*If you peel back the layers of Beyoncé’s carefully-crafted image, you’ll make the same discovery I have.
Sure she can sing and dance. But are these talents special enough to distinguish her from the multitude of female performers, past and present, that we’ve been introduced to over the years?
If you ask Beyoncé’s legion of fans, they would argue that her abilities as a performer surpass those of her contemporaries and predecessors. I’m inclined to agree with this premise, but a small voice in my head keeps whispering the word “predictable.”
This four-syllable adjective accurately describes Beyoncé’s behavior as of late. In fact, it pretty much sums up her entire career as a solo artist (but I’ll get to that later).
Regardless of how anyone feels about Beyoncé, it’s impossible to downplay the magnitude of her success. In addition to being the holder of multiple Grammy Awards, her net worth is well above five-hundred million dollars. At 34 years of age, she has accomplished more than any human being could dream of and then some.
So when I say that she’s easier to predict than a snow storm in Alaska, it’s with the utmost respect. In spite of her monotony, Beyoncé has managed to amass a considerable fortune as well as build one of the most decorated music careers in entertainment history. It started nearly 20 years when she first hit the scene as the leading member of girl group Destiny’s Child. She eventually went solo (a move everyone saw coming), and her career quickly skyrocketed into superstardom.
Here’s the problem, from the time she came out with her first album to her most recent single featuring the bootylicious MC Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé has failed to reinvent herself from being more than a sexed-up piece of eye candy. Making matters worse, she’s reportedly in the process of writing (or I should say, someone is helping her to write) a screenplay about Saartjie Baartman, who was the most famous of at least two Khoikhoi women who, due to their large buttocks, were exhibited as freak show attractions in 19th-century Europe.
According to various sources, Beyoncé wants to play the role of Baartman for some odd reason. I say “odd” because she’s six years away from being 40 years old, and she’s also the mother of a preschooler.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against women exploiting themselves for profit (it’s the oldest profession in history). However, someone in Beyoncé’s privileged position has no reason to share so much of her body, so often, with the viewing public.
After watching her gesticulate half-naked, on stage, for the millionth time recently on a YouTube video, I wondered if she was just a one-trick pony blessed with a pretty face and smoking hot figure. And then it suddenly occurred to me that if you strip away the bells and whistles, Beyoncé is a simple, Southern showpony with no purpose other than shaking her moneymaker in front of packed audiences. If she were more, her sound would have matured by now.
I remember Kid Rock saying that Beyoncé’s music lacks potency and depth. When I first heard Rock’s assessment, I wrote him off as a foolish, attention-seeking redneck. But after carefully analyzing her body of work thus far, I’ve reached the conclusion that Mr. Rock was correct—Beyoncé’s legacy consists largely of one thing: sex. This may not be her fault, although it probably is, but the 17-time Grammy Award winner has yet to record a song that isn’t dripping with sexual innuendo. In her biggest hit, “Drunk in Love,” she speaks in code about administering oral stimulation to a man’s penis (albeit her husband’s) as well as performing other sexual favors. It’s as if she isn’t capable of using her voice to address more pertinent topics, particularly those related to women’s rights (yes, it’s not a mirage, I said “women’s rights”).
There’s nothing wrong with Beyoncé encouraging women to take control of their sexuality, especially in a day and age when it’s normal to see billboards and magazine ads featuring scantily-clad supermodels pillow-fighting one another, while big, bold letters hovering above them spell out “Hooters.” And perhaps 10 years ago, when Beyoncé was entering her mid-twenties and hadn’t given birth to a child, an excuse could’ve been made to justify her notoriously raunchy behavior. However, now, it looks desperate, akin to an aging prize fighter squeezing the last bit of juice from his prime.
At this stage of her career, Beyoncé should be attempting to infuse poignant messages into her music. But instead she’s doing the very opposite—attaching a G-string to every song she releases. It wasn’t long ago (April 2014 to be exact) when Time Magazine named Beyoncé one of the world’s “100 Most Influential People.” This, naturally, sent Twitter into a frenzy, capturing the attention of critics who questioned her importance to mankind. I decided to reserve my judgment in hopes that she would eventually grow out of her “Sasha Fierce” persona. I thought she possessed enough foresight to plan the next phase of her career. Sadly, it appears likely that Beyoncé will never step outside of her comfort zone. She confines herself in a box of self-exploitation because she lacks the courage and maturity needed for her to evolve professionally. She has, over the years, demonstrated an aversion to the one thing that separates great artists from “all-time” great artists: substance.
Despite her gifts on stage, Beyoncé hasn’t lived up to the responsibility expected from those included on Time’s “most influential” list. She could be opening doors for aspiring singers and songwriters. She could lend her voice and resources to the Black Lives Matter movement, or parlay her celebrity into an awareness campaign against police brutality and racial discrimination. She could write a song that encourages young women to be more than objects of sexual desire. But alas, it’s in Beyoncé’s nature to promote the status quo. She is just another industry puppet, and more disturbingly, she’s way too predictable.
The Black Hat is written by Southern California based Cory A. Haywood, a freelance writer and expert on Negro foolishness. Contact him via: [email protected] and/or visit his blogs: www.coryhaywood.webs.com and corythewriter.blogspot.com, or send him a message on Twitter: @coryahaywood