Friday, May 27, 2011
Ring the Alarm: Beyonce Runs The World
By Phil Gallo
On a night filled with intense star power, Beyoncé delivered the first live performance of her current single, "Run the World (Girls)." The bodacious set that married technological wonderment with the singer's athletic movements and an army of dancers brought down the house at the sold-out MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. Not to mention a metallic macramé-ish dress that had the audience-and Twitter-on fire.
Beyoncé was honored with the Billboard Millennium Award after her unannounced performance (the news did leak, the day before) at the May 22 awards show, which recognized her career achievements and influence in the music industry. Her mother, Tina Knowles, presented the award after the audience watched a videotape of tributes from Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, the-Dream, Bono, her parents and others, all of whom spoke of the power of her music and personality.
"I'm very proud of her," Obama said, "very proud of the woman she is and the role model she provides to so many women. And I truly congratulate her on all her success." Barbra Streisand: "Great performers have a sound and style that is all their own and that's why so many people love Beyoncé. And so do I."
Stevie Wonder said, "She's able to go to many places but keep still that class. I like that." Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds gushed, "She inspired me to want to be more of an artist." Bono's prediction? "She makes songs that will live forever."
While catching her breath after the physically strenuous performance, Beyoncé thanked her family, current and former members of Destiny's Child and her husband-"I love me some Jay-Z," she said. And the audience roared. He was in the front row, standing, like everyone else in the venue. Twitter seemed on the verge of overdrive. The tags were #bbma and #Beyonce, and it seemed tweeters couldn't type fast enough.
"I thank all the legends who said all those beautiful things to me," Beyoncé said. "I grew up loving and admiring all the people who were on that tape. This is a moment I have to soak in because it is one of the best memories of my life.
"Her version of "Run the World (Girls)" featured 50 female dancers with the star's choreography synchronized to videotaped elements. She caught and tossed a red spear; grabbed a floating globe, put it in her mouth and then exhaled it out; she made lines dip and curve based on her hand movements. Beyoncé based her stage set on an Italian TV performance by Lorella Cuccarini that the artist's makeup artist had shown her on YouTube a year ago.
"It inspired me so much," Beyoncé told AOL Music a few days after the awards. "The technology and concept were so genius . . . I never worked so hard on anything in my life as that performance for the Billboard awards."
One of the designers of Cuccarini's video, Kenzo Digital, worked on Beyoncé's video as well. "She took that idea and blew it up to an epic level," said Don Mischer Productions' Charlie Haykel, co-executive producer of the Billboard Music Awards. "She put her whole team on it and the great thing about them is they leave no stone unturned."
During rehearsal, Beyoncé politely went back and forth with Mischer and director Louis J. Horvitz over everything from microphone placement to camera angles to the direction her mother was facing when the award presentation was made on a small stage in the center of the arena.
"In the professional-and perfectionist-way she pushes herself, she does something like nothing you've ever seen on television," said Mark Bracco, VP of alternative series and specials at ABC Entertainment. "She's amazing. Watching her during rehearsal you saw how difficult it was to line up with the screen and how much she wanted it to be perfect."
Thanks to Beyoncé's performance and the May 18 release of the "Run the World (Girls)" video, the song's digital track sales totaled 41,000 units in the week ended May 22, more than tripling from sales of 13,000 in the prior week, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Billboard editorial director Bill Werde, who participated in the booking of the show, saw Beyoncé's performance as a highlight in a well-rounded night. "It's great," he said, "when you can recognize a truly singular talent, in this case Beyoncé, also give an Icon Award to Neil Diamond for the length and stability of his career and, at the same time, give an opportunity to [Billboard.com/Chevrolet Cruze-ing to Las Vegas battle of the bands winner] Gentleman Hall-all of it breaking in real time."
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