Countdown (Beyoncé Knowles song)

Countdown (Beyoncé Knowles song)
Single by Beyoncé
from the album 4
Released October 4, 2011
Format Digital download
Recorded MSR Studio
(New York City)
Genre R&B, funk, dancehall
Length 3:33
Label Columbia
Writer(s) Terius Nash, Shea Taylor, Knowles, Ester Dean, Cainon Lamb, Julie Frost, Michael Bivins, Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris
Producer Knowles, Taylor, Lamb
Beyoncé singles chronology
"Lift Off"
4 track listing

"Countdown" is a song by American R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles from her fourth studio album, 4 (2011). It was written by Terius Nash, Shea Taylor, Knowles, Ester Dean, Cainon Lamb, Julie Frost, Michael Bivins, Nathan Morris and Wanya Morris. The song's development was motivated when Knowles wanted to create something different by mixing musical styles of the 1990s with the 1970s. "Countdown" was released to US radios on October 4, 2011 as the third single from the album.

Critics classified "Countdown" as a multi-genre song and praised the sampling of the countdown from "Uhh Ahh" by Boyz II Men. They compared it to singles from Dangerously in Love (2003) and B'Day (2006), noticing elements of funk music, and dancehall influences in the tradition of "Get Me Bodied" (2007). "Countdown" features a marching rhythm and contains an Afrobeat heavy brass riff. In the song, Knowles delivers a message of loyalty to her love interest and boasts of the ways he should feel lucky to have her. Critics stated that "Countdown" may be the highlight of Knowles' career and the most experimental song that she has ever done.

Following the leak of "4" in early June 2011, "Countdown" received minor rotation on radio that attributed to its debut at number 75 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, where it has so far peaked at number 46. It also charted at number 46 on the South Korea Gaon International Singles Chart.

Adria Petty directed the accompanying music video, which shows Knowles at different stages of her pregnancy and shows her as she makes references to art, fashion, and dance styles of the past. Reviewers wrote positively when they found that Knowles could dance even though she was pregnant. They also commended how Knowles channeled the classier highlights of pop, fashion, and film's past. However, the video faced controversy after viewers found that Knowles' choreography resembles the work of Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. The song was part of Knowles' set list in 4 Intimate Nights with Beyoncé.


Background and development

Boyz II Men at the Genting Highlands, Malaysia in 2007. Left to right: Shawn Stockman, Nathan Morris, and Wanya Morris.
"Countdown" samples "Uhh Ahh" by Boyz II Men (pictured) who were the first ones to include Destiny's Child on tour as an opening act.

"Countdown" was written by Terius Nash, Shea Taylor, Knowles, Ester Dean, Cainon Lamb, Julie Frost, Michael Bivins, Nathan Morris, and Wanya Morris.[1] Production was handled by Knowles, Taylor and Lamb.[1] Michael Bivins, Nathan Morris and Wanya Morris are credited in "Countdown" because the latter features a sample from Boyz II Men's 1991 single, "Uhh Ahh".[2][3] A private listening party for Knowles' fourth studio album was held on May 12, 2011 at the Sony offices in New York City. Knowles offered a select group of fans a preview of five songs from her fourth studio album as well as the official video for the lead single "Run the World (Girls)". On that occasion, "Countdown" was the fourth of the five songs previewed.[4] While playing the song, Knowles commented: "[Jay-Z] liked it. I do not think he was dissecting it, just thinking of what he could do to it as a rapper."[5]

On June 7, 2011, both "Party" and "Countdown" leaked online, followed by the whole album, three weeks prior to its official release date, scheduled for June 28, 2011.[6] This was followed by cease-and-desist notices from Knowles' legal team, who forced multiple media sites to remove download links to the songs.[6] Beginning on June 16 to June 27, 2011, the songs from 4 were available to listen to in full each day on Knowles' official website, paired with its accompanying photo spread from the album packaging and an insightful quote.[7] On June 24, 2011, "Countdown" was the ninth song to be chosen. The quote found Knowles elaborating on the song's inspiration: "I really liked mixing the 90s with the 70s. I put those two together and it was so much fun putting bridges back into songs, all the things in music that I love that I feel I just want to hear again."[8] She also referred to "Countdown" as "really experimental".[9] Concerning the development "Countdown" and the reason for using the sample, Knowles stated:

I wanted to do something refreshing and different, so I mixed genres and drew inspiration from touring, traveling, watching rock bands, and attending festivals… I was like a mad scientist, putting lots of different songs together. Boyz II Men were the first ones to put Destiny's Child on tour. They showed us how to treat an opening act and I will never forget that. That was 15 years ago! Wow, 15 years! I'm old.[10]

