"Run the World (Girls)" initially divided critics, most of whom complimented the song's sample and Knowles' aggressiveness while others criticized the song's musical direction. Several critics compared the track to other female empowering singles released by Knowles in the past such as "Independent Women" (2000), "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" (2008), and "Diva" (2009), stating that "Run the World (Girls)" takes a more direct and assertive approach towards female empowerment. The accompanying music video for the single was directed by Francis Lawrence and was filmed in California over the span of three days. A sneak peek of the video was revealed on Knowles' official website on April 20, 2011, describing the video as a "B Revolution". In an interview with MTV News, Lawrence described the music video as "one of the biggest Beyoncé music videos ever done", and compared it to the video for Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" (2009). In an interview with The Capital FM Network in early March 2011, Shea Taylor confirmed that 4's "first single is huge and will premiere at the end of April". "Run the World" was written by The-Dream, Knowles, Afrojack, Diplo, Switch, and Vybz Kartel. Switch and The-Dream produced the record, and Knowles and Taylor co-produced it. "Run the World" was recorded by DJ Swivel and Pat Thrall at MSR Studios, New York City, and was mixed by Serban Ghenea at MixStar Studios, Virginia Beach. The song was originally rumored to be titled "Girls (Who Run the World)". On April 14, 2011, two snippets of the song leaked online while an unfinished demo of "Run the World (Girls)" leaked online on April 18, 2011.
Beyonce "Run The World (Girls)" Song
Due to the single leaking over the internet, the release of "Run the World (Girls)" was released early. It premiered on US radio on April 21, 2011 at 8 a.m. EST, and was made available for download on iTunes Stores worldwide the same day. According to some reports, the single leaked on iTunes for free a few hours ahead of its official release. It was briefly available to download for free via podcast service Concrete Loop. "Run the World (Girls)" impacted mainstream, urban contemporary and urban adult contemporary radio on April 26, 2011. According to MTV News, "Run the World (Girls)" was very well-received by Knowles' fans on Twitter. The cover art for "Run the World (Girls)" was previewed on April 20, 2011, the day before the song was released. On the cover, Knowles strikes a bold pose while standing in the sand. With her fist in the air covered in fore-arm protectors, Knowles wears a hip cut draping yellow Emilio Pucci dress and black stiletto boots. The Los Angeles Times indicated that the photos point to a "post-apocalyptic war zone, donning an elaborate gold headdress and holding a red flag emblazoned with a black 'B'." The photo was taken on April 14, 2011. Tray Hova of Vibe complimented the cover art of the single, stating that Knowles looks "resplendent as hell" on the cover and additionally stated that "Nobody's complaining about Bey season here."
Similarly, Eleanor Young writing for Marie Claire described the cover art as "sizzling". Ray Rogers of Billboard stated that Knowles "clearly transmits her trademark message of female empowerment" when she raises her clenched fist on the cover. On the other hand, Becky Bain of Idolator gave the single cover a negative review, describing it as "pretty disappointing". She stated that with a "ballistic, over-the-top club banger" song like "Run the World (Girls)", she expected something more than just a body shot of Knowles, and criticized the cover for being confusing regarding the location of the photo shoot; she wrote, "Where the heck is she? Under a freeway? At the beach?". However, Bain complimented Knowles on her choice of stilettos as "serious business". "Run the World" garnered mixed reviews from some critics who, while commending Knowles for taking risks, agreed that the song was too divergent from her previous work. In his review of the song, Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani wrote "[Knowles] misses the mark big time here" and called the song "plain daft".
He however praised the song's bridge, "which features B's warm, gooey harmonies and the lyric 'My persuasion can build a nation.'" Despite lauding "Run the World" for its demandingly aggressive message as well as its club-status beat, Brad Wete of Entertainment Weekly noted the continuation of past themes, writing that it would be "appreciated" to see Knowles "switching lanes a bit content-wise [...] She is fully capable of making a classic album as genius and relatable as Lauryn Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." Adam Rosenberg of the Rolling Stone awarded the song three and a half stars out of five, writing that "[f]rom 'Independent Women' to 'Single Ladies', girl power has long been Beyoncé's Topic A, and 'Run the World (Girls)' is a blistering return to the theme.
She forsakes fashionable sounds — no Eurodisco synths! — to belt over Diplo and Switch's ferocious dancehall beat. The message is party-hearty feminism. But with [Lady] Gaga, Britney [Spears], Katy [Perry], Rihanna and Taylor [Swift] all vying to be the queen of pop, you can bet Beyoncé is not looking to share the throne." Maura Johnston of The Village Voice disapproved of the lack of structure in "Run the World", calling it "a bit overstuffed, but fairly enjoyable". "Run the World" received a nomination for Choice R&B/Hip-Hop Track at the 2011 Teen Choice Awards. Knowles performed "Run the World (Girls)" live at the Billboard Music Awards held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on May 22, 2011 for the first time on network television. The performance showed Knowles interacting with futuristic video projections on the stage backdrop. The set opened with the roaring head of a tiger, after which Knowles appeared wearing what a "metallic spider's web dress". A set of flapping wings was then projected before Knowles started dancing in front of an array of random, abstract images. A sea of birds descended from the top of the frame. Virtual clones of Knowles simultaneously performed every dance step she was doing.
She then caught a set of virtual drumsticks and played snares which materialized onto the projection. Finally, 100 back-up dancers emerged to dance collectively to "Run the World". Knowles initially received widespread praise for her performance from fans, critics and celebrities. However, some controversies surfaced the following day, concerning the production which looked similar in certain ways to the one put on by Italian pop star Lorella Cuccarini in February 2010 at the 60th Sanremo Music Festival held in Italy. Kenzo Digital, who spent a month creating Beyoncé's interactive video, told Yahoo! News that Lorealla concert footage is only part of the inspiration for Knowles' show: "[The Cuccarini artists] are awesome and do incredible work as well, but there are a lot of different inspirations for where our piece came from [...] It's just a bare white screen. It's a technique in video art since the 80s in terms of frontal projection and interactive things. That's really nothing new. It's not even a new technology. It's just an incredibly simple, awesome storytelling device, and with a performer like Beyoncé it becomes incredibly powerful."