Love her or hate her, Beyonce is larger than life. As an entertainer, I’ve always enjoyed her music and don’t hesitate to belt out her tunes in the car/shower/anywhere.
I’m not going to get into the grand nature of Beyonce’s musical career but delve into her recent self-titled album, Beyonce. A 14 track album with 17 videos that was released unannounced with no promotion. Unheard of in this day and age when artists now give you minute by minute details leading up to their single releases, concert dates, marriages, divorces and nail appointments. Ok, I exaggerate a little but in an over exposed social media landscape this is a huge divergence.
A few nights ago a friend of mine held a Beyonce viewing party at her place. Yes, these parties happen. It involves watching Beyonce videos, dancing, eating sugary food and in our case analyzing the music videos and lyrics.
The group ranged from Bey fans, nonchalant admirers to indifferent listeners but we all agreed on one thing – Bey knows how to put on a show. From her lyrics to her outfits to the dances in the videos, it reminded me of running home after school to see Michael Jackson videos premiere on television. The crazy dance moves, the catchy hooks and being able to talk about it with my friends. Bey is an icon. Can’t deny it.
Yet, the discussions got heated around two topics – her appropriation of ‘feminism’ via the use of Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi’s famous TED Talk ‘We Should All Be Feminists‘ and Jay-Z’s lyrics in the song ‘Drunk In Love’
The song ‘***Flawless’ opens with a few lines from Bey’s song ‘Bow Down B*tches’, then interwoven are snippets from Chimamanda’s speech. For me the disconnect happened when in one instant Bey is telling her female counter parts in the industry to ‘bow down b*tches’, then Chimamanda comes in saying that as women we need to stop raising our daughters to see each other as competitors. Yes, Chimamanda notes that often women compete against each other for the attention of men, and not jobs and accomplishments which we sees would be good.
But for me its the proximity of the word ‘b*tch’ and an empowering message from one of Africa’s most impressive authors. This didn’t sit well with me. Did it stop me from dancing around singing ‘I woke up like this”? No, I got my dance on!
Jay-Z’s lyrics in ‘Drunk In Love’ also didn’t sit well with me. I was already bopping to this song by the time he came in. By the way Bey’s little drunken swaying dance in this video is getting imitated at various clubs and school dances from here on out. FYI it might be the next Single Ladies dance.
Anywho, in this song Jay refers to himself as Ike Turner and even uses the line ‘I said eat the cake Anna Mae’, which if you ever watched the biography of Tina Turner, ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’, you’ll recall that was a disturbing scene in the movie where Ike tries to force Tina to eat a piece of cake in a restaurant while shouting at her.
Tina has openly admitted to Ike being an abuser and having him used as a reference in a song feels off-putting. Call it over analysis but Bey’s music is heard the world over by all ages and to imagine that she once performed Tina’s famous hit ‘Proud Mary’ at VH1′s Divas. It might just be pop music, but there will be tons of kids and even adults just rapping along about Ike Turner without any thought to what it means but it made me stop and think.
This is not in any ways a call to action or me venting on anything. As a person who appreciates pop culture and works in the field of curating public perception whether around a brand or a service, I know that when it comes to Beyonce’s image and music nothing is an accident. This is a well crafted show we’re watching. A very entertaining show. Me and my girls are often singing along to her songs and discussing her career.
Just wanted to bring light to some things that caught my attention and hope we all absorb art critically and not passively.