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In "Single Ladies", Beyoncé portrays her alter ego Sasha Fierce, which appears on the second part of I Am... Sasha Fierce. The song was released simultaneously with "If I Were a Boy"; as lead singles, they were meant to demonstrate the concept of the dueling personalities of the singer. This reinforced the theme of the album, which was created by placing its ballads and uptempo tracks on separate discs. The singles debuted on US radio on October 8, 2008; "Single Ladies" did so on mainstream urban New York radio station Power 105.1. Both singles were added to rhythmic contemporary radio playlists on October 12, 2008; "Single Ladies" was sent to urban contemporary playlists the same day, while "If I Were a Boy" was instead classified for contemporary hit radio. The two songs were released as a double A-side single on November 7, 2008, in Australia, New Zealand, and Germany. Dance remixes of the song were made available in the US on February 10, 2009, and in Europe on February 16, 2009. "Single Ladies" was not originally released as a single in the UK, but the song became increasingly popular there and reached the top ten in the UK Singles Chart as a result of download sales. On February 16, 2009, it was released as a CD single, and the dance remixes became available as a digital download.
In "Single Ladies", Beyoncé emphasizes her aggressive and sensual alter ego Sasha Fierce. She displays much attitude in her voice, as stated by Nick Levine of Digital Spy. Echoing Levine's sentiments, Liss wrote that Beyoncé sounds "gleefully sassy". The lyrics reflect post-breakup situations. Accompanied by robotic-like sounds, the opening lines of the song are call and response; Beyoncé chants, "All the single ladies", and background singers echo the line each time. In the first verse, Beyoncé narrates the recent end to a poor relationship after she "cried [her] tears for three good years". She reclaims her right to flirt, have fun, and find a lover who is more devoted than the previous one. Beyoncé goes out to celebrate with her friends in a club where she meets a new love interest. However, her former boyfriend is watching her, and she directs the song to him. She then sings the chorus, which uses minor chords and contains several hooks, "If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it ... Oh oh oh".
"Single Ladies" appeared at number six on the Eye Weekly's critics' list of the Best Singles of 2008, and at number six on About.com's Mark Edward Nero's list of the Best R&B Songs of 2008. On The Village Voice's year-end Pazz & Jop singles list, "Single Ladies" was ranked at numbers three and forty one in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Additionally, the Maurice Joshua Club Mix of the song was ranked at number 443 on the 2008 list. "Single Ladies" was named the best song of the 2000s decade by Black Entertainment Television (BET). Sarah Rodman, writing for The Boston Globe, named "Single Ladies" the fourth most irresistible song of the decade, and stated, "[Beyoncé] combined leotards with crass engagement-bling baiting into one delicious sexy-yet-antiquated package. The video had the whole world dancing and waving along via YouTube." VH1 ranked "Single Ladies" at number sixteen on its list of The 100 Greatest Songs of the 2000s. In his book Eating the Dinosaur (2009), Chuck Klosterman wrote that "Single Ladies" is "arguably the first song overtly marketed toward urban bachelorette parties". Jody Rosen of The New Yorker credited the melodies that float and dart over the thump for creating a new sound in music that didn't exist in the world before Beyoncé. He further wrote, "If they sound 'normal' now, it's because Beyoncé, and her many followers, have retrained our ears."
"Single Ladies" debuted at number 72 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart issue dated November 1, 2008. On December 6, 2008, it moved from number 28 to number two on the Hot 100 chart, as a result of its debut at number one on the Hot Digital Songs chart, selling 204,000 digital downloads. The song became Beyoncé's fifth solo single to top the Hot Digital Songs chart. "If I Were a Boy" charted at number three on the Hot 100 chart the same week, and thus Beyoncé became the seventh female in the US to have two songs in the top five positions of that particular chart. The following week "Single Ladies" climbed to number one on the Hot 100 chart, selling 228,000 downloads, and became Beyoncé's fifth solo single to top the chart. It tied her with Olivia Newton-John and Barbra Streisand at number six on the list of female artists with the most Hot 100 number one hits, as of 2010.
In July 2009, Beyoncé gave a concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles where American actor Tom Cruise danced with her and her dancers as they performed the dance routine of "Single Ladies". At the MTV Video Music Awards on September 13, 2009, Beyoncé performed "Single Ladies" backed by "an army of single ladies" on stage. In a poll conducted by Billboard magazine, the performance was ranked as the seventh best in the history of MTV Video Music Awards. A critic wrote in the magazine: "The world gave a collective 'whoa' when Beyonce unleashed her 'Single Ladies' video, but to see those dance moves come to life at the 2009 VMAs was beyond eye-popping." Erika Ramirez of the same publication placed the performance at number two on her list of Beyoncé's five biggest TV performances. "Single Ladies" was included on the set lists of Beyoncé's I Am... Yours concerts and her I Am... World Tour. The song was subsequently included on Beyoncé's live albums I Am... Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas (2009) and I Am... World Tour (2010). "Single Ladies" was later performed by Beyoncé in a pink fringe dress at a concert at Palais Nikaia in Nice, France, on June 20, 2011, and at the Glastonbury Festival on June 26, 2011. On July 1, 2011, Beyoncé gave a free concert on Good Morning America as part of its Summer Concert Series, which included "Single Ladies". Backed by her all-female band and her backing singers The Mamas, Beyoncé performed "Single Ladies" in front of 3,500 people during the 4 Intimate Nights with Beyoncé revue at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, in August 2011. In May 2012, Beyoncé performed the song during her Revel Presents: Beyoncé Live revue at Revel Atlantic City, a hotel. Ben Ratliff of The New York Times mentioned "Single Ladies" in the "almost continuous high point" of the concert. Rebecca Thomas of MTV News wrote that Beyoncé's dancing during "Single Ladies" reflected the female empowerment theme of the song. On February 3, 2013, Beyoncé performed the song along with her former bandmates from Destiny's Child during the Super Bowl XLVII halftime show. The song was added to the set list of her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour (2013). Beyoncé's performed "Single Ladies" at The Sound of Change Live concert on June 1, 2013, at Twickenham Stadium, London as part of the Chime for Change movement.
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