Brow Beat

Beyoncé’s “Countdown”: a Music Video Treasure Hunt

Beyoncé’s music video for “Countdown kick-ball-changed its way onto the Internet last week. Everyone and their mama passed it around to share the joy of its candy-colored costume design and haltingly hypnotic dance moves—and the pleasant sensation of déjà vu.

Well, pleasant for most, anyway. The Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker accused Beyoncé of plagiarism, pointing to a scene in the video that clearly borrows from her work. Beyoncé responded by pointing out that the entire video is based on borrowing. “Clearly, she said, De Keersmaeker’s work “was one of many references” for the video. “I’ve always been fascinated by the way contemporary art uses different elements and references to produce something unique.”


Many music videos have referenced, built upon, and blatantly copied earlier styles, images, and choreography; “Countdown” indulges in such MTV-era pastiche with frenetic glee. We did a little detective work to track down some of the video’s sources, matching screenshots from the video with earlier images that may have inspired them. Enjoy.