Can We Talk About…? is a weekly series that’s happening to you, right in front of your face, and you just cannot hide it.
I don’t know what homosexual witchcraft brought together Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, and Lana Del Rey, but here we are. The power pop trio hopped on “Don’t Call Me Angel,” the song from the upcoming Charlie’s Angels reboot starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska.
There’s a lot to love here. Historically, I’ve always been front and center for a superstar pop collab: your “Lady Marmalade,” your “Telephone,” even your controversial “Bang Bang.” And far be it from me to begrudge a group tandem walk, which is my favorite music video trope.
Though those walks are a little sloppy. I’m also here for Miley and Ariana rekindling their flirtatious relationship, as I first noticed during their stunning cover of “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”
But the song itself just doesn’t provide the oomph of the original strong-ass-lady anthem from the “original” Charlie’s Angels (not counting, of course, the TV series).
Released during the waning days of the summer of 2000 on September 14, “Independent Women, Pt. 1” introduced the world to Destiny’s Child as a trio, and proved that they were survivors long before their third album, Survivor, really drove the point home.
The children of Destiny were big fans of a multipart song story, as evidenced by their first singles: “No, No, No (Part 2)” and “With me (Part 1).” “Independent Women Pt. 2” was meant to be the actual song—and later appeared on Survivor—and “Pt. 1” was the “Pasadena remix,” or whatever. All you need to know is, Matthew Knowles, Bey’s dad and then manager, submitted the song to the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack without her knowledge or permission, and the rest is cinematic history.
The first DC song to feature Michelle Williams on vocals (along with Farrah Franklin, who left/got kicked out of the group shortly thereafter), “Independent Women, Pt. 1” shot to No. 1 on the charts, where it ruled for an impressive 11 weeks. And in late 2000, early 2001, that was a feat ’cause pop music was uniformly amazing. Just take a look at this little tidbit from Wikipedia:
It managed to fend off strong challenges by Mýa (“Case of the Ex”) and Dream (“He Loves U Not”) before making way for Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me.”
“Case of the Ex” and “He Loves U Not”?! Those are some rhythmic pop & B juggernauts. Only to fall to fucking Shaggy. Coincidentally, I blame “It Wasn’t Me” for the beginning of the decline of both pop music and pop culture. It actually was you, Shaggy.
Anygay, the song is practically perfect in every way. That beat is instantly recognizable, followed by the most seamless integration of a film tie-in pop music has ever seen: “Lucy Liu. With my girl Drew. Cameron D and Destiny. Charlie’s Angels, come on. Uh. Uh. Uh.”
Bey is riding that beat like a Lime scooter, the call-and-response of “All the women… throw your hands up at me” is iconic and catchy AF, and let’s not forget the HARMONIES, children!
The flames represent their vocals burning this track to the goddamn ground.
No offense to Lana Del Rey, lest she threatens me to pull up to her addy, but I feel she’s kind of the weak link here. The Michelle, if you will—who never gets the respect she deserves, by the way. (I’d like to see how you do when thrown up on stage next to Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter and Kelly Fucking Rowland.) But “Don’t Call Me Angel” never builds to anything. You’ve got Ariana on two verses and Miley doing her best Ashley O impersonation in the middle, and then Lana Del Rey sleepwalks in and whispers her way through to the end.
Now, both Ariana and Miley have the range (once again, I’ll direct you to their gorgeous cover of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” because I am not playing with you), but where are the harmonies? Also, couldn’t we have thrown a black girl in there? Normani is the Oxford definition of It, but my girl Tinashe could use a break, too.
Or, hear me out: We do a remake of “Independent Women, Pt. 1” with Normani, Tinashe, and Teyana Taylor. We dance the house down, we get some vocals in, and it’s completely unrelated to Charlie’s Angels. Just for fun ’cause we have the girls.
I will say, though, at least the video for “Don’t Call Me Angel” is cute, featuring a dude who looks like he might be perennial would (and wood) Chace Crawford getting womanhandled by Miley.
Still, the most action any of these ladies get down to is Miley throwing some jabs in the ring. Meanwhile, in “Independent Women” we were doing wire work, green screens, martial arts choreo—I remember watching the Making the Video and thinking, Well, this is a fucking hit. Also, why did no one ever try to capitalize on Beyoncé as an action hero?
She’s already a real-life superhero, after all. And, since we’re on the topic of Beyoncé being robbed of things, where was the Best Original Song Oscar for this gem? Not even the nomination—where was the trophy?
Between this and “Work It Out” from the otherwise dreadful Austin Powers in Goldmember, Bey could’ve been a Broadway production credit away from an EGOT.
Oh, well. I guess a pop classic that’s more popular than the film it was from is something.