In an interview with Leslie Moore on Tumblr, Cainon Lamb recalled how he started working on the Boyz II Men's sample and how his work reached Knowles.[11] He said that he began working on "Countdown" during the night preceding the 2010 BET Awards.[11] He was in the studio, listening to Boyz II Men's song, "Uhh Ahh". He commented: "[It] starts with a countdown of '10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1'. So I thought, 'Wow, that could be something.[11] Just the countdown itself.'" Once the countdown was in the computer, he slightly increased the pace at which it was played, added some snare drum taps to it, and started a beat.[11] After that, he sent the song to his publisher, EMI Music. The latter was impressed with the instrumental and went on saying: "I had a meeting this morning with Beyoncé and I played a couple other songs I had and she wasn't really feeling them. When I played the beat that you sent me, you should have seen how she went crazy! She started dancing and bouncing up and down and just doing all kind of stuff. She loved that beat!"[11] On the request of his publisher, Lamb made "a female version of the countdown part".[11] Terius Nash wrote the verses and two days later, Knowles went in the studio and recorded it.[11]

In an interview with Jocelyn Vena of MTV News, the members of Boyz II Men revealed that they were surprised that Knowles decided to use their song on "Countdown" even though they have known her for long.[12] Wanya Morris believed that it was a "clever" move and added that "[he] guess [Boyz II Men] can say [they] finally got [their] duet with Beyoncé."[12] Nathan Morris further elaborated, getting philosophical about the career of the Destiny's Child:

It wasn't something we expected, but we do have a bit of a relationship. A lot of people don't really know that when they had Destiny's Child, the first time they went on tour they opened up for us for quite a long time. And we tried our best to look after them and make sure everything was good. And back then they were incredible. Even that long ago they knew Beyoncé stood out from the pack. We all saw that she would wind up doing her thing. There is a connection, and at the end of the day we didn't know she would use that record. Game respects game, I guess you would call it.[12]

On September 22, 2011, Columbia Records posted the cover art of "Countdown" on the official website of KZII-FM, most commonly known as "102.5 Kiss FM".[13] It was the same photograph spread for "Countdown" in the album notes for 4 and it was taken by German photographer Ellen von Unwerth.[1] Released as the third single off 4, "Countdown" impacted both CHR/Top 40 and Rhythmic radios on October 4, 2011 in the United States.[14][15]


"Countdown", which samples "Uhh Ahh" performed by American group Boyz II Men,[2] was considered to be "everywhere on the genre map" by Consequence of Sound's Chris Coplan.[16] "Countdown" is basically is an upbeat song,[17] displaying elements of funk music,[18] hip hop music,[19] Latin pop music,[20] world music,[21] reggae[22] as well as dancehall influences.[23] It makes heavy use of staccato horns,[17] and rides a "disjointed military rhythm",[24] containing an "agitated" Afrobeat heavy brass riff[25] which, according to Alexis Petridis of The Guardian, bears resemblance to that of "Run the World (Girls)" (2011).[24] Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone attributed the "bristling brass arrangements" in "Countdown" to the fact that Knowles collaborated with the band from Fela! for a couple of days to gain inspiration from the play's subject, Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, Fela Kuti.[23] Additional instrumentation on the song includes a "squelchy keyboard",[26] synthesizers,[27] a "plucky" guitar,[21] and 180 BPM steel drums.[20][28] Built on a stepping beat,[21] "Countdown" also features "video-game bleeps" reminiscent of Knowles' previous alter ego, Sasha Fierce, as stated by Jocelyn Vena of MTV News.[29]

Ryan Dombal of Pitchfork Media viewed "Countdown" as a sequel to Knowles' own 2003 single, "Crazy in Love".[30] Matthew Horton of BBC compared the musical style of "Countdown" to that of M.I.A.'s work.[31] John Mitchell of MTV Newsroom wrote that "'[Countdown]' has a flair that reminds us of songs from past Beyonce albums, specifically the best tracks from B'Day."[17] Similarly, Matthew Perpetua of Rolling Stone wrote that "Countdown" revisits the "sassy spirit" of B'Day's "Get Me Bodied" (2007).[25] Jocelyn Vena added that while "Countdown" is very different form the other songs on the album, it has a "Check on It" vibe.[29] Joey Guerra of The Houston Chronicle commented that "Countdown" shares the same "frenetic club swagger" as previous Destiny's Child's singles such as "Bug a Boo" (1999) and "Jumpin', Jumpin'" (2000).[32] She also added that Knowles references the Houston Rockets in the song.[32]

