While Rihanna is busy running around an Irish field with her National Geographic tits flapping in the breeze in a desperate bid to hype her "We Found Love" film clip, Beyoncé has just delivered a one-woman workshop on how to make a timeless music video. Five months pregnant and fully clothed. I guess that's how you separate a great artist from a label puppet but I digress. "Countdown" is everything the glorious preview promised and more. Blending influences as disparate as Charlie Chaplin and Fame, the Adria Petty-directed extravaganza is an unexpectedly bright and colourful ride through Mod fashion, 50s musicals and 80s pop art. It might sound like overkill but the video flows seamlessly from scene to scene, assisted by the stop-and-start nature of the song. The thread that holds the whole thing together is the sense of joy that Bey exudes in every frame. I don't know if it's impending motherhood or just the knowledge that she's better than your faves but this woman is seriously happy. And it shows. As for highlights, there are too many to mention - "Countdown" is bliss from beginning to end - but here are a few random thoughts about the best video of 2011:
1. Beyoncé is a gay man in a woman's body. Her knowledge and appreciation of movie musicals is a complete give away. She revisited Sweet Charity in "Get Me Bodied", famously recreated Bob Fosse's Mexican Breakfast dance routine in "Single Ladies" and now serves up lashings of Funny Face and Bye Bye Birdie.
2. Speaking of Funny Face, has the most successful artist of the millennium ever looked more beautiful than when she channels Audrey Hepburn in that black turtleneck and slacks combination?
3. Jazz hands are back!
4. I love that Bey made a point of showing off her baby bump. Most divas would be hiding behind a flowing curtain in a dark room by this stage but her pride at being up the duff just adds to the video's already off-the-chart feel-good quotient.
5. Those crazy facial expressions give me life.
6. The Bye Bye Birdie dance sequence is amazing. At first I was perplexed by the sped-up choreography but it gives the scene a dream-like quality that makes the jumps between different eras and outfits work.
7. It's truly heartwarming that B.B. Homemaker could sober up long enough to drop by for a cameo - wearing her hateful husband's stylish pink business shirt no less.
8. I stan for the random school band!
9. The small army of Beyoncé clones on the steps is a clear nod to Adria Petty's own "Sweet Dreams" video.
10. Whoever edited this deserves an award. It's so intricate and perfectly put together.
11. "Halo" even gets a reference in the dance studio scene! It's so cute in a Fame-gone-right kind of way. However, that hair... girl, Ms Kelly called and wants her "Simply Deep" wig back.
12. Best outfit goes to the chain-metal dress at the end.
13. Who knew that white socks and black pumps could look so fetching?
14. The final shot of Bey smiling adorably sums the whole clip up. This is a delirious love letter of a video that gets the serotonin pumping through your system like the first day of summer.
15. How is "Party" ever going to top this?