In October 2013, criticizing the music, appearance or uterine occupancy status of one Beyoncé Knowles has been ruled an act of supreme treason and apostasy. Offenders will be forever disinvited from the Carter-Knowles private Bahamian island. Nevertheless, I must speak out.
Like any person with working ears, I enjoy Beyoncé’s music. And it’s not innovative to say that I identify with her. Everyone does! From Adele to Mindy Kaling, for goodness’ sake, and that’s just among the other celebrities I identify with (Russian doll celebrity identification alert). I’ve assigned my boyfriend to be Jay-Z, even though I have no appreciation for Jay-Z, simply because he and Beyoncé are allegedly separated by the same number of years in age as my boyfriend and me. Just as Bey and Jay positioned themselves as the ’03 Bonnie and Clyde, Deepak and I are the ’13 Bey and Jay.
Stars! They’re just like us. Or, to quote Hemingway, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”
But did you catch the “allegedly” when I referred to her age difference? Beyoncé and Jay-Z — much like other “celebrity couple pair parallels” I’ve set up in my mind like Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie and David Walliams/Lara Stone — are supposedly 12 years apart. An alleged Chinese zodiac cycle. While I can’t deny the power of her music, I have a troubled relationship with Beyoncé’s mythology. I’m undecided on the rumor that she fudges her age. (On the one hand – I would fudge mine! Vanity is universal. Nobody likes to admit that she could have been contemporaneous with Methuselah. On the other hand – I went to elementary school with a woman who has recently become a celebrity by marrying an A-list actor. She proudly characterizes herself as the true age that I know her to be back from kindergarten. Good for her! Yet on gossip articles, without fail, there are always catty comments alleging she’s fudged her stated age by about 10 years. You just can’t win. Unless you are Pharrell – that 40-something has obviously struck some Faustian bargain that has rendered his aging process downright Benjamin Button-esque.)
I’m blowing my already diminishing prospects of getting Deepak and me invited to the Carter-Knowles Bahamian island. But did you ever notice the glaring consistencies in Beyoncé’s lyrical oeuvre?
The worst offender is “Single Ladies.” This song above all others, my goodness, no, I cannot countenance it. I hate how its churlish, materialistic and generally impotent plaint — “If you like it then you should have put a ring on it!” — has become a crass shibboleth. PUT A RING ON IT is the new metonym for “Girl Power!” Or “Independent Woman Power”? I’m not entirely sure.
And that’s the point. Unlike her much-touted House of Dereon jeans, Beyoncé’s lyrical oeuvre is loose and inconsistent.
First, let’s take “Single Ladies” as a whole. Thesis, from the perspective of Beyoncé/protagonist: “I felt unhappy with the state of our relationship (cried my tears) and made a series of veiled threats over a period of 3 years (3 good years). Now, I’m taking my House of Dereons elsewhere (acting up, drink in my cup; I could care less what you think). But not so far elsewhere that you can’t watch me, be jealous, and start the whole infuriating cycle over again (‘cause you had your turn, now you gon’ learn, what it really feels like to miss me!).”
First, it must be said: she loses points for the phrase “could care less.” STOP THIS SCOURGE. I’m surprised she didn’t throw in a “literally” and a “beg the question” to complete the Common Error Trifecta. Sample:
He’s a man that literally makes me and takes me / And delivers me to a destiny, to infinity and beyondddd
The tether snaps. George Clooney frantically radios the control center to no avail. Beyoncé has attained “infinity and beyond.”
There’s a persistent rumor that Beyoncé ruthlessly snatches writing credits from less powerful artists. I won’t weigh in on that, but why doesn’t anybody talk about how she plagiarized Buzz Lightyear?
One song I do love by Beyoncé is “Ring the Alarm” (2006). It feels so real, so angry! However, in it she reasoned that a woman should stay with her philandering man (Tammy Wynette-style) provided he’s loaded (Vanessa Bryant-style). Roughly described by this graph:
Beyoncé walked herself through her options: “She gon’ take everything I own / If I let you go … She gon’ rock them VVS stones if I let you go.”
Wait a minute! Beyoncé already got her VVS stones? Then why is she pretending to be a humble down-home gal with naked knuckles (“rings, but none on that finger” to quote General Public)? Oh yeah, that rings a bell. Remember “Upgrade U” (also 2006)? That was a collabo with Jay-Z, the supposed Hov Heathcliff to her Cotillion Catherine. In “Upgrade U,” Jay took great pains to boast about the riches he successfully showered on the previously aloof Beyoncé.
I’m known to walk alone / But I’m alone for a reason / Sending me a drink ain’t appeasing, believe me / Come harder this won’t be easy …
Jacob the jeweler, baubles, Lauraine Schwartz sorta dude / It’s big balling baby when I’m courting you. … And rumors you on the verge of a new merge / Cause that rock on ya finger is like a tumor / You can’t put ya hand in ya new purse.
Come the hell on. “Can’t put ya hand in ya new purse” is the antithesis of “If you like it then you should have put a ring on it.” And anyway, does anyone remember the opening of Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women Pt. I” (2000)?
Question: Tell me what you think about me / I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings.
First of all, badass opening to a song/conversation. I aim to be at a point in my life where I walk up to people at classy gatherings — bar mitzvahs, funerals, the cheese samples at Bristol Farms — and demand: “What’s your opinion of me?” Then, before they have time to answer/finish chewing their burrata, I’d wave the air dismissively like Meryl Streep in the entirety of “The Devil Wears Prada.” “Nope! I don’t care. Because I handle the selection and acquisition of my precious gems all by myself.”
[Pulls out GIA certification for the Hope Diamond, burns it for sport, laughs maniacally.]
I know brand cohesion is a lot to ask of a pop star, but come on. I’ll end with some photos of my boyfriend and me enjoying Beyoncé at Staples Center. Yeah, we fed the Beyoncé machine unironically. Because in our relationship, as in Beyoncé’s lyrical oeuvre, hypocrisy is alive and well.