If you’re getting married this summer, there might be a reception. And that reception will probably have a DJ. And that DJ will undoubtedly play a song that I hope to never hear again: Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”
But like time travel and vegan cheese that melts properly, that will be impossible. Entering its third summer on the circuit, “Single Ladies” has become an American wedding staple that shows no signs of letting up. As long as bouquets are being tossed to wannabe brides, Beyonce will continue to shower us in sanctimonious decibels, preaching the code-red urgency of honoring and cherishing and having and holding. We must accept our fate.
But, brides and grooms of 2011, let’s make a deal: If you’re going to play “Single Ladies” at your wedding reception this summer, you also have to play its unofficial companion hit, another highly danceable chunk of premarital angst called “International Players Anthem (I Choose You).”
This song makes me want to get married to this song.
It’s a charming 2007 single from Texas duo UGK and hip-hop superstars OutKast that arrived a year before “Single Ladies” carpet-bombed the airwaves and every wedding reception since. But unlike Beyonce’s cynical megahit — a sour lover’s salvo that links matrimony with guilty obligation — “International Players Anthem” is a sweet ode to taming butterflies, making peace with the past and forsaking the thrills of singledom until death do you part.
The first verse is, anyway. It comes from OutKast’s Andre 3000, still the most deft rapper walking this earth. Over a beatless, beautiful Willie Hutch sample, he apologizes to all of his former flames, shushes the naysaying advice of his buddies and posts up at the altar with his heart wide open. (And in the video, he does it all while sporting a kilt.)
Then the beat kicks in, and Pimp C and Bun B of UGK start talking a little less tenderly. Don’t sweat it. Your wedding DJ can easily spin a clean version that won’t prick Grandma’s ears. Soon, the entire wedding will have gone from slow dancing with Andre to bouncing with UGK, because the best rap song ever written about wedding bells is actually two awesome wedding songs in one.
“International Players Anthem” was big in 2007, but not big-big. It peaked at No. 70 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and Rolling Stone named it the 10th-best song of 2007. (This critic deemed it the fifth-best.)
“Single Ladies,” on the other hand, was a bridezilla of a hit. It topped the singles chart for three weeks, sold more than 4 million copies, won a Grammy for song of the year and spawned a viral dance meme with its leggy, Bob Fosse-inspired video.
It is not going away. Dave Melton, owner of Black Tie DJs, one of the leading wedding DJ companies in the Washington area, says his employees play “Single Ladies” at nearly half of the 400-odd nuptials they spin each year. “It’s about as popular as the Chicken Dance, the hokeypokey, the Macarena and the Electric Slide,” Melton says, citing the first four circles of wedding reception hell.
How many couples have asked to have “International Players Anthem” played at their receptions? Melton clicks away at his keyboard, scouring his company’s database. He can’t find a single request.
DJ Intelligence, an online service that Melton and 15,000 other DJs around the world use to track song requests at events, maintains an even larger database — a sort of Billboard chart for wedding DJs. In the past 12 months, “Single Ladies” was DJ Intelligence’s fourth-most-requested tune. “International Players Anthem (I Choose You)” ranked 4,060th.
“If it hasn’t caught on by now, it probably isn’t going to,” Melton says. “But that doesn’t mean it won’t.” He mentions the Electric Slide, a dance that swept the country in 1989, even though the song that soundtracked it, Marcia Griffiths’s “Electric Boogie,” came out in 1976.
So time is on our side. But how else — aside from writing this article — could I help my campaign to bring “International Players Anthem” to weddings the world over?
“Alcohol,” Melton says. “You would not believe how many people hate the Chicken Dance. But when the alcohol is pouring, they’re the first ones out on the dance floor.”
Of course. A toast to the newlyweds.