Beyoncé Preaches Contradictions
by Clementine Wiley on Friday, February 21st, 2014
“Let me sit this a** on you. Show you how I feel,” Beyoncé proclaims in one of her new songs, “Rocket,” mirroring the bold provocation and confidence that dominates her new album. On December 13, 2013, after taking a break to be with her newborn baby, Ivy Blue Carter, Beyoncé unleashed a eponymous visual album of 14 songs and 17 music videos that all pulsated with gritty, explicit sexuality. Peaking at number 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and topping the U.S. R&B/Hip-Hop charts, Beyoncé created music videos that displayed her trademark fitness, even after pregnancy, and crafted an exciting set of electro-R&B tracks. However, despite her world-renowned music, Beyoncé may have overdone the strong sensual content in her latest album.
The visual portion of the album focuses on the singer herself, rather than her musical abilities, by featuring flattering, sharp images and boasting provocative angles of Beyoncé’s body. The ambitiously creative, high-definition, and brightly colored music videos partly compensate for the perhaps shallow shock of the lyrics. The songs themselves almost all exude heavy sexuality, a theme inappropriate for some fans who find some of Beyoncé’s topics, such as sex in cars, distasteful and too explicit. “I’m not impressed. There are a few songs that are far too provocative… for such a huge role model to be condoning. I definitely feel like Beyoncé is more objectified in this album, so I can’t take her as seriously anymore,” said Mariah Redfern (II).
Objectified is right. You may recall the provocative performance of Beyoncé’s top single “Drunk in Love (featuring Jay-Z)” at the Grammys, during which this star bared her legs in a tight outfit (which was admittedly much less revealing than her getup in the music video) as she danced around a chair. In contrast, Jay-Z donned a simple, classic suit, singing “your breasteses is my breakfast.” Side by side, this married couple revealed the obvious gender inequality in performers’ appeal and standards. Through this heart-racing performance, Beyoncé reflected society’s demands and expectations for entertainment.
Ironically, the album introduces itself with “Pretty Hurts,” a song that denounces our superficial culture and its harmful effect on girls. Beyoncé sings, “We shine the light on whatever’s worst/…We try to fix something but you can’t fix what you can’t see/It’s the soul that needs the surgery.” Perhaps pretty hurts, but does untamed sexuality? Many songs are sexual anthems of servitude (Jealous’ “I’m in my penthouse half naked/ I cooked this meal for you naked”), of prowess (Haunted’s “The bedroom’s my runway”), of desire (Drunk in Love’s “Can’t keep your eyes off my fatty/ Daddy, I want you, na na/ Drunk in love, I want you”), and of provocation (Rocket’s “Don’t take, don’t take your eyes off it/ Watch it, babe”). Thankfully, a couple of songs draw from other more significant inspirations, such as difficult relationships in “Mine (featuring Drake)”, infatuation in “XO,” and motherhood in “Blue (ft. Blue Ivy).”
Since her classic hits such as “Single Ladies” and “Crazy in Love,” Beyoncé’s career has progressed to a level of maturity characterized by her experience as a mother and wife. Nevertheless, for an album name that promises depth, independence, and personality, “Beyoncé” just barely touches upon the complexities of these topics. Hopefully, as Beyoncé ages, she will explore these themes further without overexploiting physical appearance and sexuality, as others such as Madonna have. In the meantime, a heavy dose of seduction, stunning visuals, and electronic beats have been quite a sexcessful combination for Beyoncé.
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