Thought For The Day:
“Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized.”
Question For The Day:
Do you worship celebrities?
Okay, I already know I better brace myself because I’m probably about to be attacked by a swarm of killer “beys” for this one, but that’s okay. I’m not allergic. However, I do implore whomever may stumble across this post to read it in its entirety before going in and labeling me a hater. Contrary to popular belief, an honest assessment is not always hate, and critical analysis is not always shade. Nevertheless, I suspect some “Beylievers” will stand ready to rip this commentary to shreds even though it is far from my intent to diminish Beyoncé’s God-given gifts in any way. Yet, an objective approach to any dialogue concerning the pop diva generally seems to result in immediate backlash. There may be hell to pay for anyone having the audacity to speak Beyoncé’s name outside of the context of totally lionizing her talents and hailing her the reigning Queen of…well everything, I suppose.
Unless you live beyond the Milky Way, you know that Beyonce’ just graced the universe last week with the release of her latest project, a visual album entitled “Lemonade.” I, like everyone else, started my subscription to her husband’s Tidal Music (that I will assuredly cancel prior to the end of my 30 day free trial period) so that I could check it out. My honest opinion? Fire!!! Beyoncé pretty much developed the perfect musical soundtrack for the woman ensnared in marital drama. I mean, homegirl put it down on this one. If you need some mood music while in route to your husband’s job to slash his tires, play “Don’t Hurt Yourself” cause you’ll surely get the job done. If you’ve decided to stay out all night at the club in order to get revenge on a spouse gone astray, bump “Sorry” and you’ll twerk all night. “Sandcastles” will have you in tears as you consider a last ditch effort to salvage a floundering marriage, and “Formation” will have you at a Donald Trump rally crunk! The album, videos and accompanying poetry were all truly entertaining and resonated with me as an African American woman. As a Beyonce fan, I think it’s by far her best work and the first time I’ve felt she might be a genuine person under all the industry polish. Though I am able to admire her talent as an artist and recognize “Lemonade” as an undeniably good album, it seems to be oddly deeper than that for the die hard Beyhiver.
I remember being perplexed after Beyonce’ dropped “Formation” and performed it during the Super Bowl halftime show a couple months ago. I liked the song immediately and enjoyed the performance but when I came across this poem, I had to scratch my head.
The poem is awesome, no doubt, but I’m thinking, all of this for a song that boasts of carrying hot sauce and taking a man with quality bedroom skills to Red Lobster for Cheddar Bay biscuits? I’m looking at Beyoncé’s blonde extensions as she sings about loving baby hair and afros and wondering what exactly does it mean for Beyoncé to “slay.” I wondered if she was really calling for a revolution when she talked about rocking a Givenchy dress that most of the people who buy her records can’t even afford. No, I’m not throwing shade, but pondering an honest question. I can’t tell you how many articles came out calling “Formation” the “new Black anthem.” But a quick review of the lyrics, apart from the video, would make anyone wonder why riding in choppers, buying J’s, wearing Albino Alligators, or sipping Cuervo pays homage to the work of the Black Panther Party. What I saw was a lot of people making the song into whatever they wanted and needed it to be because it was Beyoncé who delivered it. I don’t recall anyone calling the work of Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu or Jill Scott revolutionary although they have historically been much more vocal on and off a track about their stance on social and political issues of cultural significance. Why then is “Formation” enough to deem Beyonce’ the millennial Harriet Tubman? Is the song honestly deep enough to carry the weight of a revolution or the Black Lives Matter movement or is everyone just geeked up because it’s Beyoncé?
Now, on to the release of “Lemonade.” This time, I’m not just scratching my head but am truly concerned that the whole world has gone stark raving mad! Some of the article headlines I’ve come across this go around have completely blown my mind. Check out these Huffington Post headlines:
-“‘Lemonade’ is basically a video version of Black Feminist Lit 101.”
-“5 Clapbacks to Anyone Not Sipping the ‘Lemonade’.”
-“What to Read After Watching Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade'”
-“Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ Makes Me Want to Be a Better Black Woman.”
-“White Commentary on ‘Lemonade:’ No One Asked Us.”
-“Beyoncé Has Always Been Political – You Just Didn’t Notice.”
-“Beyoncé’s New Album is Finally Here Because There is a God.”
