In the nine months since Beyoncé dropped her self-titled album on an unsuspecting world, the track “Flawless” has grown from one of the more enjoyable surprises in a thoroughly surprising album–a quasi-manifesto that synthesizes diva-level self-appreciation and blunt real talk about female existence in a patriarchal world, delivered with an instantly memorable hook–into a cultural behemoth. The word “flawless” (or, better yet, “#flawless”) condenses everything that Beyoncé and her featured guest, award-winning Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, talks about in the song down into two syllables that somehow contain an entire philosophy of self-love and self-actualization. No wonder it’s been inescapable all year.
Despite the song’s popularity, Bey and her label haven’t released it as an official single. Or maybe it’s because of that popularity–when something grows so big in such an organic way, giving it a traditional professional marketing push could end up ruining a good thing. Either way, the song whose title is emblazoned on most Beyoncé merch is officially just an album cut.
That hasn’t stopped it from charting though. In the week following Bey’s epic appearance on the VMAs, “Flawless” snuck onto the Hot 100 at number 82. Thanks to the remix released online at the beginning of August and Billboard’s rules about folding remixes in with originals and how guest features are noted, it appears on the chart credited to “Beyonce Featuring Nicki Minaj Or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,” a juxtaposition of two very influential black female creatives whose essential similarities come together in the song’s core, and whose considerable differences reflect the #flawless philosophy’s adaptability and reach. If nothing else, it has to be one of the most interesting and unexpected pairings in Hot 100 history.
Usher’s funky, Nicki Minaj-featuring “She Came to Give It to You,” which the pair debuted at the VMAs, entered two spots below “Flawless,” bringing the total number of Nicki credits on the current Hot 100 up to five. And in one of the sort of big-name debuts in the top half of the chart that’s been almost nonexistent all summer, Eminem’s dour “Guts Over Fear” bowed at number 22, proving that there are still a substantial number of people who still enjoy hearing Em gnaw on the same perceived slights he’s been rapping about for the better part of two decades.