Throughout the song, Knowles sings with "a sassy attitude", setting a "futuristic tone", as stated by Jocelyn Vena.[29] According to Dombal, "Countdown" finds Knowles as the female protagonist delivering her "message of ten years of loyalty seeming just as thrilling as the first time" to her love interest.[30] Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone, who described "Countdown" as a "monogamous romance" like several other songs on 4, added that it is a love song that is "no less sexy for being unblinkingly true to life."[23] Kicking off with horns and drums, Knowles starts to chant introductory lines, which also serves as the pre-chorus lines: "Oh, killing me softly and I'm still falling / Still the one I need, I will always be with you / Oh, you got me all gone, don't ever let me go / Say it real loud if you fly / If you leave me you're out of your mind",[33] followed by the chorus lines,[33] which Thomas Conner of Chicago Sun-Times described as a literal count backwards "as if it were the 10 days of clubland":[28] "My baby is a ten / We dressing to the nine / He pick me up at eight / Make me feel so lucky seven / He kiss me in his six / We be making love in five / Still the one I do this four / I’m trying to make a three / From that two / He still the one."[16] When combined together, the introductory lines and the chorus lines serve as the hook lines of "Countdown".[33]

According to Maura Johnston of The Village Voice, the verses of "Countdown" contain lyrics about "twinned boasts of self-worth and proclamations of fidelity into a tight knot of romantic ideals."[34] In the first verse of the song, Jody Rosen Knowles' chants lines "dedicated to the one [she] loves":[33] "There's ups and downs in this love / Got a lot to learn in this love / Through the good and the bad, still got love".[23] The verse continues with Knowles offering her partner copious praise, in a "half-rap cadence": "Still love the way he talks / Still love the way I sing / Still love the way he rock them black diamonds in that chain."[30] As stated by Adam Markovitz of Entertainment Weekly, the first verse of "Countdown" also contains "joy-inducing non-lyrics" such as "Me and my boof, and my boof boof riding".[18] Additionally, Knowles sings to her love interest that he should feel lucky "to have her grind up on him."[33] In the other two verses, Knowles continues to boast of all the ways her man is lucky to have her,[35] and celebrates their "mature relationship", as stated by Spence D. of IGN.[21]

Critical reception

"Countdown" received generally positive reviews from critics, most of whom found it reminiscent of Knowles' previous releases from Dangerously in Love (2003), B'Day (2006) among others, however, with a higher level of maturity from Knowles. Adam Markovitz of Entertainment Weekly wrote that "[...] unsurprisingly, Beyoncé is at her best when she sounds like no one but herself." She also commended Knowles for "tak[ing] her trusty freakum dress out of mothballs" for "Countdown" which according to him, includes "joy-inducing non-lyrics".[18] Given the track placement of the song on 4, Thomas Conner of The Chicago Sun-Times complimented "Countdown" for "picking things up which make 4 start moving near the end" with "Countdown". Conner additionally described the song as "careening into an ethnic club".[28] John Mitchell of MTV's Newsroom called "Countdown" the best track from 4, stating that the song is "impossible to resist [to]".[17] Similarly, Jocelyn Vena of MTV News named "Countdown" the most surprising song on the album, comparing it to Knowles own 2005 single, "Check on It".[29] Conrad Tao of Sputnikmusic found that "Countdown" was one of the "irresistible" uptempo cuts form 4 and that it makes "particularly successful use of its namesake" as well as its dancehall influences.[36] Digital Spy's Lewis Corner gave the song four stars out of five and wrote that "combining pop-stardom and domesticity is just one of her [Knowles'] many, many talents" in the song.[37] Ricky Schweitzer of One Thirty BPM also showed high favorism for "Countdown", writing:

"So much talk of tempo and expectation must not overshadow the greatest triumph that 4 has to offer: progression. After 4 threatens to become syrupy, 'Love on Top', comes along to pep the mood up before bursting into 'Countdown', arguably the most experimental song that Beyoncé has ever been a part of. The lead-off to the verse features a tonal progression that cannot be followed lazily and the vocals laid on top of such an audacious piece of composition are skillful and assured. The minimalistic synth that appears next may sound a bit familiar, but even if only for a few measures, Beyoncé is touching new ground here."[27]

