Mon June 23, 2014
To The Left, To The Left: Behind The Beyoncelogues
Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 7:07 pm
For more conversations with music-makers, check out NPR's Music Interviews.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
These words might sound familiar.
NINA MILLIN: To the left, to the left. Everything you own is in a box to the left. In the closet, that's my stuff. Yes, if I bought it, please don't touch.
CORNISH: Can you place it? Maybe this'll jog your memory.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IRREPLACEABLE")
BEYONCE: (Singing) To the left, to the left. Everything you own in the box to the left. In the closet, that's my stuff. Yes, if I bought it, please don't touch. And keep talking...
CORNISH: It's "Irreplaceable" by Beyonce. The song is from her 2006 studio album. Its video has been played nearly 93 million times on YouTube. But it's never sounded quite like this.
MILLIN: You must not know about me. I could have another you by tomorrow. So don't you ever for a second get to thinking, you're irreplaceable.
CORNISH: Actor Nina Millin performs Beyonce lyrics as monologues. Her interpretation of "Irreplaceable" was posted earlier this month and already has more than 300,000 views. And people are hungry for more. To tell us how this all started, Nina Millin joins me now from NPR West. Hi there, Nina.
CORNISH: So I hear the roots of this are in karaoke. Specifically, a karaoke fail.
MILLIN: A karaoke fail, indeed.
CORNISH: What happened?
MILLIN: I attempted to sing a Beyonce - like who doesn't want to sing a Beyonce song? So I attempted to sing one. And I attempted to, while singing, dance like one-half of one-quarter of one hair of what she does, when I see her perform in the videos, you know. And I failed miserably - couldn't even make it through.
CORNISH: Beyonce has a vast catalog, right? I mean, this woman's been in the game forever...
MILLIN: It's incredible.
CORNISH: Going back to a teenager. And so far you've release a version of "Irreplaceable" "Mine" and "If I Were A Boy." How did you choose?
MILLIN: I chose the three that I thought showed how amazing these words actually are. You know, that emotionally the journey that each of these things takes is Shakespearean.
CORNISH: So when you're sitting down and trying to break down a song and get ready to turn it into a monologue, give us a little, you know, quick sense of the process. How do you detox your brain from the like indomitable rhythm of a Beyonce song? I mean, I can't get it out of my head.
MILLIN: I know.
CORNISH: So how do you approach this?
MILLIN: That was the most fun about "Irreplaceable" was trying to unhook from her hook. I didn't listen to any of her song, while was preparing for this. So I could stand a chance of having my own personal point of view from it. And then I broke down the text, just in Theater 101 stuff. Who is this woman? Who is she talking to? What is she talking about? What are the circumstances - and made a character for each one.
CORNISH: So the character you are in these performs is not necessarily Beyonce.
MILLIN: It's inspired by her. No, I would never even try to feel those high heels. Are you kidding me?
CORNISH: (Laughing) Now, do you plan on using any of these monologues in your own work- say, to land a gig?
MILLIN: Probably. Why not, right? Which one - which one should I do?
CORNISH: I don't know. The "If I Were A Boy" one really works for me. That one actually - I could actually picture in a monologue.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MILLIN: If I were a boy, I think I'd understand how it feels to love a girl. I swear I'd be a better man. I'd listen to her 'cause I know how it hurts to lose the one you wanted, when you're taking her for granted. And everything you had got destroyed.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF I WERE A BOY")
BEYONCE: (Singing) If I were a boy. I think I could understand.
MILLIN: Someone recently came up and said that they had not heard that song before. And it made them go and listen to it, which is like the highest compliment there is for me.
CORNISH: That's actor Nina Millin. Nina, thank you so much for talking with us about the Beyonce logs.
MILLIN: Thank you so much for having me.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF I WERE A BOY")
BEYONCE: (Singing) But you're just a boy. You don't understand. Yeah, you don't understand. How it feels to love...
CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.