Study Guide

If I Were a Boy

If I Were a Boy Introduction

In a Nutshell

She's strong, she's young, she's wildly famous, and she keeps coming out with songs about how girls rule and boys drool. 

"If I Were a Boy" is but one of the many in a series of Beyoncé's hit singles that seem to draw their inspiration from the 1990s "girl power" movement. Is Beyoncé the new face of feminism?

Stick with us as we pull apart the layers of this deceptively straightforward-sounding pop number. We'll take you back to the origins of "girl power," uncovering what the "Single Ladies" singer has to do with the Spice Girls, how the all-female punk band Bikini Kill fits into the picture, and where pop music and gender are intersecting today.

About the Song

ArtistBeyoncé
Year2008
LabelSony BMG
Writer(s)Toby Gad, BC Jean (a.k.a. Britney Carlson)
Producer(s)Toby Gad, Beyoncé Knowles
Musician(s)Toby Gad (all instruments and arrangement), Jens Gad (drums), Syience (drums, guitar)
Learn to play
AlbumI Am...Sasha Fierce

Music Video

Influences on Beyoncé

Destiny's Child
Lauryn Hill
Anita Baker
Diana Ross
Rachelle Ferrell
The Jackson 5
Aretha Franklin
Whitney Houston
Janet Jackson
Mariah Carey

Songwriter BC Jean, who is even younger than Beyoncé, came up in the days of Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani and mentions them both as influences in this interview. BC was also influenced musically by Alanis Morissette, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Guns N' Roses, and Queen.

Toby Gad, who produced the song and co-wrote it with BC Jean, grew up in Germany in a musical family and was initially influenced by everything from classical to funk to German folk music. But by his teenage years, he was writing and producing pop music with his brother, and the pair had their first big hit when they wrote three songs for Milli Vanilli's 1986 debut album. Gad produced albums internationally throughout the 1990s and moved to the U.S. in 2001 to further pursue his career, most famously co-writing Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry."

Influenced by Beyoncé

Rihanna
Jordin Sparks
Katharine McPhee
Miley Cyrus

If I Were a Boy Resources

Books

Marisa Meltzer, Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music (2010)
Learn about the 1990s legacy of girl-driven music scenes that inspired both Beyoncé and "If I Were a Boy" songwriter BC Jean.

Sheila Watley, Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender (1997)
This book includes a whole chapter on the emergence of grrrl power in the early 1990s.

Albums

"If I Were a Boy" (2008)
Some critics have called it Beyoncé's best vocal performance, a potential award-winner, and others disagree, but while the pop arrangement tires after repeated listens, nothing beats Beyoncé's voice.

I Am...Sasha Fierce (2008)
This album was conceived as a split-personality deal with one disc of heartfelt ballads—including "If I Were a Boy" and "Halo"—and another dedicated to Beyoncé's alter-ego, the dangerous and dance-oriented Sasha Fierce.

I Am...Sasha Fierce (Deluxe Edition) (2008)
The deluxe version of I Am...Sasha Fierce adds five more tracks to the package. Considering that Beyoncé recorded 70 tracks for the two-disc album, it's no big surprise that these additional tracks are actually really good, especially "Smash Into You" and "Ego."

Images

Beyoncé as a Cop
This is her dressed up for the "If I Were a Boy" music video, in which she plays a woman playing at being her husband by playing cop.

I Am...Sasha Fierce Album Cover
This is Beyoncé in vulnerable, I Am… mode.

Movies & TV

Cadillac Records (2008)
Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright, and Beyoncé Knowles star in this rock and roll history movie.

Websites

Beyoncé's Official Website
Here's the singer/actress' official website.

The Riot Grrrl Manifesto
This is the stuff that 1990s grrrl movements were made of. These ladies are definitely not the Spice Girls, but where does Beyoncé fit in?

Priya Elan, "Beyoncé's a Bloke and Usher's Going Metrosexual," The Guardian (2008)
Here's some sass on the music video, which is admittedly pretty cheesy. But come on, this commentator has seen worse.

Video & Audio

"If I Were a Boy" Music Video
Here's our song of the hour, in all its Beyoncé glory.

Beyoncé on Making Cadillac Records, the Associated Press
According to Beyoncé, her work acting the part of Etta James inspired the vulnerability and personal nature of I Am…

Bikini Kill, "Rebel Girl"
The origins of girl power are a far cry from Beyoncé, but we see a connection. Do you?