Matthew Perpetua of Rolling Stone gave "Countdown" a positive review, describing the song as one of 4's "much-needed mid-album stretch of upbeat tunes" and as a "playful, inventive jam", in tradition of "Get Me Bodied".[25] Jody Rosen also writing for the same magazine, commented that "Beyoncé has been a star for more than a decade, but now she's a 29-year-old married woman, and she sounds like one [on 'Countdown]'."[23] Eric Henderson of Slant Magazine described the song as a "hyperventilating number" which sounds like a "parody of Beyoncé's more militant hits from the tail-end of the Destiny's Child era".[38] Henderson also favored the song's sample of Boyz II Men's "Uhh Ahh".[38] Ben Cardew of Music Week appreciated "Countdown"'s composition and praised Knowles for experimenting with it; he thought "Countdown" "[t]he oddest thing on the album and almost certainly in Beyoncé's whole career".[20] He also coined it as "a new page in [Knowles'] book" and added that "quite frankly, [it is] good to hear."[20] Similarly, Rich Juzwiak of The Village Voice wrote that the sample of "Uhh Ahh" provides "one in the tangled collection of hooks that is the whirlwind career highlight [of Knowles] on 'Countdown'."[39] Gavin Martin of The Daily Mirror considered "Countdown" a "contender for album standout", describing the song as "frisky, funny and full of ideas."[22] Erika Ramirez of Billboard magazine commented that "Countdown" has the potential "to manifest trillions of YouTube dance crazes. Put your heels on for this!"[40] Chris Coplan of Consequence of Sound commented that "[...] as far as demonstrating the power of a stripped-down Beyoncé and how devastating that can be, the winner is 'Countdown'." He praised the chorus which he described as being "of staggering simplicity and effectiveness" before concluding "you do that math, it's a winner."[16] Comparing the song to "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", Luke Larsen of Paste magazine wrote that Countdown” is another example of Knowles' "uncanny ability to craft songs that are irresistibly catchy but definitely not your average mainstream pop single either."[41]

Alexis Petridis of The Guardian also gave the song a positive review, stating that "there's nothing like ['Countdown'] in the charts" and that the brass arrangement "stab the one moment you hear anything resembling the influences mooted in the advance publicity."[24] Neil McCormick of UK's The Daily Telegraph complimented Knowles for "laying down the law like a ball-busting disco diva" on the song.[42] Joey Guerra of The Houston Chronicle favored "Countdown" for boasting "a frenetic club beat", further adding that the song is "practically begging for an extended version".[32] Ryan Dombal of Pitchfork Media wrote that "all of the album's best elements, thematically and sonically, burst ahead on Jay-Z ode 'Countdown', a honking, stutter-step sequel of sorts to "Crazy in Love".[30] James Reed of The Boston Globe viewed "Countdown" as a radio-friendly song, having the potential of being one of the "blockbuster hits" from 4.[43] Echoing, Reed's sentiments, Joanne Dorken of MTV UK wrote that "Countdown" is "faced-past, original and bound to be a massive tune in clubs across the globe." Dorke also noted it to be "a refreshing break from the slower part of the [4]."[44] Embling of Tiny Mix Tapes stated that Knowles has not produced anything as "ferocious (or obnoxious)" as "Ring the Alarm" on 4, but "Countdown" comes close. He described the latter as having "[a] regal fanfare, a stealthy sample, and the most exuberant vocal performance of the album into a deliciously overstuffed three and a half minutes". He concluded that "Countdown" sounds like the work of an artist who is trying hard to produce a classic like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010).[45] Michael Cragg of The Observer priased the fact that 4 end up "peaking with the incredible 'Countdown' [featuring] Beyoncé near rapping over ecstatic horn blasts."[46] Steve Jones of USA Today showed also appreciation for "Countdown", calling it one of the "purely fun elements" on the album.[35]

Chart performance

Selling 14,897 digital downloads, "Countdown" opened at number 40 on the South Korea Gaon International Singles Chart for the week ending July 2, 2011.[47] Without being released as a single in the United States, "Countdown" debuted at number 75 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart issue dated July 2, 2011.[48] The following week, "Countdown" moved to number 66 on the chart, where it has peaked so far. As of the week ending October 11, 2011, "Countdown" has been charting for 17 consecutive weeks on that chart.[48] "Countdown" also charted on the US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart at number 12 for the week ending July 16, 2011.[49] For the week ending October 29, 2011, "Countdown" was the Hot Shot Debut on the US Hot Dance Club Songs chart.[50] It also debuted at number 85 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart.[51] The following week, it moved to number 77. For the week ending November 19, 2011, "Countdown" debuted at number38 on the US Pop Songs chart.[52]