-“Sugar in Lemonade: Beyoncé, the Religion of Love and the Challenge of Redeeming History.”
-“How You Can Copy Beyoncé’s Yellow Dress from ‘Lemonade.'”
-“Beyoncé’s Lemonade: A Candid Analysis of Why We Must Continue to Love that Cool, Refreshing Drink!”
-“What Beyoncé Got Right About Forgiveness According to Science.”
-“The Church Needs ‘Lemonade.'”
Say what now? THE CHURCH NEEDS LEMONADE? Just let that marinate for a second.
Anyway, as I came across all of these essays, and critical analyses that attempted to deconstruct the underlying complexities of each track, I’m thinking my memo must have gotten lost in the mail. I didn’t realize that Beyonce’ was elected to speak on behalf of Black womanhood and that her lyrics were an accurate interpretation of the collective struggle of all Black women. As a writer, I give much respect to Warsan Shire, the poet who contributed to the project. Her beautiful words added the richness and depth of African spirituality and that intangible mystique of an old world New Orleans that shines so brightly in the essence of southern Black women. I give massive kudos to Beyonce’ and her team of creative directors and cinematographers who produced a stunning collection of dynamic visual imagery that, for once, actually served and illuminated the beauty of women of color. I can dig “Lemonade’s” themes of survival, resilience, self love and family which are all core principles of Get Lifted Girl. But beyond that, we’re talking about some hot tracks, good vocals, slick talk, and some catchy hooks that had me a lot more ready to party than nominate Beyoncé for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Can we keep it one hundred for a second and admit that there seems to be an assumption of perfection and an intense protectiveness around Beyoncé that goes beyond normal artistic admiration. One almost feels like a traitor for having anything but absolute and unconditional praise for her or her music. If you don’t believe me, try to offer even the slightest criticism on anything related to Beyoncé in any comment section on the internet, and be prepared to face the wrath of the Beyhive. She is their appointed Queen, and anyone who thinks otherwise is seen as an insubordinate hater. Beyoncé may be a very sweet and down-to-earth person who may have little to do with all the current hype surrounding her. Yet, if you write a song that basically tells other women to “Bow Down Bitches,” it doesn’t do much to convince her over-zealous followers to chill when someone doesn’t immediately fall into formation. IJS
Look, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a fan of a particular celebrity or in drawing inspiration from someone’s talent or life’s work. I probably feel the same way about Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison that Millennials feel about Beyonce’. Yet, what I’ve been witnessing over the course of this last week is something far more disturbing. The dialogue surrounding Beyonce’ is obsessive and intolerant of critique. It is grandiose and overblown. Beyoncé, with the release of this one album, is essentially being credited with the salvation of Black women. Because of “Lemonade,” we have learned to read, pray, “slay”, become empowered, stay married, embrace motherhood, and be better women. I’ve seen people use terms such as “finding redemption” and being “born again” because they’ve apparently “discovered themselves” in Beyoncé’s lyrics. Excuse me, but isn’t that putting WAAAAAAAY too much on it? Who needs God if you’ve got Beyoncé? The current discourse would almost suggest that we all forfeit bible study and just keep ‘Lemonade’ on repeat. Even Beyoncé herself seems to recognize that people have made her an unwilling deity. At one point in the video for “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” she posted a quote that said “God is God, and I am not.” The very fact that she has to remind her fans of that is what’s truly disheartening. Not only does it prove that too many of us are hanging our hopes for healing, growth, and spiritual metamorphosis on popular music but it puts an unfair burden on pop stars like Beyoncé who are imperfect people trying to navigate this difficult journey called life just like the rest of us. Let Beyonce’ live her life and be allowed to focus on the work she’s here to do. She is not called to be your Queen or your leader. She can’t be the Black woman’s Savior. Ain’t nobody got time for that!
So please ladies, let’s stop worshipping at the feet of “American Idols,” and offer our worship to the One True God. Salvation, redemption, deliverance, and hope is streaming live daily through the blood of Jesus Christ and you don’t need a Tidal subscription to enjoy its benefits. I know Christ isn’t trending much these days, but He’ll still be the only one who can quench your thirst when life gets hot and the ‘Lemonade” runs out.
“You shall have no other gods before me.”