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beyonce

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.

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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. 

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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!

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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.

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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.

9 Comments

Got something to say? Feel free, I want to hear from you! Leave a Comment

  1. Moy says:

    Not gonna lie, for all of my bitching and moaning at the Bey party last week, I bought the album this morning.

    I do feel like I need to do some more thinking about aligning my beliefs and my actions. Is it enough to be critical of the music we consume or should we stop consuming it altogether? Where is the line? What are we just not willing to accept? “Bitch” is okay. “Nigger” is okay. “Ho” is okay. Domestic violence is okay? Putting Trayvon Martin and Emmet Till into random songs is okay? What’s not okay?

    I don’t actually have the answers. Just thinking out loud.

    I’m not so worried about Bey’s diverse/young fan base. When I was 15, I remember singing the crap out of D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar.” I had no idea he was talking about drugs until like 10 years later. Little kids will sing along and take in Bey’s music without a clue about who Monika Lewinsky is or what Ike did to Tina. It’s us — the grown folk — who know better and who may be experiencing a subtle yet constant degrading of our morality … Or maybe not. Who knows?

    • Najat says: (Author)

      That’s how I felt too – I don’t have the answer but the issues still need to be voiced. There has to be a sense of accountability, either by the artists themselves or us grown folks to speak up. A line needs to be drawn in terms of allowing hurtful language being used in mainstream media casually. If not, we desensitize a generation of young people towards abusive language and wonder where we went wrong.

  2. Cola says:

    Hmmm… A lot of times, the collective has been doing their best to decide what’s appropriate. But art is subjective. That’s the beauty and the beast all in one.

    Not saying what she said was right… But there was a reason. You think maybe she or he is trying to get out of some endorsement deal? These things happen, ya know.

    • Najat says: (Author)

      Art is definitely subjective, however there is a line between hurtful language and art. Art should provoke, not harm. Whether it was to get out of an endorsement or to upset her label, language that demeans women and young girls while a powerful speech on feminism plays in the background just seems confused. Just my thoughts. Thank you for reading and participating.

  3. Nightfall says:

    This was a great piece. I’ve watched as the Internets jumped on the topic of Beyonce and feminism and this struck me as the best delivered message to just stop and think. As adults we should be able to decide what is entertainment and what is not. Art is hard to call sometimes but thats the beauty of it.

    • Najat says: (Author)

      Thank you. As adults, we have to be more responsible and kick start critical discussions. Glad you read it!

  4. Schen7020 says:

    Funny but if you think about it, is today’s generation more desensitized or is our “grown-folk” generation more desensitized? When I was younger, discrimination of all kinds was regularly practiced and accepted, there was no such thing as “politically correct” and hell, Eddy Murphy was doing stand up that was basically bashing gay people with aids. Even before our time, drugs, racism, blah blah blah the list goes on. It was socially acceptable and the norm! Which, in this day and age I mean let’s face it – things will never be perfect but we’ve come a long way even if there is a long way to go. Every generation grapples with different social issues but I think now it’s just so much more in our faces (amplified, if you will) because of the Internet and how information reaches everyone, esp the younger generation who are glued to it and social media.

    • Najat says: (Author)

      Yet such ‘politically incorrect’ language in Eddie Murphy’s comedy were R rated and not played openly in the radio or national music stations. Beyonce’s music is much more accessible than ‘politically incorrect’ content from the ’80s or ’90s. We definitely have come a long way when it comes to distinguishing discriminatory language, yet the boundaries in terms of what’s acceptable nowadays has loosened. You can hear swear words on day time television or radio now, meanwhile when we grew up it was late night if that. However its true, social media and the internet has amplified things a lot. Thanks for the comments! Happy Reading 🙂

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