Music video

Background and development

When you work with Beyoncé, you are not only working with an intelligent and strongly collaborative individual but you are also usually battling with time and the given circumstances in her work life at that moment and, in this case, her personal life. So it's an evolving process that remains flexible. The target we are always trying to hit is something that feels good and genuine for her. When we first started shooting, she had not made that announcement [that she was pregnant] and I do not believe that was the goal. But as the process evolved, I believe she wanted that to be celebrated in the video. It was shot per Beyoncé's availability over a couple of months. She did her Roseland shows and the MTV Awards in the interim. I believe she had a number of commitments and had not anticipated her special arrival. I believe the video speaks for itself. But it is mostly just fun, flirty stuff that feels good for B, I think it is iconic, playful and romantic like the song itself."

—Adria Petty explaining that Knowles' baby bump was not initially planned to appear in the video.[53]

On August 2, 2011, Complex magazine reported that the music video for "Countdown" was currently being filmed and that it was being directed by Adria Petty, who previously directed the music video for "Sweet Dreams" (2009).[54][55][56] Knowles was also a director for the music video along with Petty.[57] A 38-second preview of the video was posted on on October 3, 2011.[58][59] Jocelyn Vena of MTV News wrote that the preview showed a close-ups of Knowles wearing vibrant eye makeup and a black-and-white color-block outfit. Knowles is shown "...hamming it up for the camera before panning out to reveal a look that pays homage to both Michael Jackson and Audrey Hepburn thanks to her short bangs, cropped pants, black turtleneck and exposed socks. Beyoncé stands in front of a black-and-white striped wall as she moves her arms like a clock." Vena continues: "As the tease closes, Knowles shows off her pregnant profile and then appears in three different bodysuits accessorized with a black-and-white hat."[59] A writer of The Sun compared Knowles' hair style with those of The Beatles'.[60] The full video premiered on October 6, 2011 at 7:56 p.m. ET on MTV and Knowles' official website.[61][62]

Concering the collaboration with Knowles, Petty stated: "I think whenever you work with Beyoncé it's a collaboration. She has a lot of input. And then you have the time constraints that come with working with her that push you into different directions. [...] There are countless homages to pop culture of the past in this video. I think we were playing with Mod, and '60's and '80's iconic stuff that [Beyoncé] responded to and related to."[63] She further revealed that during the filming Knowles put a lot of energy and made many decisions for the finished product.[63] It shot over a few months in various New York City warehouses.[64] According to John Mitchell of MTV News: "[The clip is] a perfect mix of classic and modern, which seems to be what Beyoncé is aiming for in this era of her career. It is a feeling reflected in the smooth, '[19]90s vibe and reliance on live instruments that sets her album 4 apart from her previous work as well as other artists on the charts right now."[65] Talking about the development and the filming of the video, Petty revealed:

I brought Beyoncé a number of references and we picked some out together. Most were German modern-dance references, believe it or not. But it really evolved. The references were then dispersed to her creative team (hair, makeup, wardrobe), and they interpreted them on the set in their own special way. Of course, one of the strongest wardrobe references was Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face when she does the beatnik dance scene. I think a lot grew from there. [...] The shoot was great. We had a number of brilliant dancers and musicians and a top-notch crew. Beyoncé brings in a number of her own people who are so hardworking. Our video was the fourth they had shot in five days. I love the creative team that works with Beyoncé because they can roll with anything and keep smiling. Everyone was really upbeat and excited because we all love the track and the opportunity to work with Beyoncé so much.[64]


"Countdown"'s music video is heavily influenced by 1960s pop art; it is drenched in vintage-hued colors and retro clothes. Knowles' fashion in the clip includes retro side-swept mini bangs, large lined eyes and almond-shaped pumpkin-colored nails.[66] As stated by MTV Style, these accessories, alongside Knowles' "...syncopated dancing in vibrant monochrome, wink back to that iconic Audrey Hepburn sequence in Funny Face".[66] Knowles' make-up was by Francesca Tolot, who explained: "The inspiration behind Beyoncé'[s] brightly-lined lids came from the beatnik movement of the late '[19]50s, early '[19]60s. From previous experiences with Dreamgirls, I knew Beyoncé looked amazing with that type of makeup so the almond eye seemed to be the perfect fit."[66] For the countdown part of the video, Knowles wears " and white from head-to-toe. Her ensemble is brightened up with a pop of neon orange on her stiletto nails". The first time Knowles shows her baby bump in the video, she wears a black and white dress, designed by Thierry Mugler. [66]

