Last night, Beyoncé took us on a technicolor dream ride through mod and vintage cinema glories with the world premiere of her brilliant and bright "Countdown" clip. Already one of the year's most acclaimed pop singles, it will also go down as one of the year's most stylish clips, though it didn't pull any slick maneuvers to earn that distinction. It simply and skillfully employs an oft-overused term: "chic."
First, some perspective: in pop star terms, Beyoncé is Lady Gaga's equal and direct opposite. Though they collaborated on "Telephone," they couldn't be more different when it comes to individual style. Where Lady Gaga, in a quest to be shockingly modern, goes to great lengths to make her videos disturbing and dystopian, Beyoncé, even in her moments of Pugh-enhanced deviance, prefers to channel the classier highlights of pop, fashion, and film's past, and certainly doesn't fear retromania. "Countdown" may not rival the nerviness or head-spinning art direction of "Born This Way," but it will get toes tapping. And its best fashion moments underscore Spring 2012's overall obsession with Eisenhower-era allure. Is another Audrey Hepburn revival around the corner?
Kicking off the "countdown" in Twiggy-length eyelashes, gently winged eyeliner, and a simple black turtleneck, Beyoncé reveals she's fully in Funny Face mode, and remains stationed happily in 1957 for most of the the clip. Hepburn's most legendary aspects of that film — the manic "improvised" dance sequence, the skinny, cropped black pants, socks and loafers — all come into play here, as do sly nods to Hepburn's famous photo spreads in a striped brim hat. The (literal) curveball: Beyoncé proudly shows off her baby bump in the same shots.
For a pop art effect, colorblocking (clever, as that style ploy is both tastefully retro and totally current again) is incorporated throughout the video, splicing together some of the vignettes from "other eras." Those include a quick trip to the early aerobic 1980s: a Fame sequence, complete with a troupe of Lycra-clad dancers, and an even better Flashdance moment, where Beyoncé lets loose in an off-the-shoulder sweatshirt, perfectly tousled hair, and legwarmers. From there, it's back to the 1960s, with a bit of lustrous Brigitte Bardot roleplay (head scarf included).
But the shapeshifting video ends fixated on its original muse, with Beyoncé's winsome portrayal of a modern-day Hepburn further declaring her own status as nearly on par with that of the cherished icon herself.
Watch Beyoncé's "Countdown" Video: