Formerly known as "Bow Down," this was the first song to be heard from Beyoncé's eponymous fifth album. It was released on March 17, 2013 on the singer's Soundcloud along another tune titled "I Been On" and it found her commanding her female adversaries to praise all that she's done.I know when you were little girls you dreamt of being in my world
Don't forget it, don't forget it
Respect that, and bow down bitches
Drawing controversy with the first music released in advance of a new album, is a tactic that Beyoncé has used before. She introduced her 4
album with "Run the World (Girls)
," which caused critics to spill a lot of ink concerning its aggressive woman's empowerment message.
"Bow Down" later morphed into this less abrasive version, which still contains the the "bow down bitches" refrain but inserts a clarification of the singer's original intention as well as a spoken word passage against sexism provided by famed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The sample is taken from a message the Half of a Yellow Sun author delivered in a talk at the TEDxEuston called "We should all be feminists" in April 2013.
This was produced by Chauncey "Hit-Boy" Hollis, who is signed to Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music label. The record producer was also behind Lil Wayne's "Drop The World
" and Jay-Z and Kanye West's "Niggas In Paris
" hit singles. He tweeted at the time of the song's release in its original incarnation:, "Haaaa I finally prod for Hovs wife. Beyoncè was the last person on my list to work with. I can't believe I prod for all my heroes by 25. ... I make that music my heroes get to talk they s--t on. Please never compare me to these other guys who could never make a '1 Train
' by A$ap then 'Bow Down' for Beyoncé in the same year. Please."
The song begins and ends with a sample of Girls Tyme, the Houston girl band that would eventually turn into Destiny's Child. The two clips are taken from an episode of Star Search, which they competed in back in 1992. They lost to a band named Skeleton Groove.
Beyoncé recalled her Girls Tyme performance on Star Search in a featurette. "There's a moment where things click. When I was in the studio, I was threading the songs together and I thought of this performance, which was a really defining moment in my life as a child," she said. "In my mind we would perform on Star Search, we would win, we would get a record deal and that was my dream at the time."
"I feel like something about the aggression of 'Bow Down' and the attitude of 'Flawless,' the reality is, sometimes you lose," Beyoncé continued. "And you're never too good to lose, you're never too big to lose, you're never too smart to lose, it happens. And it happens when it needs to happen. And you have to embrace those things."
A remix of the song featuring rapper Nicki Minaj was released unexpectedly on Beyoncé's official website on August 2, 2014. The first collaboration between the two stars, Minaj marks the event drawling, "The queen of rap slayin' with Queen Bey. If you ain't on the team, you playin' for team D."
Beyoncé addresses the elevator altercation between her sister Solange and husband Jay-Z, when she sings "We escalate, up in this bitch like elevators, of course sometime s--t go down when there's a billion dollars on an elevator."
The trio hit headlines earlier in 2014 when surveillance footage emerged showing Solange lashing out at Jay Z as they left a Met Gala after party at a New York hotel. Solange has commented since the incident that the family are "at peace" with what happened.
Minaj told Hot 97 how the remix came to be: "A month or two ago, Gee [Roberson] called me when I was on my way to Vegas and said, 'Beyoncé wants you to remix to 'Flawless,'' she said. "After I got proper medical help and started breathing again, I was like, 'What?'"
"She sent me a version that she wanted," Minaj continued. "She told me, 'I want you to be you. I don't want you to hold back." I said, 'You sure?' She said, 'Yeah. I want you to be you and do you." I was actually in New York writing the verse. I recorded the verse in New York and she stopped by the studio. She was such a sweetheart. She was hyping me up, 'Do your thing. Don't hold back. Go in.' I was like, 'Okay. Alright.'"
"She said she was going to drop it in the middle of the [On the Run] tour," The Queens MC added. "I wrote the verse before she even went on tour. We've been going back and forth. I've been sending her photos of myself. We've been going back and forth about the mixes and the single art."
The song debuted on the Hot 100 at #82 following its inclusion in Beyoncé's medley performance during the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards.
The remix with Nikki Minaj was named Best Song of 2014 by Time
magazine. They said: "In a year that saw a number of high-profile female pop collaborations, 'Flawless' never topped the charts like 'Fancy
,' but what it lacked in radio domination it made up for with sheer star power."
The remix contains a horn sample from Outkast's 1998 song "Spottieottiedopaliscious."