Next, Knowles wears a primary color leotard Capezio collection with a black and white striped Karen Keith for Patricia Field sun hat.[66] During the second chorus, Knowles wears a sheer American Apparel over-sized button up with high Stiletto heels.[66] She later wears more colorways of the sheer American Apparel button-up with a tied headkerchief, changing the shoes for loafers, and a pastel palette.[66] In a scene reminiscent of the film Flashdance, Knowles wears an off-the-shoulder Forever 21 t-shirt, showing a lilac bra strap and blunt bangs.[66] For the Dreamgirls flashback, she wears a jeweled Chan Luu mini dress, subtle makeup with sculpted brows and a shiny, flipped bob.[66] For the final scene, Knowles wears another black and white striped American Apparel outfit with a sleek tank, shorts, suspenders and white socks with pumps.[66]

Synopsis and analysis

John Mitchell of MTV News wrote that, throughout the clip, Knowles is "...all smiles, perhaps reflecting her joy at beginning a new phase in her life".[65] The visibility of Knowles' pregnancy varies throughout the video, indicating she may have filmed some of the footage for "Countdown" earlier in her pregnancy and later re-shot or re-conceptualized the clip to reflect her growing belly.[65] The clip has several references and looks, dating from the 1960s to the 1980s. Knowles reenacts a series of iconic pop images in the video.[65]

The video opens with a close shot of Knowles' face who's wearing a similar make-up to English model Twiggy.[65] The video then shows shots of Knowles moving her arms like a clock and wearing a black T-shirt and black trousers. Scenes similar to 1957 film Funny Face follow with Knowles looking like Audrey Hepburn. Those shots are cut by a variety of brightly colored bathing suits and a black-and-white hat, set against a constantly changing background of colors which is similar to Vogue photo shoots.[65] Knowles' baby bump is less visible in the bathing suit scenes but is featured prominently earlier in the video. The clip cuts quickly from the bathing suit sequence to shots of Knowles in an audition space similar to the 1980 film Fame.[65] The sequence features choreographed moves from Knowles and her back-up dancers who snap with their fingers which is a reference to 1961 musical West Side Story.[65]

Knowles lovingly rubs her baby bump in a scene that features 10 different incarnations of herself in a loft space. According to MTV Newsroom, this is the "key scene" where Knowles puts into perspective all those aforementioned sides.[67] Knowles references Bridget Bardot when the video cuts to and from shots of Knowles in a men's dress shirt with her hair styled up with a scarf.[65] She also briefly references her film, Dreamgirls, more specifically the latter's inspiration, being Diana Ross, during a few brief scenes in which Knowles wears a short, sparkly dress and bob hairstyle.[65] The clip then sequences from Fame to Flashdance with Knowles and her dancers in another open warehouse-like space sporting the iconic off-the-shoulder look from the 1983 drama starring Jennifer Beals.[65] The video ends with Knowles in a chair, dancing and then flashing a smile.


John Mitchell of MTV News praised Knowles' dance skills and sexiness in the video despite being pregnant, and called it "...a feast for the eyes" and "...a perfect mix of classic and modern, which seems to be what Beyoncé is aiming for in this era of her career."[65] Another writer of The Huffington Post called the video "...characteristically kinetic." [68] Chris Coplan of Consequence of Sound wrote: "...the concept may be simple, but the intricate dance numbers (take that, Fred Astaire!) and split screen action make for an energetic cinematic affair with loads of modern swag and '60s-inspired sass."[69] Entertainment Weekly's Grady Smith compared Knowles with Nicki Minaj and called the video a "...typical Beyoncé dance-fest featuring frenetic movement, flashing colors, and a whole lot of sexy outfits."[70] Carrie Battan of Pitchfork Media called it a "...clean and classic, filled with blocked colors, Audrey Hepburn stylings and the occasional flashing of the baby bump."[57] Contessa Gayles of The Boombox also compared Knowles' look and make-up in the video with Minaj's style.[71] Luke Jennings of The Guardian called the video a "slick, very new-retro piece of film-making, and borrowed imagery is absolutely the point of it."[72]

