-standing whole.
Thus it's no surprise that when the vocals make their entrance they are equally confident and defiant. Indeed, the lyrics are a litany of conventional contradictions, all proclaimed to coexist within the MC herself: "Hood but I'm classy / Rich but I'm ratchet", "bougie", "moody", "sassy", "nasty". The song is a proud declaration of what would ordinarily be insults and slurs, a reclamation of otherwise derogatory language, captured at once in its titular word, "savage" – simultaneously denoting the dominating and the dominated subject.
Yet as much as this song is a personal statement, it is also a personal mantra, a refrain to be repeated over and over again, so as not to let yourself be defined by how others see you. But where does one find the strength to contain such multitudes? Where does one find the strength to stand up against the regressive and oppressive opinions of an unwelcoming world? Mere repetition of the mantra is not sufficient. You need an inner champion, a second voice inside your head, that validates your identity and incites you to carry on.
And this is where we find the true brilliance of this song, because that second voice is here too, whispering in this ear and then the other, punctuating and giving new strength to the song's mantra, and all the more effectively because this voice is Beyoncé, the strongest inner champion one could ever have. In this way, the song doesn't feature Beyoncé so much as it summons her into being, channelling her power and making it one's own.
What we hear is the sound of Beyoncé sublimated – the sound, not of Beyoncé herself, but of what it's like to listen to Beyoncé – the vicarious experience of being unstoppable, incomparable, and indefinable.