Colleen Nika of Rolling Stone said that: "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", and described it as "...brilliant and bright."[73] Nika also said that the video contrasted with Lady Gaga's style and that it was another "...pop art effect" for Knowles.[73] Matthew Perpetua of the same publication wrote that the video had a "...variety of dazzling looks that could definitely be emulated by fans on the cheap." He stated: "...the clip is nearly as joyful and super-charged as the song itself, with its barrage of world-class hooks complemented by a rapid succession of memorable, charming and sexy images."[74] Erika Ramiirez of Billboard write that: "...even with a bun in the oven, Beyoncé can still bring it."[56] Becky Bain of Idolator wrote that the video was filmed at different intervals because "...some shots show her pregnancy bump loud and proud, while in others, a still very dancey-Beyonce appears to have her typically flat tummy."[75] He called it a "...Crayola crayon box come to life."[75] Ray Rahman of New York magazine wrote that Knowles, "...packs the short video with all her classic signatures: being amazing at dancing, recruiting teams of others to be amazing at dancing, and proving how even her fingers are amazing at dancing. But also, and possibly most importantly: Babyoncé!".[76]

Stereogum said that the video "has [a] potential to be the most electric Beyoncé video since the immortal classic 'Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)'."[77] AOL Music's Marina Galperina called the video "...mod-tastic" and the editing "...funky" and "...collaged."[78] Kathleen Perricone of Daily News wrote: "Beyoncé's baby isn't even born yet – and already it's a star" referring to Knowles' abdomen in the video.[79] Lisa Potter of Marie Claire compared Knowles with Andy Warhol.[80] CNN said that "...the imagery is a hodge-podge of modern and retro styling created in an ultra-bright palette, and staccato camera work effortlessly matches 'Countdown's' beat."[81] Matt Donnelly of Los Angeles Times called the video " fantastic it borders on annoying" and added that it could be "...a miniature version of 'Single Ladies.'"[82] Leah Collins of Dose magazine wrote that the director "...has taken everything to concoct a technicolour rainbow of retro throw-back set-pieces."[83] According to MTV News, the video was well-received by fans, who praised its simplicity and Knowles' "...bumpin' belly."[84] For the week ending October 29, 2011, the music video for "Countdown" debuted at number one on Yahoo! Video chart.[85]


Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker (pictured), who affirmed that Knowles had borrowed liberally from two of her pieces, later revealed that she is neither angered nor honored by the tribute.

Following the release of the video, allegations arose regarding the video's concept. In an interview with Studio Brussel, Belgian choreographer, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, accused Knowles of stealing concepts from two of her pieces, being the 1994 Achterland and the 1997 Rosas danst Rosas. De Keersmaeker accused Knowles of blatantly stealing her choreography, costumes, and sets in the video and released a statement regarding the claim stating, "It's a bit rude, [...] What’s rude about it its that they don’t even bother about hiding it", further adding that "this is pure plagiarism".[86][87] Rosas spokeswoman Johanne De Bie added about the clip: "We noticed more than a few resemblances... We have passed the details to our lawyer to see about our rights."[87] In response to De Keersmaeker's comments, Knowles issued the following statement: "Clearly, the ballet Rosas danst Rosas was one of many references for my video 'Countdown'. It was one of the inspirations used to bring the feel and look of the song to life. I was also paying tribute to the film, Funny Face with the legendary Audrey Hepburn [...] My biggest inspirations were the [19]60s, the [19]70s, Brigitte Bardot, Andy Warhol, Twiggy and Diana Ross. I've always been fascinated by the way contemporary art uses different elements and references to produce something unique."[86] Following Knowles' statement, De Keersmaeker wrote in a statement to The Performance Club, in which she pondered the reason that her experimental choreography took thirty years to be recognized by pop-culture and noted one personal coincidence between her original work and Knowles' re-imagining:

People asked me if I'm angry or honored. Neither, on the one hand, I am glad that Rosas danst Rosas can perhaps reach a mass audience which such a dance performance could never achieve, despite its popularity in the dance world since 1980s. [...] To conclude, this event didn’t make me angry, on the contrary, it made me think a few things. Like, why does it take popular culture thirty years to recognize an experimental work of dance? [...] with global pop culture it is different, does this mean that thirty years is the time that it takes to recycle non-mainstream experimental performance? And, what does it say about the work of Rosas danst Rosas? In the 1980s, this was seen as a statement of girl power, based on assuming a feminine stance on sexual expression. I was often asked then if it was feminist. Now that I see Beyoncé dancing it, I find it pleasant but I don’t see any edge to it. It’s seductive in an entertaining consumerist way. Beyond resemblance there is also one funny coincidence. Everyone told me, she is dancing and she is four months pregnant. In 1996, when De Mey's film was made, I was also pregnant with my second child. So, today, I can only wish her the same joy that my daughter brought me.[88]

The director of the music video, Adria Petty, in an interview with MTV, stated that along with Knowles, they viewed some German modern dance clips as they were exploring cultural reference points, although she never mentioned De Keersmaeker specifically.[64] Later, during an interview with magazine GQ, Petty stated that De Keersmaeker's work inspired several scenes in the music video. During the time of filming, she researched everything about De Keersmaeker's work and at the beginning she wanted to credit De Keersmaeker.[63] Petty revealed, "Of course, ultimately I'm disappointed that she wasn't credited on the video because I know it was everyone's intention from the get-go. But I'm assuming that's because they were still finishing it the day that it launched and stuff, it was basically an oversight, you know?"[63] At the end she said that "very little of Keersmaeker's actual choreography inspired the finished result."[63]

Live performances

Knowles performing during the 4 Intimate Nights with Beyoncé.

On June 30, 2011, Knowles made a surprise appearance at the Target store in Harlem, New York, where kids from the local Boys and Girls Club danced onstage to "Countdown."[89] In the middle of their performance, Knowles took the stage and gave them a big group hug before letting them continue their routine.[89] Knowles told the crowd, "I'd like to thank the Boys and Girls Club for coming out. I hope y'all had fun learning the choreography to 'Countdown' today."[89] Knowles sang the song live for first time on August 14, 2011 during her 4 Intimate Nights with Beyoncé in Roseland Ballroom, New York City.[90] Wearing a gold dress, she performed the song in front of 3,500 people and she was backed by her all-female band, which includes, among others, two saxophonists, a sinuous guitar player, a seven-piece string section, a peppy pianist, a superfluous conductor, and her backing singers, called the Mamas.[90][9] Erika Ramirez of Billboard magazine commented that "fans took the liberty to create individual dances in every pocket of the stadium" when Knowles was singing "Countdown".[91]

Referring to "Countdown" as an "experimental [and] framing an expression of artistic freedom", Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone wrote that the song "made [Knowles'] case."[92] Jozen Cummings of The Wall Street Journal commented that "when [Knowles] went up-tempo on songs like 'Countdown', her virtuosic ability to engage in crisp choreography without cracking her huge voice took center stage."[93] Echoing Cummings' sentiments, Mike Wass of Idolator added that "as great as those two tracks sounded live, 'Countdown' and 'End Of Time' garnered the most applause. Both were accompanied by brilliant dance routines and boast sing-a-long choruses."[94] Joycelyn Vena of MTV News concluded that "it was [Knowles'] ability to throw a party during faster jams like 'Party', 'Countdown', 'End of Time' and 'Run the World (Girls)' that put on full display her range as a performer, dancing and singing live the entire night."[95]

A performance of Knowles singing "Countdown" live on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was taped in July 2011.[96][97] The performance aired on November 11, 2011.[98] Backed by The Roots, Knowles gave her performance, wearing a black dress.[98][99]

Usage in media

Knowles appeared on Entertainment Tonight on June 16, 2011 to promote the exclusive-to-Target deluxe edition of 4, and gave fans a sneak preview of its television commercial.[100] The 30-second commercial, which features "1+1" and "Countdown" playing in the background, began airing in the United States on June 24, 2011.[101][102] In August 2011, "Countdown" was used in a commercial for the CBS fall television series previews.[103]

Credits and personnel

Credits are taken from 4 liner notes.[1]

  • Beyoncé Knowles – vocals, producer, songwriter
  • Alex Asher – trombone
  • Michael Bivins – songwriter
  • Ester Dean – songwriter
  • Julie Frost – songwriter
  • Cole-Kamen Green – trumpet
  • Serban Ghenea – mixer
  • John Hanes – engineer mixer
  • Ryan Kelly – engineer assistant
  • Lamb – co-production, songwriter
  • Nathan Morris – songwriter
  • Wanya Morris – songwriter
  • Terius "The-Dream" Nash – songwriter
  • Phil Seaford – engineer mix assistant
  • Drew Sayers – saxophones
  • Shea Taylor – production
  • Nick Videen – tenor saxophone
  • Pete Wolford – engineer assistant
  • Josiah Woodson – trumpet
  • Jordan "DJ Swivel" Young – recorder


Chart (2011) Peak
Deutsche Black Charts[104] 1
Japan Hot 100[105] 87
Irish Singles Chart[106] 45
South Korea Gaon International Chart[47] 40
UK R&B Chart[107] 9
UK Singles Chart[108] 35
US Billboard Hot 100[51] 71
US Hot Dance Club Songs[50] 6
US R&B/Hip-Hop Songs[48] 38
US Pop Songs[52] 38

Release history

Country Date Format
United States October 4, 2011 CHR/Top 40 and Rhythmic radio[14][15]
Germany November 25, 2011 Digital Download[109]


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